A Visual and Written Remembrance of the 2018-19 Philadelphia Flyers
Unless you're from Boston, the vast majority of seasons for your favorite sports teams usually end in failure. The extent of that failure is measured by a series of factors - with expectations, individual performances, closeness to the ultimate goal at the forefront.
This formula certainly holds true for the 2018-19 Philadelphia Flyers. Once projected as a 100-point team destined for the playoffs, a series of issues plagued the Flyers at different points of their season, causing them to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in seven years. It's easy to dwell on these failures, especially for a season that never seemed to come close to meeting the lofty expectations that were placed on the club.
However, a lot of life depends on how you look at it. While the end result of this season might not have met your, or the analysts, or the players goals, a lot of great things happened this season. Some we saw coming, like the continued success of Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier or the emergence of Travis Sanheim. Others were less foreseeable, notably the call-up and rise to stardom of 20-year old wonder kid Carter Hart in goal.
Everyone has their coping mechanisms, both in sports and in life. Mine is to make a montage. At the end of every Flyers season (and Phillies and Notre Dame football season, sometimes for the Eagles and 76ers as well), I'll choose a song and make a 3-4 minute video of the best moments from whatever team's campaign. It serves as a good way to redirect negative feelings in the short term, and provides excitement during the dog days of summer, when hockey seems so far away.
This is the longest piece I've ever written, so if you're looking for a more condensed version, I've bolded the paragraphs of clips I felt were most essential to understanding this crazy season.
This is my video montage for the 2018-19 Philadelphia Flyers. Below is their story.
0:00 - The Wells Fargo Center, home to 40 of the 82 regular season games this season. I was there for five of them. The Flyers are 19-16-4 at the Farg this season. While it may not be as electric as it was in championship years past, it still provides one of the better home ice advantages in the league, constantly populated by 20,000 of the best fans in the sport.
0:01 - As always, Radko Gudas follows the Flyers starting goalie onto the ice by sweeping the stack of pucks onto the rink for warmups. It's a tradition he started back in Tampa Bay, and has kept alive throughout his Flyers career. It serves as a starting point for every adventure of the Flyers past few seasons - the good, the bad, and the ugly all start here.
0:02 - 0:11 - Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Carter Hart, and James van Riemsdyk, in order. Each played a key role in this Flyers season. Many have contributed in years past, and many will contribute in seasons to come.
0:12 - Brian Elliott leads the Flyers out at Lincoln Financial Field for the 2019 Stadium Series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was to be the most hyped matchup of the Flyers campaign, a rematch against the Pennsylvanian rival that knocked them out of the playoffs a year before. The pre-game theatrics were spectacular, trumped only by the game itself. At this point in time, my parents and I were frantically fighting through the mass of humanity surrounding the Linc's entry gates. By the time we got settled, 10 minutes had passed on the clock and one puck had passed by Elliott. But the night was still young.
0:13 - Oh captain, my captain. The smiling face of Claude Giroux graces the screen at the start of the previous sequence, and his silky smooth puck skills come onto display now. Giroux didn't quite put up another Hart-caliber year in 2018-19, but lead the team in scoring for the second straight year, putting up his 4th 80+ point season and reaching several milestones along the way. Here he is embarassing the Blackhawks defense and beating Corey Crawford on a 4-0 November afternoon win.
0:16 - The second game-action clip happens to be the fastest goal of the Flyers season. 37 seconds into a road match in San Jose, Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick executed a perfect give-and-go, with Patty beating Martin Jones right through the five-hole. Slow starts were a consistent problem for the Flyers, as it has been in years past. But not on this occasion.
0:20 - The first time you see the replay of this goal, you probably wondered if you needed an eye exam. I can assure you, yes that is Wayne Simmonds moving into the offensive zone with one hand on his stick with full control of the puck. Eventually, Simmer realizes that two hands are better than one, and that two players swarming into the offensive zone is also better than one. He makes a perfect pass to G, who finishes the play with a gorgeous backhand move.
