[Ed. note: Front-paging this look at previous teams who have done what the Kings have in the postseason.]
[note: I felt with the playoffs over it was time to update this with the Kings' result because I can't get enough of saying that the 2012 LA Kings are STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS. (I also like self-promoting now, so please give my new Kings blog, kingsinhockeywood.blogspot.com a look, thanks)]
So in case anyone is curious, as I was, as to how many teams have ever begun the playoffs with no more than one loss in the first two rounds of the playoffs and how they fare, I did some research.
It turns out that while it hasn't gotten a ton of press, it's a pretty special accomplishment.
Since the NHL went to Best-of-7 format in all four rounds of the playoffs 25 years ago in 1987 only ten teams have opened the playoffs 8-1 in the first two rounds, including this year's Los Angeles Kings. No team has ever swept the two opening rounds.
After the jump you can see how those ten teams fared once they got into the Conference Finals.
4 of the previous 9 won the Stanley Cup, including the first two teams to accomplish the feat, who both happened to be the same team, the 1987 and 1988 Edmonton Oilers. The '88 Oilers in fact went 16-2 in the playoffs that season on their way to the championship (the '87 team went into the Finals with only two losses but got pushed to 7 games by Philadelphia).
Another 3 of the 9 made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before succumbing to defeat. Those were the 1989 Montreal Canadiens, the 1995 Detroit Red Wings (who had lost only 2 games in the first three rounds before getting swept by New Jersey), and the 2008 Pittsburgh Penguins (who like the '95 Wings entered the Final with only 2 losses, but lost there in six games).
Only 2 of the 9 failed to make it past the Conference Finals. The 1995 Philadelphia Flyers mirrored the run of the Red Wings and fell to the same opponent, though they held on for six games. And the 1998 Buffalo Sabres, the Eastern Conference's 6th seed, and before this year's Kings, the lowest seed to make it through two rounds with only one loss, dropped four of six to the Washington Capitals.
Will the Kings join the likes of Wayne Gretzky's dynastic Oilers and Mark Messier's Rangers of destiny and win the Cup? Or will they be akin to the Canadiens, Red Wings, and Penguins, who all found early success before heartbreaking defeat and ultimate redemption within a few short years when they too raised Lord Stanley's chalice? Or will they burn out and leave us all heartbroken like Dominik Hasek's Sabres and Eric Lindros's Flyers?
Here are the ten teams that have stood on this precipice and the results of their efforts:
(year, team, seed, result)
2012- Los Angeles Kings (West 8; won Cup)
2008- Pittsburgh Penguins (East 2; lost in Final, won the Cup the following season)
2004- Tampa Bay Lightning (East 1; won Cup)
1998- Buffalo Sabres (East 6; lost in Semi-Final, made it back to Finals the following season)
1995- Philadelphia Flyers (East 1; lost in Semi-Final, made it back to Finals two seasons later)
1995- Detroit Red Wings (West 1; lost in Final, won the Cup twice in next three years and four times in next 13)
1994- New York Rangers (East 1; won Cup)
1989- Montreal Canadiens (Adams 1; lost in Final, won Cup four seasons later)
1988- Edmonton Oilers (Smythe 2; won Cup)
1987- Edmonton Oilers (Smythe 1; won Cup)
I think it's interesting to note that of the teams who won the Cup only Edmonton had any more success in subsequent seasons (but of course had to lose the greatest player of all time too). The Rangers quickly descended back into irrelevancy. The Lightning did likewise.
The teams who failed that season seemed to have more success for the most part. The Red Wings became the strongest franchise in recent memory and won four of the next 12 Stanley Cups. The Canadiens won the Cup in '93 (boo). The Sabres made it back to the Finals only one season later. The Flyers got back two years later, and while they haven't won a Cup, they have remained a contender almost every season for over a decade. And of course, the Penguins won the Cup one season later.
I think that whatever happens in the next month, the future is going to be very bright for this very special Kings team.