Does History Favor the First Seeded Philadelphia Flyers?


Rolling into the playoffs, the Flyers took care of business in the round-robin tournament to determine the seeding for the top four teams. They knocked off the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, and Tampa Bay Lightning, in that order. The Flyers completed the trifecta, giving them the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

With the top seed comes expectations. The target on the Flyers’ back is the biggest it’s been in recent memory, and rightfully so. They were hot leading into the break, and appear to be regaining that momentum now that play has resumed. Flyers captain Claude Giroux even went as far as to say that this squad has the best chance to take home the Stanley Cup since the 2010 team.

History may not be on the Flyers’ side however. Since entering the league 52 years ago, only 23 first-seeded teams have won the Stanley Cup. Narrowing it even further, 12 of them have come from the Eastern Conference. For what it’s worth, that’s about one out of every four, or just over 23%.

Furthering that point, 19 of the 52 first seeded Eastern Conference teams advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals (36.54%), but 12 of them have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. 12 Eastern ConferenceStanley Cup winners that came from the first seed account for 23.07%, while 12 of the 19 first seeds to advance to and win the Stanley Cup accounts for 63.16%. Getting there is half the battle, but taking home the Stanley Cup is a feat all on its own.

Regarding Philadelphia in particular, they’ve been the first seed 11 times over their 52 years of existence. Of those 11 times, they’ve advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals six times and won twice in back-to-back years (1974 & 1975.) That was over 40 years ago, and things have changed a whole lot since then.

It’s been 14 years since an Eastern Conference first seed has even made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, let alone win one. If you count the lockout in 2004/05, it’s been 15 years. The year before that, the Tampa Bay Lightning came into the playoffs as the number one seed and took home the Stanley Cup.

11 times, the first seeded Eastern Conference team has made it to the Eastern Conference finals and lost. Seven of those occurrences have happened in the last 20 years. 13 times, the Eastern Conference first seed has been ousted in the second round of the playoffs. Eight times, the best of the Eastern Conference has been defeated in the very first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

10 times in the last 52 years, both number one seeds in each conference advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. Of those ten times, the Flyers were one of the teams on three occasions. Of those three attempts at a Stanley Cup against another top seed, they came away with one Stanley Cup (1975.)

Take these numbers and statistics as you will. It’s always interesting to dive into numbers like this to see what type of odds the Flyers are up against. Conventional wisdom will tell you that they have a better shot than most teams considering their seeding. However, nothing about the 2019/20 season has been conventional.

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