0:25 - Before Carter Hart took the world by storm one perfectly positioned save at a time, the keys to the Flyers crease belonged to Brian Elliott. His two-year tenure in Philadelphia will be marked by injuries and a nightmare playoff series, when it should be defined by his perfectly respectable .910 save percentage. Brian Elliott was not the savior of the Flyers crease, but he was never expected to be. But he made far more great saves, like this one on Jordan Eberle, than most fans will remember.
0:27 - The 2018-19 and 2017-18 seasons played out eerily similar for Nolan Patrick. Part of that deja vu was a slow start to the season, assisted by an upper-body injury that was likely a concussion. After missing 3 games due to the aforementioned injury, Patrick, pointless in his first 4 contests, lit the lamp off this beautiful pass from Jake Voracek. Note the player failing to tie up his stick - Nico Hischier, taken one pick ahead of Patrick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (#NolanBetter).
0:31 - One of the more underrated goals of the Flyers season. Travis Konecny blows by Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield, then gets Robin Lehner to vacate the near post before shelfing the puck short side. The Flyers outscored the Islanders 9-3 in their two meetings at Nassau Coliseum this year - this was the first goal scored there by either side.
0:34 - There was not a lot pretty about the Flyers-Canucks December 15th matchup. Philadelphia lost 5-1, Oskar Lindblom was healthy scratched for Jori Lehtera, and Dave Hakstol wound up getting the ax two days later. This beautiful end-to-end goal by Scott Laughton, as he blows by two Canucks defenseman before sniping on Jacob Markstrom, was the lone high point. Laughton may never meet the hype that comes with being a first round pick - but a career-high 30 point season with no consistent power play time and effective PK work is nothing to scoff at.
0:38 - Patience is a virtue. In a battle of will, Carter Hart outwaits Gustav Nyquist to make a solid if not spectacular glove save in close. Nyquist was traded to the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline, but before then he was a catalyst on a Red Wings offense lacking depth. Like any goalie, Carter Hart was faced night in and night out with stopping offensive catalysts like Nyquist. More often than not, he succeeded.
0:42 - 2018-19 was a tale of two seasons for the Flyers penalty kill. 31 games under Dave Hakstol - 73.5%, 30th in the NHL. 51 games under Scott Gordon - 84.9%, 5th in the NHL over that span. The extra aggressiveness employed by Ian Laperriere (and encouraged by Gordon) led to the increase in success, both in terms of killing penalties and creating shorthanded goals, like this one from Michael Raffl. The Flyers won this game 6-2, beating the Anaheim Ducks so badly they fired head coach Randy Carlyle the next day. In fact, the Flyers got two head coaches canned this year - Carlyle and John Stevens of LA (three if you count Hak).
0:46 - Of course, it wouldn't be a Flyers highlight video without Gritty. No Flyer - player, coach, or executive - had a better, or at least more complete, season than Gritty. From TV appearances to pop-culture to political rallies and, in this case, zip lines from the roof of the Linc, Gritty did it all. It seems like just yesterday our baby Gritty was threatening Iceburgh's life - now, he's all grown up. Well, as grown up as a Gritty can be.
0:47 - After a brief Grit break, back to the action. 2018-19 was a rough season for Shayne Gostisbehere - his offense took a dip, the power play (largely under his direction) struggled in bunches, and he was even healthy scratched down the stretch. Yet this clip serves as a reminder for what Ghost is capable of when he's on his game - a perfectly placed bomb to the top corner, tying a critical late season game up in the back-half of the 3rd. Watch this again the next time you're thinking of tweeting out an incredibly original "trade Ghost" hot take.
0:50 - Another game I was in attendance for, although this one, a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals. The Flyers were down 5-0 until a clip that comes up later on in this montage lit the lamp in the final minute of the 2nd. Then, 10 seconds into period number three, Oskar Lindblom spun a perfect pass for a backhand swat by Claude Giroux off the stick of Braden Holtby and in. It was one in another long list of valiant Flyers comebacks that came up just a little bit short. In the moment, I was thrilled, gears in my head grinding as to how the Flyers could pull of the upset. That's what makes sports great - you're never out of it until you're out of it. Any Flyers fan knows that.
