The Flyers became the first of the expansion teams to win a Final when they defeated the Bruins in six games in 1974. They repeated as champions the following season, defeating the Buffalo Sabres in six games. The Flyers' bid for a "three-peat" was dashed by the Montreal Canadiens' sweep in 1976.
Since then, the Flyers appeared in the Final three more times in the 1980s and once in the 1990s. Favored to win in 1997, the Flyers were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. This is their first appearance in the Final since then.
First, the victories:
1974: Defeated Boston Bruins, 4-2
For many in Philadelphia, it seems like only yesterday, the high-water mark in Flyers' history -- the Broad Street Bullies serenaded to victory by Kate Smith's "God Bless America" and coach Fred Shero telling his team before their Game 6 victory, "Win together today and we walk together forever."
The Boston Bruins, seeking their third Stanley Cup in five years, won the East Division with 113 points while the Flyers won the West with 112. Bobby Clarke led the Flyers with 35 goals and 87 points. The Bruins had the NHL's top four scorers in Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Ken Hodge and Wayne Cashman, while Clarke finished fifth. Bill Barber had 34 goals and Rick MacLeish had 32. Goaltender Bernie Parent won his first of back-to-back Vezina Trophies. Often overlooked in the retelling, the Flyers had an excellent defense with Barry Ashbee, Moose Dupont, Ed Van Impe, Tom Bladon, and brothers Jim and Joe Watson.
The Flyers swept the Atlanta Flames and then downed a tough New York Rangers team in seven games to reach the Final. The Bruins won the opener 3-2 in Boston, but the Flyers surprised them with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 2 at Boston Garden. The Flyers then won both games in Philadelphia, but the Bruins bounced back with a 5-1 victory in Boston.
The Flyers brought in Smith to sing "God Bless America" live at the Spectrum before Game 6. Perhaps to ward off evil spirits, Bobby Orr and Esposito gifted her with a bouquet of roses, but to no avail as the Flyers' won 1-0 on MacLeish's goal to become the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup.
Parent won the first of his back-to-back Conn Smythe Trophies.
1975: Defeated Buffalo Sabres, 4-2
While the Flyers were upstarts when they upset the Bruins in 1974, they were firmly established as the NHL's best team when they won a League-high 51 regular-season games and tied for most points with Montreal and the Buffalo Sabres. The Flyers swept the Maple Leafs, then beat the New York Islanders in seven games to advance to the final against the Sabres and their famed "French Connection Line" of Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and Richard Martin.
The Flyers won the first two games at home before losing Game 3, the infamous "Fog Game," 5-4, on Robert's goal in overtime. The Sabres evened the series with a 4-2 win at Memorial Auditorium before the Flyers beat them 5-1 at the Spectrum in Game 5. Coach Floyd Smith replaced goalie Gerry Desjardins in Game 6 with Roger Crozier, who had won in Game 3.
Crozier blanked the Flyers into the third period but the Sabres couldn't score before the Flyers scored twice in the third period for a 2-0 win to and repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
Now, the defeats:
1976: Lost to Canadiens, 4-0
The Flyers were going for their third-straight Stanley Cup but they ran up against a Canadiens team that went on to win four-straight championships. It was an era of dynasties. Between 1974 and 1990, every Stanley Cup was won by the Flyers, Canadiens, Islanders or Oilers with the exception of the Calgary Flames in 1989. Both teams led their conferences during the regular season, and Montreal advanced through the playoffs without much difficulty while the Flyers played a tough seven-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Flyers took a 2-0 lead in Game 1 but the Canadiens rallied to win on Guy Lapointe's goal with less than two minutes remaining. Jacques Lemaire and Guy Lafleur scored in the Canadiens' 2-1 Game 2 victory. Back in Philadelphia, Steve Shutt scored a pair of goals to give the Canadiens a 3-2 victory in Game 3. Game 4 was a tough 5-3 loss before the home fans.
Leach, who had a record 19 goals in the playoffs, was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in defeat.
1980: Lost to New York Islanders, 4-2
Ah, the Leon Stickle series. Flyers fans have never forgotten the NHL linesman who missed an offsides call on Brent Sutter's first-period goal that gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead in Game 6. The Islanders would go on to win the game 5-4 and the series on Bobby Nystrom's overtime goal.
The Flyers were far-and-away the NHL's best team in the regular season, winning the Patrick Division by 25 points over the Islanders. The Flyers set a record by going 35 games (25 wins and 10 ties) without a loss during the season. Leach had 50 goals, Behn Wilson had 212 penalty minutes and Jimmy Watson was plus-53.
