Year of the
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Road To The 1979 Stanley Cup Playoffs
By Chris Oakley
Summary: In the first three chapters of this series, we recalled how the Jacksonville Jaguars overcame a poor start to their 1978-79 NHL season to win the Patrick Division championship and beat the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 1979 NHL playoffs. In this segment, we’ll look back on their epic second round playoff battle with their division archrivals, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Those who remembered the ferocity of the Jaguars’ clashes with the Flyers during the 1978-79 NHL regular season were predicting-- and not without just cause --that when the two Patrick Division rivals met in the second round of the NHL playoffs it would be something close to civil war. And the press statements by the two teams’ respective head coaches on the eve of Game 1 hardly did much to discourage that idea; in fact, Pat Quinn told a New York Post sportswriter point blank that "I want to stomp Jacksonville’s guts out".1
In a similar vein, Sid Abel said in an interview for NBC-TV’s Miami affiliate: "We’re going to hit the Flyers with everything up to, including, and past the kitchen sink before the game’s over." When Abel’s comments were re-played on Philadelphia TV sportscasts later that night, the already ugly attitude of Flyers fans toward the Jags got ten times uglier; when Jacksonville came up to face Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4 of the series, the Jaguars’ hotel would be besieged with hate mail and obscene phone calls. It got to the point where the Jaguars players and coaches would actually need police escort to make it to and from the Spectrum for the third and fourth matchups of the Cup semifinals.
In the meantime, the series opener at Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum would see the Jaguars and the Flyers stage a rematch of their now-infamous Valentine’s Day bench-clearing brawl at the Spectrum. The police contingent assigned to work security at JMC for that game was braced for anything up to and including a full-scale riot; squads of Florida state troopers were also on hand, ready to intervene if worst came to worst....
Jacksonville got in the first licks in Game 1 of the series, scoring back-to-back goals in the opening six minutes of the first period; Ken Linseman assisted on a Serge Bernier power play goal at 3:27 of the period, and Bernier returned the favor by intercepting a Bobby Clarke attempt to clear the puck out to center and passing it to Linseman for a wrap-around goal at 4:32.
But Clarke would strike back at the 7:04 mark, scoring on a 45-foot slapshot that according to one Philadelphia Inquirer hockey beat correspondent could be heard "at the Ohio state line".2 The Flyers tied the game at 12:08 on a shorthanded goal by Flyers center Blake Dunlop; that would be the last time either team found the net until the halfway point of the third period as Philadelphia and Jacksonville held each other at bay in a drama worthy of a daytime TV soap opera. With every minute that went by with the score still tied, overtime became a more and more likely possibility.
Then, 10:12 into the third period, Yves Preston stole a Clarke pass intended for Flyers right winger Paul Holmgren and slid it past Wayne Stephenson’s right leg to give the Jaguars a 3-2 lead. The mood on the Philadelphia bench, jubilant just a few minutes earlier, became one of open-mouthed shock; Pat Quinn, convinced that Potvin had been offside when he made the shot, protested to the referees in an attempt to get the goal disallowed only to have his protests rejected. Flyers fans watching the game from the comfort of their living rooms back in Philadelphia couldn’t believe their eyes-- or their misfortune when Serge Bernier poked home a rebound from a Ken Linseman wrist shot to put Jacksonville ahead 4-2.
In desperation, the Flyers pulled Stevenson out of the net with 1:48 left in regulation to put a sixth man on the ice. That move came back to bite them in a hurry: just seconds after Stevenson was pulled, Denis Potvin notched an empty-net goal to stretch the Jaguars’ lead to 5-2. Jacksonville went on to win the game 6-2 and take a 1 games-to-0 lead in their playoff series with Philadelphia. Pat Quinn cursed up a blue streak on his way back to the Flyers’ locker room after the game ended...
...but in Game 2 of the series it was the Jags that would be doing the cursing. Philadelphia won that matchup 3-0, with two of the goals coming from Blake Dunlop; Wayne Stephenson made 41 saves that night, ten of them coming on Jacksonville’s last desperate attempts to get on the scoreboard in the closing minutes of the game. With the series tied at 1-all, the Flyers felt confident they could take the lead now that the series was moving up to the Philadelphia Spectrum for Games 3, 4, and 5.