0:54 - Nolan Patrick's struggles reached new heights when he sagged through 24 consecutive goalless games. But like many young players, Nolan's game centers around confidence. When his confidence is on, there's nothing Nolan Patrick can't do. Less than 11 minutes after breaking the drought on a bit of a fluky goal, there's Patty casually shooting a puck through his own legs for a highlight reel goal right as the beat drops in the song. Perfect timing, both from the player's and an editing perspective.
0:56 - There may not be a more underrated player amongst the Flyers fanbase than Oskar Lindblom. The point totals aren't always there, but Oskie was consistency defined on a team that often lacked in. Night in and night out, Oskar Lindblom was winning puck battles, blocking shots, killing penalties, and yes, scoring goals, doing whatever it took to push his team closer to victory. Here he is firing an Oskar Lindbomb past Jarsolav Halak to completely turn around the momentum of a January showdown - a 2-0 Boston lead became a 4-3 Flyers win, thanks to the hustle of Lindy.
0:58 - Second-funniest goal of the season right here (number 1 is coming up). After a terrible giveaway by Flames goalie David Rittich, Travis Konecny was given a golden opportunity to light the lamp. All he had to do was slide the puck through a moving target, aka Rittich's five-hole, circa every video game ever pre-1985. TK's timing was perfect, and Rittich's gaffe was complete. My reaction after that goal was half cheer, half laugh.
1:01 - The adage a big save at one end, a big goal at the other only works if you have a goalie capable of making the big save. Seconds after a big save by Carter Hart, the Flyers, on the power play, saw a chance to transition. The Flyers finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play with Simmer finding elite 1st line center Sean Couturier backdoor for a re-direct past Halak. This was the same game from earlier where Boston blew a 2-0 lead - this goal gave the Flyers a lead they would not lose. It was also the middle goal of a natural hat trick for Couturier, his first ever natty hatty.
1:02 - Goal. Of. The. Year. It took all my will power not to run down the hallway of the Dallas hotel I was watching this game from. In prep for the Cotton Bowl, I got lucky as this game wound up being broadcast on NBCSN. Giroux split three defenders on the President's Trophy-winning Lightning, lifted Ryan McDonagh's stick while maintaining possession of the puck, and undressed Andrei Vasilevskiy with a beautiful backhand-forehand finish. Travis Konecny argubaly had the best goal of the 2017-18 season against Boston - this G tally belongs right near the top of this year's list.
1:06 - Everyone loves a great goal, and everyone loves a clutch goal. So when you combine both traits in one tally, it becomes pretty special. Jake Voracek broke an October tie in the final 5 minutes with this gorgeous deke around a sprawling Keith Kinkaid, and proceeded to celebrate in fired-up fashion. Almost every Flyer has a celebration I associate with them - that reaction is the one that comes to mind when I think of Voracek.
1:09 - Remember when I said the funniest goal of the year was yet to come? Well, here it is. Mark Barberio was either stupid or high (probably the latter - this game was in Colorado) and decided it would be a good idea to turn into a bowling ball and make Seymon Varlamov the pins. In a flash, a normal looking icing turned into a laughing stock, with Mikhail Vorobyev's 1st NHL goal being the end result. It was a disappointing rookie campaign for Misha, who failed to stick at the NHL level. But that's a moment he'll never forget.
1:12 - Misha was not the only Flyer to have their first NHL goal this season. The journey to this moment for Phil Myers was a wild one. An undrafted free agent, Myers failed to make an impression at the Flames rookie camp in 2015 before earning an ELC with the Flyers in the fall. Out of nowhere, he became one of the top young defenseman in junior, rising to top pair on Team Canada in World Juniors. His first pro season was marked with some injury concerns, but when he's been on the ice, Myers made an impact. This laser was the goal right before Lindblom found Giroux from earlier in the highlights.
One of my favorite things to do after a goal is watch the crowd. It's especially cool to zero in on one fan and see their reaction to the play - but it's even better when that fan is yourself. I'm right behind the "S" in Wells Fargo behind the net, and although the clip ends before I can celebrate, I've captured it for all the world to laug-I mean enjoy.