The Flyers lost only two games in dispatching the Oilers, Rangers and Minnesota North Stars before a Stanley Cup Final filled with lopsided games. The Islanders won 4-3 in overtime in Game 1 in Philadelphia but the Flyers bounced back for an 8-3 win. The Islanders won 6-2 and 5-2 on Long Island before the Flyers returned home for a 6-3 win.
Bryan Trottier won the Conn Smythe Trophy in the first of four-straight Islanders' Stanley Cups.
1985: Lost to Oilers, 4-1
The Flyers won the Patrick Division and led the NHL with 113 points, four points ahead of the defending champion Edmonton Oilers. Tim Kerr led the Flyers with 54 goals and 98 points while Brian Propp had 43 goals and 96 points. Ilkka Sinisalo had 36 goals and captain Dave Poulin had 30. In his fourth season, goalie Pelle Lindbergh won the Vezina Trophy and rookie coach Mike Keenan won the Jack Adams Award. The Flyers also had one of the best defensive pairings of all time in Mark Howe and Brad McCrimmon.
The Flyers had little trouble winning in the first three rounds of the playoffs, sweeping the Rangers in three games; eliminating the Islanders in five and downing the Quebec Nordiques in six. But injuries compromised their chance against the Oilers -- Kerr, Poulin, Howe, Sinisalo, McCrimmon, Lindbergh and defenseman Doug Crossman were all hobbled in the Final.
The Flyers beat the Oilers for the ninth-straight time in Game 1, winning 4-1, but that was as far as they went Edmonton won 3-1 at the Spectrum in Game 2, then won the next three games in Edmonton. Lindbergh's knee gave out and he was replaced in Game 5 by Bob Froese, who was also suffering from knee problems. The Oilers wrapped up their second Cup with an 8-3 win in Game 5, and Wayne Gretzky added the Conn Smythe Trophy to his Art Ross and Hart Trophies.
1987: lost to Oilers, 4-3
This is considered one of the most exciting Stanley Cup Finals of all time, matching two teams that were best in their conferences for three-straight seasons. The Oilers won the first two games at home and led 3-0 in Game 3 in Philadelphia, but the Flyers rallied for five straight goals to win the game. The Oilers won Game 4 in Philadelphia and were preparing for a parade when the Flyers won Game 5, 4-3, in Edmonton. The Oilers took a 2-0 lead in Game 6 in Philadelphia but the Flyers won in overtime on J.J. Daigneault's goal.
The Flyers went up 1-0 in Game 7 when Murray Craven scored at 1:41 of the first period during a 5-on-3. But the Oilers roared back on goals by Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson to capture their third Cup in four years.
Ron Hextall, who received an eight-game suspension to be served the following season for slashing Kent Nilsson in Game 4, was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, only the fourth member of a losing team to be honored at that time in history.
1997: Lost to Red Wings, 4-0
The Flyers were led by the "Legion of Doom" line of Eric Lindros centering left wing John LeClair and right wing Mikael Renberg, defensemen Eric Desjardins and Janne Niniimaa and Hextall, backed up by Garth Snow. They picked up veteran offensive defenseman Paul Coffey in December. LeClair was fourth in League scoring with 50 goals and 97 points.
The Flyers finished second to the New Jersey Devils in the seven-team Atlantic Division and defeated the Northeast Division runner-up, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in five games. The Flyers then downed the Northeast champions, the Buffalo Sabres, in five games. The Flyers' bid for a sweep was thwarted by Buffalo's 5-4 overtime victory at the Spectrum. The Flyers then completed their third consecutive five-game victory by defeating the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
The Flyers were favored to win the Cup, but were swept by Detroit -- the first of four Stanley Cups in 11 seasons for Hockeytown. The Flyers led for only two minutes in the entire series when LeClair scored the opening goal in Game 3. But Steve Yzerman tied it up and the Red Wings never trailed again.
Sergei Fedorov had the game-winning goal in the Detroit's 4-2 win in Game 1, while Kirk Maltby had the winner as the Wings won Game 2 by the same score. Fedorov had a four-point night in Detroit's 6-1 win in Game 3, after which Flyers coach Terry Murray said his team was "basically in a choking situation." The Flyers didn't choke in Game 4, but they did lose 2-1 in a game that was highlighted by Darren McCarty's brilliant move around Niniimaa and deke on Hextall for the Cup-winning goal.
Goalie Mike Vernon held the Flyers to six goals in four games and was named the Conn Smythe winner.
Contact John McGourty at firstname.lastname@example.org