Bruins join other regular-season Goliaths with postseason collapse

ByBrianna Williams ESPN logo
Monday, May 1, 2023

The Boston Bruins have cemented their place in the history books with one of the greatest regular seasons. With a 65-12-5 record, they became the fourth NHL team to win at least 60 games and set a new mark for single-season victories.

And now they're out of the playoffs.

The Florida Panthers, who finished the season 43 points behind the Bruins, knocked them out of the Stanley Cup playoffs in a seven-game series which saw them come back from down three games to one to win it. In Game 7, they scored a tying goal with less than a minute remaining in the third period and then finished the stunned Bruins off in overtime.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, regular-season Goliaths often end the postseason without hoisting hardware.

The past ten Presidents' Trophy winners did not reach the Stanley Cup Final, and the previous record holders with 62 wins (1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning) did not take home the Cup.

Falling short in the postseason after reaching great heights in the regular season is also fairly common outside of hockey.

Here's how record holders for regular-season wins have fared across professional sports:


2001 Seattle Mariners, 116-46

The Mariners tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs' regular-season record of 116 wins with a roster that boasted eight All-Stars, including Ichiro Suzuki, who went on to win Rookie of the Year and MVP. After opening the American League Division Series with a 5-0 shutout loss and falling 17-2 in Game 3, Seattle managed to defeat Cleveland in a five-game series. The Mariners followed up that performance by losing to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series 4-1.

Worth mentioning: 2022 Los Angeles Dodgers, 111-51

After an offseason in which they re-signed Clayton Kershaw and landed a big-name free agent in Freddie Freeman, the Dodgers weren't short on star power or wins. Their 111 regular-season victories were the most by a team since the 2001 Mariners.

Then Los Angeles was hit by a wild card in the National League Division Series: TheSan Diego Padreswith 89 wins. The Padres sent their regional rival packing in four games, an early ending for any hopes of a Fall Classic appearance for the Dodgers.


2007 New England Patriots,16-0 New England, in the season following Spygate, scored at least five touchdowns in half of its games as quarterback Tom Brady and his new receiver Randy Moss became well acquainted. Brady set a single-season record for touchdown passes (50) and Moss did the same for TD receptions (23).

The Patriots entered Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants with an 18-0 record, and thanks to David Tyree's heroics they left with the same number of wins. Tyree made a vital catch, which he pinned to the top of his helmet, to set up the winning touchdown in the Giants' 17-14 upset win.

Worth mentioning: Since 2001, 27 teams have finished with or tied with another team for the best record and not won the Super Bowl.


2016 Golden State Warriors, 73-9

The defending champs opened the season with 24 straight wins, easily surpassing the previous record of 15-0 set by the 1993-94 Houston Rockets and the 1948-49 Washington Capitols for best start. The record smashing didn't stop there. Golden State, en route to breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record of 72-10, became the first team to avoid consecutive losses in the entire regular season.

After starting the playoffs by winning two series 4-1, the Warriors rallied from a 1-3 deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in a seven-game battle, advancing to face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Golden State ended the season on a historic note by becoming the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Worth mentioning: Since 2001, six teams that finished with the best regular-season record have won the title. The 2016-17 Warriors are the most recent team to accomplish the feat.


2014 Phoenix Mercury, 29-5

As the exception to this trend, Phoenix won 19 of those 29 games by double digits and boasted a 16-1 home record in the regular season.

The "Big Three" of Brittney Griner, Candice Dupree and Diana Taurasi led Phoenix to a finals appearance after defeating the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx in the conference semifinals and conference finals, respectively. The Mercury swept the Chicago Sky in the finals to clinch their third WNBA championship in seven years.

Worth mentioning: 1998 Houston Comets, 27-3

The 1998 Comets played four fewer regular-season games because the league had eight teams rather than its current total of 12, and they still own the highest winning percentage (.900) in WNBA history. They followed up winning the inaugural finals by taking down 21 of their first 22 games in their second season. Houston successfully defended its 1997 title by defeating Phoenix 2-1 in the 1998 championship series.

Related Video