1:16 - Exhibit B of confident Shayne Gostisbehere. Ghost started the scoring of a wild game against Detroit with this short-side snipe on Jimmy Howard. Howard was pulled early in the 3rd after a Nolan Patrick goal gave the Flyers a 5-1 lead. Then the Red Wings scored 3 goals in rapid succession. Philly desperately hung on until Anthony Mantha, who could've been kicked out of the game a few minutes prior, tied the game with 7 seconds left. What happens next? Give me a minute.
1:18 - In a breath of fresh air, both from their entire history and last season, the Flyers decided to be good in shootouts this year. Last year, the Flyers went just 2-7 in the exhibition; this year, they were 3-1. The middle of those winners was on Festivus in MSG, with this Nolan Patrick wrister in round 4 holding up as the only goal of the shootout, as Michal Neuvirth shut the door on all four Ranger shooters.
1:19 - The only reason the Simmer one-handed play from earlier isn't the Flyers assist of the year is because of this clip. Just before 2018 Hart nominee and Selke winner Anze Kopitar can step up on this pass, Claude Giroux heroically dives and swats the puck right to Coots. After a brief hesitation, Couturier flings a backhander through the wickets of Johnathan Quick, turning a nothing play into a gem in a moment's notice.
1:22 - For most goalies, allowing three goals in a game is considered to be just an okay performance. However, Carter Hart was more than okay in this game, where he allowed 3 goals on 42 shots - he was stellar. Honestly, you could pick a game during the second half of this season at random, and there's a good chance that if the Flyers won, or even if it was close, it was largely because of Starter Hart. I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical of the decision to call up Hart, who had a save percentage barely above .900 in the AHL level. Safe to say that Hart proved me, and all those who doubted he wasn't NHL ready yet, dead wrong.
1:24 - At first look, this 6-3 March 1st win in New Jersey looks pretty good. In reality, it was a frustrating game, as the Flyers failed to pull away from a far inferior Devils squad that was barely icing an NHL lineup. However, James van Riemsdyk showed up big time that night, scoring the first two goals of the game. Injuries and inconsistency plagued JVR's first half season in his return to the City of Brotherly Love. But most trade deadline, no Flyer scored more goals than van Riemsdyk's 10.
1:26 - I think this was my favorite non-overtime goal of the season. Down 5-1 at home to the Lightning despite dominating play for 50 minutes, the Flyers staged a massive comeback. Konecny and Couturier scored goals on consecutive power plays. Then TK scored again on a great feed from Giroux. And all of a sudden, a Robert Hagg shot caught Louis Domingue in a funny area, creating a dangerous rebound. Wayne Simmonds pushed the first rebound back into Domingue, and then was robbed on the followup. But in true Wayne Simmonds fashion, Simmer stayed with it, and popped the loose puck over Domingue on the third effort to improbably tie the game.
Watching this comeback unfold in real time was thrilling. I was out shopping for supplies for our school spirit week (long story short - we turned a hallway into the end of the world), and most of my sports focus was on the Notre Dame-Syracuse football game (did you Notre Dame went undefeated?). Until the Flyers got within two. Then they were within one, and all of a sudden, it was tied. Some of my friends got to hear me yell how much I loved Wayne Simmonds in a sparsely populated Acme on a Saturday afternoon. Fun times.
1:28 - When you use 8 goalies in one season, it's easy to lose track of some things. Anthony Stolarz was often a guy who got lost in the shuffle. For a stretch in late November/early December, Stolarz looked like he might be the answer in net, at least until Carter Hart was ready. But injuries and the fact Hart was actually ready and we didn't realize it pushed Stollie to the AHL. He eventually came back up, and played admirably - but this diving save on Anze Kopitar with 6 seconds left in overtime was his best. Stollie was traded to Edmonton a few weeks later, but it's hard not to appreciate his efforts.
