The Philadelphia Flyers Best Moments of the Decade: #10-6
The last ten years have been a roller coaster ride for the Philadelphia Flyers. On January 1, 2010, the Flyers sat 20th in the NHL, right on the playoff bubble. After squeaking in to the tournament with a dramatic shootout victory on the final day of the season, the Flyers rallied for an incredible run to the Stanley Cup Finals, coming up just short against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Unfortunately, the first year of the decade would prove to be its highest point. The Flyers returned to the second round each of the last two seasons, winning just one game combined in those series. They would then fall into a seven-year period where they alternated between missing the playoffs and losing in the first round.
There was plenty of turnover in all facets of the organization over the last ten years. Only two players remain from the roster on January 1, 2010 - only one was a Flyer the entire decade (hint: he wears the "C" now). The club has gone through three GMs and five head coaches over the last ten years, and tragically lost owner and founder Ed Snider to cancer in April 2016.
However, there have been plenty of amazing moments over the last ten years of Flyers hockey, and the way the 2019-20 season is playing out and the plethora of young talent the Flyers possess, the next decade will be filled with even more. But for now, let's look back at the best and brightest of the last ten years of Flyers hockey. This piece will only cover the first five moments in this top ten. Moments number 5-1 (and honorable mentions) will be out tomorrow.
10. April 22, 2018 - Couturier Fights Through Pain, Scores Hat Trick
Though it was overshadowed by the eight spot put up by the visitors, make no mistake - Sean Couturier was on another level in Game 6 of the 2018 playoffs. Couturier suffered a torn MCL in a practice collision prior to Game 4 with Radko Gudas, an injury that would usually leave a player sidelined for six weeks.
Instead, six days after suffering the injury, Couturier put on a clinic in Game 6. Riding high from scoring the game-winner in Game 5 with just 1:15 remaining (he had the GWG in Game 2 pre-injury, too), Coots was on another level that Sunday afternoon. Couturier would score the first goal of the contest on a net-mouth scramble just 2:15 in. He then helped set up an Andrew MacDonald one-timer that tied the game at the end of the first.
His second period was somehow even better. Just 40 ticks into the frame, Couturier took advantage of a bounce of Patric Hornqvist's leg, fighting off the back-checking Hornqvist like a gnat and then undressing Matt Murray with a filthy deke, giving the Flyers the lead. He'd come up clutch later in the frame with an incredible saucer pass with touch that would make Carson Wentz jealous, springing Scott Laughton to give the Flyers a 4-2 lead.
Even as the rest of the team crumbled in the 3rd, Couturier continued to battle. He drew a penalty thanks to a gutsy net-drive early in the frame, and could've easily drawn another one for tripping later in the period. He'd finish off his second career playoff hat-trick with a garbage time rebound goal. With his team facing elimination and playing through a major injury, Coots delivered one of the best individual performances in Flyers history.
9. April 29, 2014 - Simmer Saves the Season
But Coots wasn't the only Flyer to record a Game 6 hat-trick with the season on the line. After losing Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quaterfinals to the Rangers, the Flyers returned to Philly one loss away from their season coming to a close.
Instead, Wayne Simmonds came up clutch with the spotlight on. Simmonds scored three tallies in the Flyers 5-2 victory, all of them from the crease, the area he dominated offensively like no other for his seven-plus seasons as a Flyer. Two of his goals came on the power play that night. The first tally was a rebound off a slot shot from Scott Hartnell; initially, Henrik Lundqvist kept the puck out, but Simmonds would not be denied.
In the second period, Simmonds tapped in a beautiful cross-crease pass from Brayden Schenn early in the second to extend the lead. And then he deflected in a shot from Voracek to finish off the job. The hats rained down from the Wells Fargo Center, the crowd chanting Simmonds' name in celebration. Though the team would lose Game 7 the next night, in the moment, Simmonds' performance was nothing short of heroic.
8. October 9, 2019 - Hart Steals the Show in Home Opener
The Flyers have been waiting three decades for a franchise goalie, and now that they've finally gotten one, he's impossible to leave off this list. Carter Hart's rookie season was outstanding, as the 20-year old recorded a stellar .917 save percentage in 31 starts. Hart had four 40-plus save performances in his first year and pushed the Flyers from the bottom of the East back into playoff contention.
