The Philadelphia Flyers Best Moments of the Decade: #5-1
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. Part one of this mini-series went through moments 10-6, so if there's something you think should be here, it might be in that article. Here are the top five moments of the 2010s for the Orange and Black.
5. June 2, 2010 - Giroux Makes It a Series
Each of the first two games of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals were entertaining in their own way. Game 1 was a back-and-forth slugfest; Game 2, a tight-checking, low-scoring goalie duel. However, the problem was the Flyers lost both games, meaning the series shifted to Philadelphia with the Flyers down 2-0. A defeat in Game 3, and the Finals would've been practically over.
Game 3 was a mix of the first two contests, with some stellar saves mixed with six goals in regulation. Danny Briere drew first blood with a power-play marker late in the first. Duncan Keith tied it early in the second, only for the Flyers PP to strike again a few minutes later. However, Chicago was undeterred, and after former Flyer Patrick Sharp tied it at 4-on-4 late in the 2nd, Patrick Kane beat Michael Leighton on a breakaway to give the Hawks their first lead of the game.
That lead would only last 19 seconds, as Ville Leino scored a rebound goal to tie the game. Despite some close calls down the stretch, Game 3 of the Finals would head to overtime. Simon Gagne appeared to end the contest with a wrist-shot that got through Niemi five minutes in, but replay showed the puck hit the post and skidded along the goal-line, never across it. Suddenly, the crowd went from hyped to humbled, and the game was still on.
But the Flyers weren't going to come that close for nothing. A slow change for Chicago led to a 4-on-3 rush for the Flyers only about a minute after that no goal call. Danny Briere found Matt Carle walking in from the blue-line, and from the high slot, Carle slipped the puck along the ice towards the front of the net. Standing there was an emerging star who would record 21 points in those playoffs, tied with Leino for third most on the Flyers.
Claude Giroux tipped the puck with a purpose; Niemi got a piece, but not enough. Suddenly, Giroux etched his name into Flyers lure and pushed the Flyers back into the series in one fell swoop. It was arguably Giroux's first star moment, and it certainly wouldn't be the last, as this list can attest. On that night, Giroux and his team celebrated the first Finals victory for the Flyers since 1987, and the first of many enormous goals in Giroux's illustrious career.
4. April 22, 2012 - The Shift: Giroux Sets the Tone in Game 6
Both of Giroux's first two moments on this list were due in part to great set-ups from his teammates. But this moment was all him. If Giroux was emerging as a star in 2010, he was elite in 2012, where he scored 93 points to lead the Flyers in the regular season. He was dominant in the first five games of the Flyers' first round series against Pittsburgh, scoring a hat-trick in Game 2 and then another goal in Game 3 and Game 4.
But heading into Game 6, momentum was not on Giroux's team's side. After winning the first three games with a high-flying offense and a willingness, if not desire to drop the gloves, Pittsburgh won Game 4 and Game 5, and suddenly the pressure was on the Flyers to win Game 6. If they failed, the Pens would have a Game 7 on their home ice with a boatload of momentum.
Some players would cower in such spotlight. Not Giroux. The young star approached head coach Peter Laviolette and asked Lavy to start the game. His coach obliged, and boy did Giroux deliver. No more than five seconds in, Giroux located Sidney Crosby along the boards and blasted him with a clean, thunderous hit, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
But Giroux was just getting started. His line-mate Jaromir Jagr appeared to be stripped at the Pens blueline as their shift should have been winding down. But rather than go for a change, Giroux stepped up, holding the puck in at the blue-line. Giroux cut on a dime to his forehand and launched a missile of a wrister off the post and past Fleury for the opening goal "just 32 seconds in!" Those words from late announcer Dave Strader boomed across TVs all over the Delaware Valley.
It may as well have been 10-0 Flyers after that puck went in. Philly cruised to a 5-1 victory on the strength on Giroux's electrifying start. After the contest, Laviolette would call Giroux "the best player in the world." While the designation may have been a bit pre-mature, considering Giroux's dominant performance, he had every reason to believe Giroux was among the game's best. Giroux finished the playoffs with eight goals in 10 games, tied for the NHL lead with stars like Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk... who played over twice as many games as Giroux.
3. May 24, 2010 - Richie's Incredible Effort
And yet somehow, Giroux's heroics from that game aren't even the best individual effort of any Flyer on one shift this decade. That honor belongs to the man who preceded Giroux as captain - Mike Richards. The Flyers had a commanding 3-1 series lead in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens, and were returning home for Game 5 with a chance to seal the deal.
