Over the last week or so, 87.5% has become a figure that many in the hockey community across North American have become all too familiar with.
From 1980-1986, the NHL opened the Stanley Cup playoffs with a best-of-five Preliminary Round or Division Semifinal series, and in those 56 series played, the team was victoious in Game 1 went on to win an astounding 49 times or 87.5%.
With this year’s expanded 24-team postseason, the best-of-five series has made an unexpected return, and after a busy opening weekend, eight teams find themselves staring down long odds of advancing.
After dropping a 2-1 decision to the New York Islanders on Saturday, the Florida Panthers are one of a potentially unfortunate octet that hopes to join those seven (mostly) Reagan-era teams who were part of the “12.5% club” that managed to overcome and move deeper into postseason.
Let’s take a look back at those teams that had what it took to shake off a Game 1 defeat and advance.
1980 Boston Bruins
The Bruins, who were seeded fourth in playoffs, lost Game 1 on home ice to the 13-seed Pittsburgh Penguins by a 4-2 count. After winning Game 2, they were beaten 4-1 by the Penguins at the Igloo before taking the last two games of the series in rather easy fashion: 8-3 in Pittsburgh and 6-2 at the Boston Garden. Boston went on to face the New York Islanders, on the brink of a establishing a dynasty, in the Quarterfinals and were eliminated in five hard-fought games.
1982 Quebec Nordiques
A year after suffering a shocking sweep at the hands of Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers, the Montreal Canadiens went down again in the opening round to another former WHA squad. The Nordiques were throttled 5-1 at the Montreal Forum in Game 1. They bounced back to win the next two games of the series before the Habs took Game 4. Game 5 went to overtime where Dale Hunter sent Quebec into the next round when he beat Rick Wamsley 22 seconds into the extra session. The Nordiques went out to upset Boston in the Quarterfinals before they were swept by the Islanders in the Prince of Wales Conference Final.
1982 New York Rangers
The favored Rangers finished just five points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers in the regular season standings. After the Flyers scored a 4-1 upset at Madison Square Garden in Game 1, the Broadway Blueshirts reeled off three wins in a row to take the series in four games, advancing with a 7-5 win at the Spectrum. The Rangers put up a pretty good fight in the Division Finals against the Islanders juggernaut, but were dispatched in six games.
1983 Chicago Black Hawks
The then “Black Hawks” finished in first place in the Norris Division, 39 points ahead of the lowly 65-point Blues. St. Louis stunned the Black Hawks with a 4-2 win at Chicago Stadium in Game 1. The Black Hawks quickly bounced back and routed the Blues 7-2 in Game 2 before posting 2-1 and 5-3 wins in St. Louis to move on to the next round. Chicago took care of the Minnesota North Stars in five games before they were easily swept by the ascendant Oilers in the Clarence Campbell Final.
1984 Minnesota North Stars
A year after being eliminated by the Black Hawks in round two, the North Stars were able to extract some revenge in the next playoff meeting between the two division rivals. The fourth place Hawks pulled off a 3-1 upset win in the opening tilt at Met Center, but the North Stars took the series lead with wins in Game 2 and 3. After Chicago won Game 4 on home ice to stave off elimination, Minnesota got a pair of goals from veteran Dennis Maruk and advanced with a 4-1 victory. The North Stars knocked out the Blues in seven games to advance to the Conference Finals, where they were destroyed in four straight games by Edmonton, who went on to win its first Stanley Cup.
1985 Montreal Canadiens
After ending up on the wrong side of this list previously, the Canadiens overcame a 5-3, Game 1 loss to the underdog Bruins at the Forum to win this series in five games. The Habs won Games 2 and 3 before Boston remained alive with a wild 7-6 victory in Game 4. Mats Naslund scored the only Game 5 goal with 51 seconds left in regulation and Steve Penney stopped all 20 shots to push Montreal through to the next round. Montreal would drop a heartbreaking Game 7 overtime decision to the Nordiques in the Battle of Quebec in the Adams Division Final.
1985 New York Islanders
Alan Haworth’s overtime goal gave the second place Washington Capitals a Game 1 win over the third place Islanders. A double overtime win at Capital Centre put the Caps in a great position to advance, but the savvy Isles held serve at Nassau Coliseum and then completed the comeback with a 2-1 road win, thanks to a stellar 39-save performance by Battlin’ Billy Smith. New York’s magic ran out in the next round, where they dumped by the Flyers in five games.
Tomorrow’s Game 2 against New York is essentially a must-win for the Panthers. Looking back at the seven teams above that managed to advance after losing Game 1 of a best-of-five, six of them were able to take Game 2 to make it a best-of-three the rest of the way, with the ‘85 Islanders being the only team that managed to come back from 2-0 series deficit. The Cats certainly have their work cut out for them if they want to still be playing past this week.