Editor’s Note: With the passing of former Bruins goalie Gilles Gilbert on Saturday, it reminded us of the Flyers’ history in Stanley Cup finals. Gilbert was the Bruins’ goalie in 1974 when the Philadelphia Flyers won their first Cup.
After winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in the 1970s, the Philadelphia Flyers haven’t won another.
Six more times the Flyers advanced to the finals. Remarkably, six times the Flyers ran into powerhouses. You don’t expect to meet a mediocre team in the finals, of course, but the Flyers always managed to face teams that were dynasties in the making.
It’s quite remarkable, really.
1976: Montreal Canadiens
The two-time defending champion Flyers were swept by the Canadiens. Despite Reggie Leach scoring 19 goals in the playoffs and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, the Flyers still fell.
Montreal was loaded, starting with coach Scotty Bowman. He won the second of his nine Stanley Cup championships as a head coach in 1976.
In goal was Ken Dryden, who allowed 25 goals in 13 games in the playoffs, and had a sterling 1.92 goals-against average. Dryden and the Canadiens went 12-1 through the playoffs.
Montreal had seven players with at least 20 regular-season goals. Guy Lafleur scored 56 goals and 125 points. Pete Mahovlich had 34 goals and 105 points. Steve Shutt had 45 goals and Yvan Cournoyer had 32 goals.
The defense was led by Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe.
The Flyers, coached by Fred Shero, were without two-time Conn Smythe winner Bernie Parent, who was injured in the 11th game of the regular season and Rick MacLeish.
The Flyers still had many of the players from their two Cups — Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Gary Dornhoefer, Orest Kindrachuk, Don Saleski, Dave Schultz. They lost three one-goal games in the finals.
Winning the Cup over the Flyers was Montreal’s first of four consecutive championships.
1980: New York Islanders
The Flyers lost in the finals in six games and the final goal of the series was scored by Bob Nystrom on the controversial offsides/not offsides.
The 1980 Cup was the first of four consecutive championships for the Islanders. Al Arbour’s team was led in goal by Chico Resch and Billy Smith. In the playoffs, Smith went 15-4.
The Islanders were led by Mike Bossy (51 goals), Bryan Trottier (104 points), Nystrom (21 goals) and tough guy Clark Gillies, who scored 19 goals.
The Flyers, coached by Pat Quinn, allowed 26 goals over the six games and lost Games 1 and 6 in overtime.
1985: Edmonton Oilers
The Flyers lost in five games to an Edmonton team that won the Cup the year before and would win again in 1987, 1988 and 1990.
Edmonton was a true offensive powerhouse, with Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson and Mike Krushelnyski. Gretzky scored 73 goals and had 208 points. Kurri scored 71 goals.
Grant Fuhr was solid enough in goal, at times spectacular.
Flyers coach Mike Keenan had a tremendous roster that ran into the Oilers’ dynasty. Pelle Lindbergh was in goal. Skaters included Tim Kerr, Brian Propp, Dave Poulin, Ilkka Sinisalo, Mark Howe, Ron Sutter, Murray Craven, Peter Zezel, Brad McCrimmon.
This was a roster good enough to win a Cup — just not against the mighty Oilers.
1987: Edmonton Oilers
The rematch went seven games. Both teams’ lineups were similar to 1985. But Kerr only played 12 of 26 playoff games because of injury. Flyers second-year forward Pelle Eklund scored 27 points in the playoffs. In goal, rookie Ron Hextall won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
The Oilers added 34-goal scorer Esa Tikkanen to coach Glen Sather’s already powerful lineup. Gretzky *only* scored 183 points that season.
The Flyers trailed 3-1 in the series before winning Game 5 at Edmonton, 4-3. The Flyers trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in what would have been the deciding game. But Rick Tocchet scored twice, including the game-winner in the third period.
Game 6 at the Spectrum was one of the most famous games in Flyers’ history. The Oilers again led 2-0 before Lindsay Carson and Brian Propp tied the score.
J.J. Daigneault scored one of the franchise’s most famous goals at 14:28 of the third period as Flyers’ fans almost blew the roof off the Spectrum for a second time in its history.
The victory forced a Game 7 back in Edmonton, where the Oilers won, 3-1.
1997: Detroit Red Wings
The confident Flyers came into the finals looking to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 22 years. Philadelphia had the Legion of Doom — Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg. Coach Terry Murray’s team also had Rod Brind’Amour and Eric Desjardins and a strong lineup throughout.
Detroit hadn’t won a Cup in 42 years. Scotty Bowman’s team was led by the Russian Five — Sergei Fedorov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Kozlov, Slava Fetisov, and Igor Larionov.
The Red Wings also had 46-goal scorer Brendan Shanahan, 85-point scorer and leader Steve Yzerman, and one of the top defenders in the league in Nicklas Lidström.
Detroit won in four games, the start of three Cups in six years. The Red Wings also won the Cup in 1998, 2002 and 2008.
2010: Chicago Blackhawks
The series went six games with Chicago’s Patrick Kane beating Michael Leighton in overtime with a sharp-angled shot. The victory ended the Blackhawks’ 49-year Cup drought.
The Blackhawks also won the Cup in 2013 and 2015.
Coach Joel Quenneville’s squad included Kane, Patrick Sharp, Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and goalie Antii Niemi.
The Flyers remarkably made the finals. Coach Peter Laviolette’s team had to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to Boston and a 3-0 Game 7 deficit in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Flyers were a balanced team with Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, Simon Gagne, Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell. Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen were outstanding defensemen.
Leighton shared the goaltending duties with Brian Boucher in the playoffs and Ray Emery in the regular season.
Six consecutive finals losses were hard to take for the Flyers. Even when they lost to some of the great teams in NHL history.