Quebec finished as the East's top seed that season, but lost to the eighth-seeded and defending Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers in the first round. The Penguins finished third in the East but were jolted by New Jersey in the second round.
New Jersey was just 6-6-3 after the first month and finished fifth in the East.
No matter. The Devils won their first Stanley Cup when they wiped out the Red Wings in a four-game Finals sweep.
In other words, the 48-game season is no different from an 82-gamer: If you get hot at the right time, you can win the Cup, no matter how you start the season. (See last year's Los Angeles Kings, who barely made the playoffs, seeded eighth in the West, before winning their first Cup.)
A lot of the talk this week has been about getting off to an impressive start. Nothing wrong with that, but history tells us the teams that gain momentum later in the season are more likely to challenge for a title.
Even in a season that lasts only about three months.
In 1995, the Flyers got off to a miserable 3-7-1 start, putting them sixth in the seven-team Atlantic Division and triggering arguably the best trade in franchise history: General manager Bob Clarke acquired winger John LeClair and defenseman Eric Desjardins on Feb. 9 as part of the deal that sent Mark Recchi and a third-round draft pick to Montreal.
With LeClair combining with Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg to form the Legion of Doom line, the Flyers ended up winning the Atlantic Division with a 28-16-4 record. They finished second in the Eastern Conference and reached the conference finals, where they lost to the Devils in six games. (Lemieux scored from just inside the blue line with 44.2 seconds left in Game 5, giving visiting New Jersey a 3-2 win and a 3-2 series lead.)
The Flyers and Devils of '95 are proof that it's not imperative to get off to a lights-out start when the abbreviated season begins Saturday.
It is imperative to play at your best down the stretch - preferably with a hot goalie - and to carry that into the playoffs. Whether you are seeded first or last has little significance.
In many ways, a shortened schedule gives the NHL a much more meaningful regular season and is perfect theater. Teams will play 48 games in 99 days.
Because teams will play so many games in a compressed amount of time, and will have just a six-day training camp, it wouldn't be surprising if injuries were to become rampant around the league. For that reason, depth will be a key.
The Flyers have three defensemen - Kimmo Timonen (back), Andrej Meszaros (Achilles), and Nick Grossmann (knee, concussion) - coming off major injuries, so management will be paying close attention to their condition.
Timonen and Grossmann appear ready to play, but there are questions about Meszaros. On top of that, promising young defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon are injured.
Even in a shortened season, there's no reason to rush any of them back.
Even if the Flyers slip coming out of the starting blocks, they can recover - especially considering that general manager Paul Holmgren will have room to maneuver if a midseason addition is needed. Holmgren will have about $8.7 million of cap space when Chris Pronger goes on the long-term injured list.
Maybe he'll even find another LeClair or Desjardins.
Contact Sam Carchidi at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.