Those numbers make it all the more surprising that Hart failed to record a shutout in his rookie campaign. However, he wasn't about to let that streak linger through year number two. In the Flyers second game of the season, their home opener against the Devils, Hart broke through. He stopped all twenty-four shots New Jersey threw his way, including one from Taylor Hall that Mike Emrick described as "one for the ages."
The anticipation, the stretch, the reaction from his teammates and the crowd - perfect. All of it, perfect. Just like Carter Hart himself. Hart has pulled out of a late October slump with an impressive .916 save percentage so far this season. Hart has had so many saves that could make any list of great Flyers moments, but this one, combined with the other 23 and the 4-0 Flyers victory, tops the Hart chart.
7. April 7, 2018 - Claude Reigns
The final week of the 17-18 season was a wild ride for the Flyers. The team was on the playoff bubble as the season reached its final seven days, in a spot the whole time but unsure if they would clinch right to the bitter end. On April 1, they blew a 3-1 lead to Boston, with Patrice Bergeron tying the game with just 3.7 seconds left. Claude Giroux saved face with a beautiful OT winner, his second goal of the game, making a strong case for league MVP.
After two more heart-wrenching games - a 5-4 failed comeback loss to the Islanders and a 4-3 back-and-forth terrible goaltending victory over Carolina - the Flyers had one contest left. They needed just one point against the lowly New York Rangers to reach their team's goal. But their captain needed one more point as well to reach a personal goal, as Giroux was trying to be the first Flyer in 24 years to score 100 points in a season.
Turns out, both would overachieve. The Flyers ran the Rangers out of the rink with a dominant performance start to finish - they got two points. Claude Giroux got three - all goals. The first was a pass to the front of the net that both Nolan Patrick and Henrik Lundqvist missed, giving the Flyers a 2-0 lead. His second was a snipe from the slot, set up by Michael Raffl, who had scored six seconds prior - the fastest two goals in Flyers history. The third came off a beautiful stretch pass from Travis Sanheim, a breakaway and a wrist shot stick side to send the hats flying.
It was the perfect season capper for both Giroux and his teammates. Giroux ended the season on a five-game goal streak, scoring eight times in that span. He'd ultimately finish fourth in Hart trophy voting - a snub to say the least, considering Giroux was second in the NHL in scoring and an analytics darling all season long. Without his performance, all season and on that Saturday afternoon, the Flyers would not have made the playoffs.
6. April 9, 2016 - Clinch It for Ed
Believe it or not, that last moment was just the first of three final weekend playoff clinchers for the Flyers in this decade. That's more than many teams have in their history! Number two might've been the most emotional. Ed Snider was struggling in his battle against cancer, so much so that he couldn't attend this critical game. No problem, said Flyers anthem singer Lauren Hart, who FaceTimed him during the singing of the God Bless America. Though the Flyers had two games to get their two points, there was no doubt the Flyers were playing this game against hated Pittsburgh to clinch for good.
After falling behind 1-0, the Flyers caught a break. A young Matt Murray, the Pens backup starting in place of the injured Marc-Andre Fleury, was injured, forcing third-stringer Jeff Zatkoff into action. The first shot he faced was a backdoor tap-in for Wayne Simmonds set up by Voracek, less than 30 seconds after Steve Mason robbed Kael Mouillierat at the goalmouth. Simmonds, who tied up the Flyers previous game with a last-minute tip-in, came up clutch again with a re-direct goal in the 2nd, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead.
Philadelphia largely controlled play against a Pens team that had already clinched and was resting Crosby and Letang. But the game was still up for grabs in the final minutes, when Zatkoff was pulled for an extra attacker. However, the Flyers lovable fourth line of Chris VandeVelde, Pierre Eduoard-Bellemare, and Ryan White (nicknamed "The Untouchables," if you remember) and shutdown pair of Mark Streit and Nick Schultz held down the fort. Bellemare played hero that afternoon, picking off a Pens pass and taking the puck the other way for a breakaway goal on the empty net.
That dramatic victory propelled the Flyers into the playoffs for the first time since Ron Hextall took over as GM in May 2014. However, Snider passed away just two days later, meaning this was the final home game he ever saw the Flyers play (Philly won 5-2 over the Islanders the next night, albeit with nothing to play for). It was a loss far more heartbreaking than the one the Flyers suffered to the Capitals in round 1. But on that Saturday afternoon, after his team celebrated a playoff birth, I'm sure Mr. Snider was all smiles.