1:29 - Crazy comeback vs. Tampa, Round 2! Just over a month after that 5-1 comeback that eventually fell short, the Flyers found themselves trailing 5-2 entering the 3rd period. But the Flyers stormed back. Dale Weise began the comeback with a beautiful goal... that deflected in off his skate, look for Dale Weise that's pretty good. But after some more pressure, Robert Hagg blew this one-timer past a screen Vasilevskiy to make it a game. And the Flyers were not done.
1:31 - The replay of this goal does not do justice for how powerful this shot was. Early in the second period, with the Flyers leading 2-1 after a couple of late 1st period goals, the Flyers executed a smooth play through the neutral zone, transitioning to the attack. Coots took a drop pass from Travie Sanheim and unloaded an absolute bomb past Robin Lehner, giving the Flyers a 3-1 lead early in the second period en route to a convincing win.
1:33 - "Oh my heart is numb" goes the song in the background, perfectly synced up with another amazing Carter Hart stop. The initial shot here was blocked, but Tobias Rieder, he of zero goals and much criticism from Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson, got the rebound. Unfortunately, he could not get the puck by, as Hart stretched out and absolutely robbed Rieder with his glove. The Flyers had just cut Edmonton's lead to one - giving up a goal that late in the 2nd period would have been devastating. But once again, Starter Hart saved the day.
1:36 - With 8 minutes to go in a December matchup against Columbus, I remember feeling disappointed. I was watching the game from a seat in the second level, and it was not going well. The Flyers were losing 3-1 and not playing particularly well. I remember looking up at the clock, then back at the ice, and thinking that there was still time for the Flyers to come back.
Plenty of time, actually. Claude Giroux found Travie Sanheim for this nifty backhand tuck, absolutely undressing Sergei Bobrovsky for his first goal of the year. Suddenly, the seed of doubt had been planted - a few minutes later, it sprouted. Only about two minutes later, Sanheim scored goal number two, a short side snipe off the rush, and suddenly the game was tied. Needless to say, I was feeling a little bit better.
1:40 - Cam Talbot's first start as a Philadelphia Flyer made NHL history. Talbot was the eight different net-minder for the Flyers this season, setting an NHL record. Talbot played admirably in his few performances as a Flyer, especially considering the rust as he was the 3rd string goalie behind Starter and a resurgent Brian Elliott. His first NHL start was the aforementioned sluggish game against New Jersey. Talbot put up a respectable .909 save percentage, but made some really good saves, most notably this breakaway save on Kurtis Gabriel, to keep the Flyers in it before the offense woke up late.
1:43 - Finally we get outdoors. The Stadium Series was the highlight of the Flyers season, for both the team and myself, but we'll get to the sappy part later. Down 1-0 in a first period where they were getting outplayed to hell and back, the Flyers made a push. Jake Voracek and Oskar Lindblom connected on a give-and-go through the neutral zone to carry the puck. Lindy made an excellent pass to the middle and took the Penguins defenseman with him to the net, allowing Coots to fire a one-timer over Murray's glove.
"Goal!" I screamed from the other side of Lincoln Financial Field. It's a miracle I even saw the puck go in - the Stadium Series was great, but it was a battle to tell who had the puck. But I watch so much Flyers hockey, I can basically tell who's got it by the way they skate. I knew it was Coots the second he shot it; after a few fist pumps, I started humming the goal song. The goal calmed everyone down, and set the tone for the rest of the game. This was going to be a battle.
1:46 - As a Canadian, there is no bigger stage than Hockey Night in Canada. In case you've never heard of it, every Saturday night, all the big hockey games involving Canadian teams are broadcast for the country to see. TV icons Ron McLean and Donald "Bunch of Jerks" Cherry attract the attention of millions as they debate the biggest stories in hockey on Coach's Corner. It's a country-wide event.
Carter Hart grew up watching those games, and like many Canadiens, wanted the chance to play in them. He got the chance, facing the Montreal Canadiens (but not his idol, Carey Price - backup Antti Niemi started the game for the Habs). Hart was brilliant, stopping 33 of the 35 shots sent his way. This save on a tip play by Michael Chaput was one of his best. Hart received the signature HNIC (Hockey Night in Canada) towel during a post-game interview, which, much to his smiling surprise, he got to keep. How can you not love that kid?
