Under heading of bad timing, consider the six occasions on which the Philadelphia Flyers have made it to the Stanley Cup final since the Broad Street Bullies won back-to-back in 1974 and '75:
- Swept by the Montreal Canadiens in 1976, the Habs' first of four straight Cups.
- Beaten four games to two by the New York Islanders in 1980, the Isles' first of four consecutive championships.
- Lost the 1985 and '87 Cup finals 4-1 and 4-3 to the Edmonton Oilers, the second and third of the Oil's five titles in a seven-year span.
- Swept by the Detroit Red Wings in 1997, the start of the Wings' ascendancy as the most successful NHL club of their generation, with more Cups to come in 1998, 2002 and 2008.
If you're counting, that's three legitimate dynasties and another that might as well be considered one, given the difficulty of keeping a team together nowadays.
And now they've come up against another of those fabulous young teams, though in this case, one that's certain to be at least partly dismantled by looming salary-cap issues next season. That doesn't make the immediate future any rosier for Philly.
Bad timing, indeed.
Down 2-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks and on a seven-game Cup final losing streak dating back to Game 7 in 1987, the Flyers lace them up Wednesday at home, facing the prospect of having to win four of five from the Hawks, who've won 10 of their last 11 games in these playoffs and seven in a row (and seven straight on the road, by the way).
"It's obviously not the way we wanted to start the series," said Philly's captain, Mike Richards. "But going home, I said all along, we play well there. So we have to go in and play like we have been lately."
"It's definitely going to be a difference, you know," goalie Michael Leighton said, of the return to home ice. "We're looking forward to being back home."
Home is the Wachovia Center, a few hundred metres across the parking lot from where the old Spectrum still stands, shuttered and empty now and due to be demolished, like its defunct former neighbours in the massive sports complex that once housed Veterans Stadium and John F. Kennedy Stadium.
Bernie Parent stopped pucks at the Spectrum, Bobby Clarke played his heart out there, Bill Barber, Reggie Leach, and Rick MacLeish scored there. But equally, Bob (Hound Dog) Kelly, Dave (Hammer) Schultz, Andre (Moose) Dupont, Don Saleski and Ed Van Impe rode the range there and set a standard of physical intimidation by which every Flyer team since has been judged.
Many have passed the test, but none since 1975 has passed it in a Stanley Cup final.
That doesn't change the expectation of surliness on the part of the home team. In the seats will be some of the crudest, meanest and quite possibly most ardent fans in America, for whom there are no shades of grey - and from whom there is nowhere to hide.
The Flyers, to use a favourite Brian Burke word, are required to be obstreperous Wednesday in Game 3, and possibly reprehensible in Game 4.
The rink is, after all, still on Broad Street, and the Flyers have survived as a strong, durable brand in a tough, ultracritical town by never forgetting who they are. They are the team that made the Soviet Red Army team threaten to quit, that night in Super Series '76 when Van Impe hammered Valeri Kharlamov, for whom the memory of Bobby Clarke's slash on his ankle in the 1972 Summit Series must still have been fresh.
They are the team of Freddie (The Fog) Shero, who proudly proclaimed after the Flyers' 4-1 win: "We beat the hell out of a machine."
"Philly teams are always designed to have grit to them," Chicago forward John Madden, the former New Jersey Devil, told reporters the other day.
"They pick their team, draft guys with an edge. They're scrappy. All the Philadelphia teams I played against played that way. Eric Lindros played like that. They're definitely hard to play against."
It has been a reliable formula for close/no cigar, but It hasn't got them over the hump in 35 years. The closest they ever got was 1987. Those Mike Keenan-coached Flyers, held together with pain-deadening needles and tape, had no business being close against the best of the five Edmonton championship teams, but rode Ron Hextall's Conn Smythe Trophy form to a near-upset.
Still, anyone counting out the Peter Laviolette 2010 Flyers has a short memory, because it's only three weeks ago that they capped their historic comeback after trailing the Boston Bruins three games to none, and 3-0 in Game 7.
But history isn't entirely encouraging.
Of the 33 teams in history who have dropped the first two games on the road, 31 have gone on to lose the Cup. Daunting numbers, and even a team with as much pluck in their franchise DNA as the Flyers must know it's an awfully tall order.
There is, however, just this much hope:
One of the only two times the winner of the first two at home has gone on to drop the ball was just last year. The Red Wings lost in seven to Pittsburgh.
The other? The 1971 . . . Chicago Blackhawks.