The Flyers fell behind early in Game 5, however, and the Habs had a chance to take a 2-0 lead with a power play opportunity less than four minutes in. This is where the takeover began. With the puck up for grabs at the boards just inside the Flyers blue-line, Richards steamrolled Marc-Andre Bergeron, then found Braydon Coburn for an excellent short-handed scoring chance. Though Halak kicked Coburn's shot aside, the tone had been set. Richards' wasn't done yet. Far from it.
Claude Giroux won a battle in the boards below the Flyers goal-line, and Richards broke up ice as Giroux lobbed the puck down the ice. The puck bounced into open-ice just inside the Montreal zone, and suddenly, Richards' hustle appeared to be rewarded with a breakaway. Understandably not wanting to face Mike Richards 1-on-1 at full speed, Halak made a bold decision by diving out to the slot in an effort to poke the puck away.
Richards' speed got him behind Bergeron, who was also trying to catch up to the puck and Richards on the backcheck. The result was all three players diving out at top speed all at once in a mad dash for possession. The result? Bergeron colliding with Halak, cancelling each other out. The puck scooted by both of them, leaving the lone survivor of the collision all alone with the Habs net vacant. Richards popped up to his feet before back-handing the puck home, sending the then-named Wachovia Center into a frenzy.
Richards was beloved by the Flyers fanbase during his six years in Philadelphia, and plays like this were a huge reason why. The Flyers, of course, would go on to win the game by a final score of 4-2. Richards pulled off another incredible effort to set up the empty-netter, knocking down Tomas Plekanec with a hit in the Habs zone and then willing the puck to the net-mouth from his back where Jeff Carter put it in (Richards also found Carter for the GWG earlier in the game). The result of Richards incredible effort was the Flyers first Prince of Wales Trophy since 1997 and a trip to the Finals.
2. April 11, 2010 - "The Deke, the Save by Boucher!"
None of the incredible moments of the Flyers playoff run in 2010 would have been possible if they didn't even make the playoffs. That was almost a reality. The Flyers, Canadiens, and New York Rangers were in a dog-fight down the stretch for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. As fate would have it, Montreal clinched a spot, leaving the Flyers and Rangers with one playoff spot to fight for and two games left the season - both against each other.
The Rangers won the first game in New York 4-3, setting up one final showdown in Philly two days later. Enforcer (and future Flyer) Jody Shelley entered the game in New York with a 62-game goal-less drought, but after scoring at MSG, Shelley scored the first goal of game 82 in Philly just 3:27 into the first. Even though the Flyers dominated the game, outshooting the Rangers 47-25 overall, they found themselves trailing 1-0 after 40 minutes.
Finally, a PA Parenteau penalty cracked the door open wide enough for the Flyers to solve King Henrik. Jeff Carter found Matt Carle driving to the net, and the defenseman chipped the puck past Lundqvist to tie the game. The Flyers continue to pressure, with Simon Gagne catching iron just a few moments later. But neither team would score before regulation ended, and the game was still deadlocked after 5 minutes of 4-on-4 overtime. And so for the first time (and so far, the only time) in NHL history, a shootout would decide a playoff spot.
With the Flyers opting to shoot first, Danny Briere broke in with a stutter-step and beat Lundqvist with a forehand move. Brian Boucher stopped Erik Christensen with his blocker; Lundqvist responded with a stick save on Richards. Parenteau improved to 3-for-3 in shootouts in his then young NHL career, nearly losing the puck en route to the net but recovering in time to slip the puck through the legs of the retreating Boucher.
Do you remember just a few paragraphs ago when I said that the 2010 Finals was Giroux's first moment en route to becoming a star? He may have gotten started on the part to stardom even earlier, because with the shootout in sudden death territory, Peter Laviolette sent Giroux out to take the shot that could either send the Flyers to the playoffs or the golf course.
Giroux did has part to ensure the former. With everything on the line, the rookie came with the same path and pace as Richards, but with the finish of Briere, beating Lundqvist with a wrist shot through the 5-hole. Suddenly, the Flyers had the lead, and needed one final save from Boucher on veteran Olli Jokinen to clinch a playoff spot.
I'll let Jim Jackson (4:35 of the clip) take it from here.
April 18, 2016 - In the first home game after Ed Snider's passing (Game 3 of the playoffs), Michael Raffl scores just 57 seconds in, sending the Wells Fargo Center into a frenzy. Though the Flyers lost in ugly fashion, this specific moment was a high point for the franchise.
February 23, 2019 - The Flyers pull off the first multi-goal 3rd period comeback in an outdoor game in NHL history, capped off by Claude Giroux's dramatic OT winner in the 2019 Stadium Series at the Linc. It was also Wayne Simmonds' final game in a Flyers uniform.