1:48 - This was one of my favorite goals of the season. My entire family was there watching this game with me, including my older sister who was home from college. The Flyers were desperate to overcome an embarrassing loss in Toronto two days before, but were down 1-0 with less than 30 seconds to go against the Pens. Had the Flyers lost, it would've been their 3rd straight, and basically ended their playoff hopes.
But then, something funny happened - they didn't lose. Ivan Provorov made a great play on a back-check to prevent the Pens from scoring an empty netter. Then, with 20 seconds left, a red hot James van Riemsdyk, the guy being shadowed by NBC on "Star Sunday" shined bright for the world to see, snapping the puck past a sprawling Matt Murray. The goal broke the shutout, tied the score, and sent the game to overtime, where the Flyers weren't done with the last minute magic.
1:51 - Every bottom-6 player has their niche that keeps them in the lineup. For Michael Raffl, it's play-driving. Nick Cousins drew a ton of penalties. Pierre Eduoard Bellemare could skate. Chris VandeVelde had dirt on Dave Hakstol, or something. Jordan Weal happened to be really good at shootouts. Weal is an impressive 5/11 (45.5%) in his NHL shootout career, including a couple of winners, most recently this 5-hole tally in a 6-5 shootout win over Florida.
This was a special game for me. I got to watch this game from the press box, in between Flyers radio announcers Tim Saunders and Steve Coates. Someday, I want to be in their (or Jim Jackson's) shoes, so getting to see how they do their work first hand was a unique and amazing experience. It took a lot of willpower not to scream out after every goal - remember, no cheering in the press box. But I gave a nice little celly after that Weal goal, and a slightly bigger one a few seconds later when Cal Pickard shut down Frank Vatrano to finish off the win.
1:53 - More action from the Shark Tank. Oskar Lindblom showing off his playmaking skills; he was a beast at finding passing lanes from below the goal line. Here, he hits Jake Voracek in stride with a delayed penalty on the Sharks. Jake the Snake snipes the puck bar down past Martin Jones, giving the Flyers a 3-2 lead late in the 2nd period of an eventual 4-3 overtime loss.
1:55 - Another great pass from below the goal line by Lindy, but this one was much more significant. Less than 30 seconds after Anaheim tied the game 2-2 with less than two minutes to play in the 3rd, Nolan Patrick came right back and gave the Flyers the lead for good, finishing it off with his trademark fist pump and a bit of a chirp at Ryan Kesler. It was a huge win for the Flyers, starting a 5-0-1 hot streak that seemed to offset the team's disappointing 4-7-0 start. I was watching this game on my phone in bed near 1 A.M. (stupid Pacific Time), and had to do my best not to wake my parents with my joyous screams.
1:58 - Travie Sanheim beats Carter Hutton in the opening minute of the 3rd period, giving the Flyers a 4-2 lead in an eventual 5-3 win. Jack Eichel's snow spray screen in front of Hutton deserves an assist on this goal, or at the very least a few seconds of your attention.
2:00 - As mentioned earlier, Nolan Patrick is a scary player to face when his confidence is up. Having already scored on Hockey Night in Canada, the Canadian born center blew by Brendan Gallagher with an incredible deke, finished off with a perfectly placed wrister blown by Antti Niemi. There are a lot of people worried that Patrick will never meet the expectation of being a #2 overall pick - but plays like this assure me that Nolan's gonna be just fine.
2:05 - STARTER HART, do do do, do do, STARTER HART, do do do, do do, STARTER HART, do do do, do do, STARTER HART!
2:08 - Wayne Simmonds' next to last goal as a Flyer was a beauty. With less than five seconds remaining in the second period, Scott Laughton found Simmer with this incredible cross-ice pass around Zach Parise. Simmer took a second to settle the puck, then snapped it under the arm of Devin Dubnyk for the eventual game-winning goal. The Wayne Train was one of three Flyers (Patrick - 2, van Riemsdyk - 3) with multiple goals in the 7-4 win over the Wild.
