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Fortune .500

No winning record? No problem for Penguins

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Posted: Tuesday May 09, 2000 10:15 PM

By Ryan Hunt,

Twelve games into this season, the Pittsburgh Penguins looked nothing like one of the eight best teams in the NHL.

The Penguins started the season with only two wins in their first 12 games, capped off by an embarrassing 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

And that was with a healthy Jaromir Jagr.

Pittsburgh -- who survived 21 games without Jagr -- didn't climb above the .500 mark until the season's penultimate game, then lost the regular season finale to enter the playoffs with a 37-37-8 record.

Pittsburgh nearly advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, holding a 2-0 lead over Philadelphia heading before losing the series in six games.

Postseason Wonders
Conference finalists with .500 or worse record
Year  Team  Record 
1991  Minnesota North Stars  27-39-14 
1991  Edmonton Oilers  37-37-6 
1990  Washington Capitals  36-38-6 
1989  Chicago Blackhawks  27-41-12 
1989  Philadelphia Flyers  36-36-8 
1987  Detroit Red Wings  34-36-10 
1986  New York Rangers  36-38-6 
1984  Montreal Canadiens  35-40-5 
1982  Vancouver Canucks  30-33-17 
1982  Chicago Blackhawks  30-38-12 
1981  New York Rangers  30-36-14 
1972  St. Louis Blues  28-39-11 
1971  Minnesota North Stars  28-34-16 
1970  Pittsburgh Penguins  26-38-12 
1969  Los Angeles Kings  24-42-10 
1968  St. Louis Blues  27-31-16 
1968  Minnesota North Stars  27-32-15 

The Penguins would have become the 18th in the expansion era (since 1967) to advance to the conference finals despite not owning a winning record.

Of the previous 17 teams to make the conference finals, three have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. Of course, all three happened to beat .500 or worse teams in the conference finals to get there.

The 1991 Minnesota North Stars, the '82 Vancouver Canucks and the '68 St. Louis Blues are the only teams to make the Stanley Cup finals with losing records.

The '91 North Stars, though, more than earned their way to the Stanley Cup finals. Minnesota stunned Chicago and St. Louis, who both earned more than 100 points in the regular season, on the way to the Cup finals.

But since the NHL adopted its current playoff format in 1994, no team has ever knocked off the top two seeds. Pittsburgh eliminated second-seeded Washington, but fell two wins shy of knocking out the Eastern Conference's top team.


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