That confidence grew after a 7-1 blowout of the Jaguars before a sellout Spectrum crowd in Game 3. But in the second period of Game 4, with the Flyers nursing a 3-1 lead and Philadelphia fans starting to envision a trip to the Stanley Cup finals, Pat Quinn’s luck took a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse. Bobby Clarke, trying to clear the puck out to center ice, accidentally coughed the puck up to Ken Linseman, who bolted towards the Philadelphia net like a runaway train and slipped a perfectly timed wrist shot through the legs of a stunned Wayne Stephenson to cut the Flyers’ lead to 3-2.
Yves Preston tied the score just before the end of the period on a shorthanded goal. Quinn outwardly kept his cool, but in his gut he had a deep foreboding that everything was about to go wrong for his team. His foreboding turned out to be well-founded; the Jags erupted for five unanswered goals in the early minutes of the third period and went on to win 8-4, tying the Philadelphia-Jacksonville series at two games apiece and setting up a Game 6 back at Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum. The Flyers, who’d gone into this series looking for revenge on the Jaguars for costing them the Patrick Division title, now found themselves faced with the unfortunate possibility of being eliminated from the playoffs by their divisional archrivals.
The pressure on the Flyers to win Game 5 was enormous...
....and would, unfortunately for Philadelphia fans, prove to be more than the so-called Broad Street Bullies could handle. Serge Bernier broke up two Flyers power plays in the early part of the first period and Dave Favell made 27 saves in the second period; midway into the third period a potential Flyers power play goal was disallowed when the referee noticed that the Jacksonville net had been dislodged. Ken Linseman and Denis Potvin each contributed two goals and an assist to pave the way for a five-goal Jaguars shutout of Philadelphia.
Game 6 was the Flyers’ last chance to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive. In a decision he would quickly come to regret, Pat Quinn benched goalie Wayne Stephenson and opted to start Stephenson’s backup Bernie Parent in net for Philadelphia. Quinn believed that since the Jaguars weren’t as familiar with Parent’s goaltending methods as they were with Stephenson’s, it would be easier for Parent to prevent the Jacksonville skaters from scoring.
The Jags would quickly proceed to prove him wrong on that point. On the opening faceoff Serge Bernier snatched the puck from Bobby Clarke and blasted a 35-foot slapshot past Parent’s leg to put the Jaguars ahead 1-0; before the game was seven minutes old Ken Linseman stretched that lead to 2-0 by scoring on a rebound of an Yves Preston wrap-around shot. Before the first period was over, Philadelphia would find itself trailing 3-0 and Bernie Parent would be replaced by third- string goalie Robbie Moore, who had only appeared in five games the entire season. Surprisingly, Moore fared better between the pipes than the more experienced Parent had, making 18 saves in the first fifteen minutes of the second period.
But at the 17:31 mark of the second period, Moore would finally crack, surrendering a power play goal to Ed Rea; by then Philadelphia was down 4-0 and its hopes for making the ‘79 Stanley Cup finals were trickling away like sands through the proverbial hourglass. At home, Flyer fans watching the game from the comfort of their living rooms bombarded their TV screens with curses, empty beer cans, dirty looks, bricks-- indeed everything short of the kitchen sink. In a last-ditch stab at preventing elimination, Quinn brought Wayne Stephenson off the bench to start the third period. It was too little, too late: Denis Potvin drove a stake through the Flyers’ heart with a slapshot from center ice to extend Jacksonville’s lead to 5-0. Doug Favell put the finishing touch on Philadelphia’s exit by clearing a Blake Dunlop shot out of the Jacksonville zone and potting an empty net goal to make the final score 6-0 Jaguars.
Euphoria filled Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum when the end-of-game buzzer sounded to officially signal the Jaguars’ victory. After surviving their first two playoff series, there was only one more hill for the Jags to climb: a semifinals clash with the New York Rangers...
To Be Continued
 Quoted from a story in the April 9th, 1979 edition of the New York Post.
 Quoted from a story in the April 11th, 1979 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.