2:11 - The Flyers final shootout winner of the season. In round 5 against the Maple Leafs, with the teams a combined 0-8 to that point, Sean Couturier finally broke the ice. An outstanding backhand-forehand move completely fooled Frederik Andersen, giving the Flyers the lead. Carter Hart would shutdown William Nylander on the next shot, securing a 5-4 Flyers victory, the last one the Flyers earned with the playoffs still a possibility.
2:13 - Remember that second crazy comeback I mentioned earlier? Well, here's the end of it. A few minutes after Hagg's goal made the score 5-4 (in a game the Flyers trailed 5-2 when the 3rd period began), Ivan Provorov struck once more. Coots tied up the puck on the draw, Voracek played it across, and Provy produced a unique sound of iron and twine that tied the game five-five. I nearly woke up half of the Dallas hotel we were staying in at the time with an instinctive screech of joy. Just like the first time, the Lightning still wound up winning 6-5 in overtime. But this was the good part of the deja vu.
2:14 - The Flyers recorded a respectable three shutouts this season, equaling their total from last season. What's strange about that number? A different goalie was in net for all three. Brian Elliott shut out the Blackhawks 4-0 as part of that previously mentioned 5-0-1 November hot stretch. Cal Pickard blanked the Rangers 4-0 on Black Friday as well.
The Flyers weren't done shutting out the Rangers though. While any shutout requires a goaltender to be at their best, Anthony Stolarz's 1-0 shutout of the Rangers at MSG in January was easily the most impressive. First, the Flyers only scored one goal, meaning their was zero margin for error. Second, the Flyers were doubled in shots 38-19. In particular, Chris Kreider probably should've had about eight goals in this game. No chance came closer than this power play slot one-timer than Stolarz stopped with a desperation lunge. Stollie the Goalie never panned out in Philadelphia, but he certainly had his moments. This was one of his best.
2:16 - Now for my favorite part - the OT winners. 3-on-3 didn't treat the Flyers amazingly this year - though after getting off to a 1-6 start, the Flyers finished 6-7 in games decided in the extra session. Their first overtime victory came in dramatic fashion against the Coyotes. Trailing 4-2 in the 3rd after giving up two shorthanded goals on the same power play, the Flyers rallied to tie the score. Then Shayne Gostisbehere took a one-timer that ramped off Michael Grabner's stick and in to the back of the net, sparking one of the best celebrations I've ever seen. This wasn't his best year, but you gotta love the Ghost Bear. Please don't trade him, Chuck.
2:20 - OT winner number two. Another late 3rd period comeback for the Flyers; this time, a power play redirect by Oskie with less than half a period to play sent the game to extra time. The Flyers drew a penalty, though time was winding down on their power play when Travie Sanheim took this wrist shot. Incredibly, it snuck over the shoulder of a screened Tuukka Rask to end the game. Sanheim, it career game number 100, had just scored his first ever OT winner. Talk about timing.
2:23 - If you're looking for the best game of the Flyers season, well, here it is. Trailing the Oilers 4-2 (though it could've been 10-2 if Carter Hart wasn't so amazing), the Flyers mounted a late comeback, with Wayne Simmonds' final goal as a Flyer evening the tally. All four Flyers goals in regulation were scored on the power play. However, they almost got one at even strength. With 7 seconds left in the 3rd, Nolan Patrick was robbed by future Flyer Cam Talbot in tight, and proceeded to send the rebound over a wide open net into the mesh. Understandibly, Patrick was fuming on the bench, smashing a stick as the clock wound down.
The Flyers absolutely dominated overtime. In particular, a trio of Patty, JVR, and Travie Sanheim hounded the Oilers nonstop. This coming the game after his OT winner in Boston, it wouldn't have surprised anyone if Sanheim scored again. But instead, an incredible effort below the goal line by van Riemsdyk created another A+ chance for Patrick. With Talbot stick-less, Patrick aimed at the same part of the net he had missed in the dying seconds of the 3rd. This time, he hit nothing but twine.