April 22, 2016 - Michal Neuvirth puts up a goaltending performance for the ages with a 44-save shutout in Game 5 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Quaterfinals. The Flyers win 2-0 despite being outshot 44-11, staving off elimination for the second straight game.
November 13, 2013 - April 5, 2015 - The Flyers won eight straight games against the Penguins, sweeping the season series in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 campaigns, leading to a barrage of "You Can't Beat Us" chants directed at their western Pennsylvania foes.
1. May 14, 2010 - Flyers Complete 3-0 Comebacks in Game 7, Series
There have only been five 3-0 series comebacks in the history of professional sports; only four have come in the NHL. Blowing a three-goal lead in a Game 7 is equally rare. Both happening in the same series? That is one-of-a-kind.
The Flyers fought valiantly in each of the first three games of the series, losing Game 1 in overtime before dropping the next two in regulation. But they got a huge lift in Game 4 with Simon Gagne returning from injury. The Flyers took an early lead, and though Mark Recchi tied the game in the dying seconds, Gagne himself extended this series with a re-direct in overtime.
Midway through Game 5, any legitimate shot the Flyers had of coming back seemed to fade when Brian Boucher was injured. But Michael Leighton, a career AHLer acquired mid-season from Carolina, came in and earned a shared shutout with Boucher. Game 6 was a classic tight-checking, close playoff game. The Flyers eked out a 2-1 victory, sending the series to Boston for a seventh game.
That game began about as well as the series did. Michael Ryder beat Leighton with a turn-around shot from the right circle, then Milan Lucic buried a tap-in at the netmouth moments earlier, with both goals coming on the power-play. Lucic would strike with a snipe on a 2-on-1 just minutes later, extending the lead to 3-0. Bruins announcer Jack Edwards was right to say "They've got Philly on the run!" It seemed like the Flyers had finally met their match, a deficit just a little too large with a little too less time to comeback. What could they do to change the momentum?
Peter Laviolette's expert usage of timeouts is one of his most underrated abilities. Usually, coaches save their timeout for late in the game to freshen up players to either score or prevent the tying goal. Lavy was much more aggressive with his, and sensing the game was on the verge of getting out of hand, called time to get his team refocused.
We'll never know exactly what was said during those 30 seconds, but it's safe to say the game changed in that moment. The Flyers looked like a different team after Lavy's talk. They were able to get some momentum going into the locker room thanks to a late first period goal by James van Riemsdyk, a wrister that deflected off a Bruin stick and fluttered past Tuukka Rask.
The Flyers came out guns blazing in the second. It was surprising that the Flyers came back to tie the game; it's even more surprising how quickly they did it. Scott Hartnell lifted a backhand rebound past Rask less than three minutes into the frame. Moments later, Danny Briere breezed past the Bruins defense and, after further review, stuffed a wrap-around to the back of the Boston net. Less than 15 minutes after trailing 3-0, the Flyers had evened the tally.
But the comeback was not yet complete. Ryder and Chris Pronger traded shots off the post early in the third period. Milan Lucic found the pipe moments later. Then, 31 years after a too many men penalty cost the Bruins a critical playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens, lightning struck twice. The Bruins were penalized for too many men once again, sending the Flyers to their third power play of the game. They had failed on the first two. They would not fail again.
As the clock ticked down to the final seconds of the man advantage, the Flyers went to work. Mike Richards had the puck alone at the right circle and flipped a shot towards the net. The shot hit Ville Leino's skate and plopped down in the slot - right on the tape of Simon Gagne. In the blink of an eye, Gagne flicked the puck off the right post and in to the back of the net. Suddenly, not only did the Flyers have the lead, as Edwards remarked, "Philadelphia, for the first time in the series, has history on its side!"
The Flyers wouldn't buckle under the pressure. Leighton was rock solid for the final 45 minutes of the game, and the Flyers defense made it as easy as possible for him after taking the lead. Leighton still had to make one more great save on a slot shot from Marc Savard in the closing moments. Boston got the puck into the Flyers zone with 15 seconds left, Rask at the bench, hoping for one last miracle. Zdeno Chara's shot was blocked. 5 seconds. Dennis Wideman held the puck at the left point and blindly whipped it towards the goal. Giroux cut it off and cleared as the final siren sounded. Good night, good hockey.
In my opinion, this is the most underrated comeback in sports history. Everything about the 2010 Flyers screamed underdog champion, and though they came up just short, they provided some incredible moments of joy. Their run was unlike any other the Flyers had all decade. They might not have won it all; but on that May night, they had done the impossible. What else could you ask for?