Ranking the 5 Most Heartbreaking Playoff Losses in Philadelphia Flyers History

Dan FremuthContributor IIIMarch 16, 2014

Ranking the 5 Most Heartbreaking Playoff Losses in Philadelphia Flyers History

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    In their 46-year history, the postseason has been a bit of a mixed bag for the Philadelphia Flyers.

    414 total playoff outings: 214 victories, 200 defeats.

    77 career postseason series: 43 victories, 34 defeats.

    The orange and black has certainly enjoyed its fair share of success since entering the league in 1967, including eight trips to the Stanley Cup Final and back-to-back Cup championships in 1974 and 1975.

    However, the Flyers have also suffered bitter disappointment on the game's biggest stage.

    Here's a look at the five most heartbreaking losses in Philadelphia's history.

5. 1997 Stanley Cup Final vs. Detroit Red Wings

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    Robert Laberge/Getty Images

    In 1997, it had been 10 years since the Flyers last vied for the Stanley Cup. In fact, Philadelphia didn't even qualify for the postseason five times during that 10-year drought.

    So when the orange and black returned to the Stanley Cup Final, excitement was at a fever pitch in the City of Brotherly Love.

    Unfortunately for Philly and its fans, the Flyers ran into the buzz saw that was the Detroit Red Wings.

    Despite home-ice advantage, Philadelphia dropped both of the first two games of the series at the CoreStates Center by 4-2 final counts. The Red Wings then flexed their offensive muscles in a convincing 6-1 victory in Game 3 before sealing their first of back-to-back championships with a 2-1 cup-clinching win in Game 4.

    Even with a roster that featured Eric Lindros, John LeClair, Rod Brind'Amour, Mikael Renberg and Eric Desjardins, the Flyers only mustered six goals in the four-game series.

    Trips to the Stanley Cup Final don't come easy, so when one slips away as briskly as this did, it has to be considered among the most heartbreaking setbacks in franchise history.

4. 2000 Eastern Conference Final vs. New Jersey Devils

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    (Photo by Jerry Lodriguss)

    As just noted, trips to the Stanley Cup Final don't come around every season.

    In 2000, the Flyers were within one game of a return trip to the SCF when they held a 3-1 series lead over the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Final.

    Despite a 4-1 setback in the series opener, the orange and black responded with three straight triumphs, including back-to-back wins at Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey to grab a commanding lead in the best-of-seven series.

    Returning to the First Union Center in Philly for Game 5, the stars seemed aligned for the Flyers to get back to the SCF for the second time in four years. Unfortunately, Philadelphia suffered a 4-1 loss that night and then a 2-1 defeat in New Jersey in Game 6.

    And then came Stevens vs. Lindros in Game 7.

    As Philly's captain crossed the blue line, New Jersey's captain lowered his left shoulder into the Big E's chin, dropping the 6'4", 240-pound power forward like a ton of bricks.

    Lindros never played another professional game in a Flyers jersey and Philly's playoff run came to a screeching halt after a series-clinching conversion from Patrick Elias and another standout effort between the pipes from Martin Brodeur.

    The Flyers and Devils have enjoyed five postseason collisions. They've met in the opening round twice, with Philadelphia winning each quarterfinal matchup. They've met three times in later rounds, with New Jersey claiming each of those higher-stakes series.

3. 1980 Stanley Cup Final vs. New York Islanders

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    (Credit: AP, 1980)

    At the expense of the Flyers, the New York Islanders won their first of four straight Stanley Cup championships in 1980.

    After a 4-3 overtime defeat at home in Game 1, Philadelphia responded in the series' second outing with a convincing 8-3 triumph. Unfortunately for the orange and black, home ice proved invaluable thereafter and the Islanders offense proved unstoppable.

    New York grabbed convincing 6-2 and 5-2 victories at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Games 3 and 4 before the Flyers got back on the board at the Spectrum with a 6-3 win in Game 5.

    However, home ice held for the Isles in Game 6 with a 5-4 overtime win, aided by one of the most infamous blown calls in NHL postseason history. This propelled New York to its first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

    All told, the Islanders netted 26 goals in the six-game series, including 16 conversions in three home contests, kick-starting one of the great dynasties in NHL history.

    Meanwhile, the Flyers would return to the SCF just twice over the course of the next 16 seasons.

2. 2010 Stanley Cup Final vs. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    Since 1988, the Flyers have been to the Stanley Cup Final just twice.

    The sweep in 1997 at the hands of the Red Wings and this one.

    After qualifying for the playoffs on the season's final day, Philadelphia wasn't expected to do much in the postseason.

    Nevertheless, the seventh-seeded Flyers upset the second-seeded Devils in just five games. They then erased a 3-0 series deficit to the Boston Bruins in the second round en route to one of the great comebacks in NHL playoff history before punching their ticket to just their second SCF appearance in 22 years with a five-game triumph over the Montreal Canadiens.

    Sadly for Philadelphia, the magical run didn't have a happy ending.

    Chicago, the second seed in the West, won a pair of one-goal games at United Center to kick off the series. With their backs to the wall, the Flyers responded with a 4-3 overtime victory at home in Game 3 followed by a 5-3 series-tying triumph in Game 4 at Wachovia Center.

    However, the Blackhawks won the next two head-to-head meetings, including a Cup-clinching 4-3 overtime victory in front of nearly 20,000 orange-clad Flyers fans in Game 6.

    To make matters worse, Chicago earned its Cup championship on one of the least dramatic goals in NHL history when a side-angle wrister by Patrick Kane slipped through Michael Leighton without anyone realizing for several seconds.

    When the dust settled, the Flyers and their fans were forced to watch the Blackhawks hoist hockey's ultimate prize on their ice.

1987 Stanley Cup Final vs. Edmonton Oilers

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    Larry Macdougal/Associated Press

    The Flyers and Edmonton Oilers squared off for Lord Stanley's Cup twice in just three seasons from 1985 to 1987.

    In 1985, the Oilers bested Philadelphia in just five games for their second consecutive cup triumph. In 1987, the two sides clashed again in one of the greatest Stanley Cup Final series in NHL history.

    Despite falling behind 3-1 in the series and facing a win-or-go-home Game 5 in Edmontonwhere plans for a future parade had already been published in the day's papersthe Flyers didn't back down. Philly erased 2-0 and 3-1 deficits at the Northlands Coliseum before Rick Tocchet landed the winner in a come-from-behind 4-3 victory.

    The orange and black then scratched out another one-goal win at the Spectrum in Game 6 when Philadelphia once again overcame a 2-0 Oilers lead en route to a 3-2 victory, pushing the SCF to a decisive seventh game.

    Game 7 couldn't have started any better for the Flyers.

    Philly was awarded a two-man advantage just a minute into the contest and subsequently landed the game's opening goal for the first time in the series.

    Murray Craven's conversion was the last the Flyers netted that season, though, as Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson all found the back of the net. The Oilers outshot Philadelphia 25-8 over the final 40 minutes en route to their third championship in just four years.

    Philly goaltender Ron Hextall was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, but that was little consolation for a Flyers squad that came within one game of defeating one of the greatest teams to ever take the ice.