"van Riemsdyk comes away with it, one hands it to Patrick, WHO SCORES! Redemption! For Patrick! And the Flyers win it! Seven straight!" screamed Jim Jackson. I still remember the call. What a game. What an ending.
2:23 - Here's some more last-minute magic from that game in Pittsburgh. After JVR tied things up with 20 seconds left in the 3rd, overtime seemed unlikely to produce a winner. With 15 seconds left, Sean Couturier made one last dash, hoping for a miracle. He got one when Jack Johnson possessed Sidney Crosby, whose dumb failed step-up at the red line gave the Flyers a 2-on-1. With 3.4 seconds left, Couturier cooly fired home the game-winner inside the arm of Murray, keeping the Flyers playoff hopes alive.
2:32 - Tragedy turned triumph. A 5-1 3rd period lead should be a certain victory, especially against a lowly Detroit Red Wings squad. But the Wings slowly crept back into the game, and Anthony Mantha's second-goal of the game (a re-direct) with seven seconds left improbably tied the score. It felt like the Flyers-Bruins game in Philly late last season, where Patrice Bergeron tied a critical game with 3 seconds to play after a series of failed Flyers clears. Just devastating.
But you know something? The Flyers won that game against Boston. They avoided the ultimate collapse. And that Saturday afternoon against Detroit, they would do the same. Travis Konecny took a rebound off a Sean Couturier flip shot behind the Detroit net and wrapped it inside the far post before Jonathan Bernier could stretch out. Game, set, match. The expression of joy, excitement, and passion on TK's face after is unlike anything you have seen and will ever see again. What a kid.
2:36 - Save of the year. Just a few minutes away from their 2000th win in franchise history, disaster shot when an Elias Pettersson shot was blocked right on to the tape of Nikolay Goldobin. The former San Jose prospect was staring down an empty net, ready to tie the score.
Carter Hart said no.
It's kinda hard to find a lot of great Carter Hart saves because his positioning is so great he makes a lot of difficult saves look routine. There was nothing routine about this stop - just full on desperation, a dive with a prayer, doing whatever he could to help the Flyers to victory. Hart made the save, and a few minutes later the team celebrated win 2K. Carter Hart had saved the day. Something tells me it won't be the last time he does that.
2:37 - The final in-game highlight of the montage is undoubtely the moment. You all know how it went down. Trailing 3-1 with just over 3 minutes left in the Stadium Series, the Flyers mounted another improable comeback. Jake Voracek's bad-angle shot capped it off, rolling through Matt Murray's legs to tie the game with less than 20 seconds to go. I danced in the rain, suddenly not as cold as I had been mere moments ago. We were going to overtime.
I wanted to capture the moment the Flyers were going to win, because the Flyers were going to win, no matter how much my brain tried to convince me otherwise. After a series of Pittsburgh chances, the Flyers got the puck for good. Claude Giroux took the puck with a burst of speed through center. He swaggered to the middle around Justin Schultz and let one last wrist shot rip.
Good night. Good hockey.
2:40 - Travie. Hagger. Provy. Simmer. Patty. Dale (ugh, Dale). Oskie. Deuces (that's Hartman's nickname, don't ask me why). Varone. Starter (times two!) Jake the Snake. The bench. Jake, Coots, and Ghost when the Stadium Series was evened. And the explosion of joy after Patty's aforementioned OT winner. So many great cellies. So many great moments.
3:02 - "Come here, big guy. I love you, eh?"
"I love you."
"No matter what happens I f*cking love you."
"I love you, too."
"Yeah, I know."
No, I'm not crying, it's just... allerg-no, you're crying!
*Sobs* I MISS YOU SO MUCH, WAYNE!
*Wipes off tears* In all seriousness, thanks to everyone who stuck around through this roller coaster ride of a season. I wasn't sure I was going to make it through this season - not from an emotional standpoint, just in terms of maintaining consistency when it came to writing. It wasn't always easy, and it definitely wasn't always fun. This team didn't make it easy. And to top it all, they didn't even get lucky in the lottery. But I still love them. Next year, I'll be back. The Flyers will be, too. I hope you'll be as well.
Are you ready?