Should they rally from a 2-0 series deficit (they trail 2-1 after Wednesday night's 4-3 overtime win), the Flyers would pull off the second-biggest Finals upset in history -- at least numerically speaking.
And they should know -- they were the victims of the biggest one.
This year's Flyers are the 20th team since 1939 (when the Final went to a best-of-7 format) to face an opponent that was at least 20 points better in the regular season. To say they're bucking history would be putting it mildly: Of the first 19 teams, just one won the Cup -- and it's a memory Flyer fans would rather forget.
The 1980 New York Islanders struggled through the regular season, and only a late surge enabled them to finish with 91 points -- sixth in the NHL and a 25-point decline from the previous season when they were first in the regular season, but lost to the Rangers in the semifinals. They also finished 25 points behind the Flyers, whose League-high 116 points included a record 35-game unbeaten streak that covered nearly half the season.
But by beating the Flyers in six games for their first of four consecutive Cups, the Islanders became the biggest Finals underdog to skate off with a championship. In fact, they are still the only team to win a Cup against a team that finished 20 or more points ahead during the regular season.
Ironically, the Islanders also were involved in the biggest Final mismatch of all time. Two years after upsetting
The only other instances of a disparity of 30 or more points between Finalists go back to the Original Six Era.
The Canucks were also involved in the second-biggest mismatch in the Expansion Era (post-1967).
But close series between teams with big regular-season disparities are the exception rather than the rule. The Isles' sweep of
This year's Flyers would be bucking history even if they had finished just one point behind the Blackhawks. Of the 68 previous best-of-7 Finals in which one team had more points than the other, the team with the most points won 57 times. The last time a team won the Final despite finishing behind its opponent in the regular season was 1997, when the Detroit Red Wings swept
The Flyers also are one of two teams to play in the Final against an opponent who finished with the same number of points. They retained the Cup in 1975 by beating