It has been 50 years since the formation of the Philadelphia Flyers. In this series, we look back at the proud history of a team that has become synonymous with Philadelphia.
2004: The Flyers last big run.
After some more playoff disappointments in 2001,2002 and 2003, the Flyers decided to load up and make another run at the Stanley Cup. The team had a veteran laden roster and added to that the likes of Jeremy Roenick and Tony Amonte.
The Flyers handled the Devils rather easily in the first round winning in five games. They played a vicious series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the next round and won in six games. The highlight of the series coming when Sami Kapanen took a vicious hit from Darcy Tucker in OT and was out on his feet. Instead laying down on the ice, he managed to somehow stumble to the bench where Roenick jumped out on the ice to take his place. Soon after Roenick broke into the Toronto zone and scored the series clinching goal.
The Flyers would now face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Conference Finals, Tampa was a team with a lot of young talent with the likes of Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards. The series was a back and forth affair with Game 6 being one of the most thrilling games in Flyers history. With the Philadelphia facing elimination and the clock winding down to less than a minute to play and the goaltender pulled, Keith Primeau scored to tie the game and then Simon Gagne scored in overtime to force a Game 7.
The Flyers had suffered two crucial injuries in this series that proved to be obstacles that were too tough to overcome. Éric Desjardins and Marcus Ragnarsson both got hurt during the series against Tampa and they were both crucial on the Flyers penalty kill. When they both went down, the team couldn’t kill a penalty if their lives depended on it.
Sure enough, the Flyers took a penalty early in Game 7 and one had the feeling it was pretty much a sure thing Tampa would score on the ensuing power play, which is what they did. Philadelphia did manage to tie the game but Tampa proved to be too much and prevailed in Game 7. The Lightening went on to win the Stanley Cup, beating the Calgary Flames in 7 games. From what I heard, it was a great Stanley Cup final but I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of it. It was way too painful for me to watch even one second of that Stanley Cup Final after the Flyers were so close. The thing that made the loss to Tampa even more painful was twofold. First, If the Flyers had somehow managed to win Game 7, both Ragnarsson and Desjardins were slated to come back for the Stanley Cup Finals. And second, Philadelphia would have been a decided favorite against the Calgary Flames and would have had home ice advantage. Yet another painful chapter in Flyers history.
2005 to 2010: The Flyers hit rock bottom
The entire 2004-05 season was wiped out by yet another work stoppage, something that has become a hallmark of Gary Bettman‘s reign as NHL commissioner. When play finally resumed in the 2005-06 season, the Flyers had a good regular season, finishing with 101 points, but were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Buffalo Sabers. Despite the fact that the Flyers had a decent season and qualified for the playoffs, it was obvious that they were an aging team that was on the decline.
In 2007, things finally hit rock bottom. The Flyers finished with the worst record in the NHL and the worst record in their entire history, finishing with a measly 56 points. To make matters even worse, the Chicago Blackhawks, by some miracle, managed to jump all the way from the fifth spot in the draft up to number one and wound up plucking the prize of that year’s draft, Patrick Kane, right out from under us. The Flyers had to settle for New Jersey born winger James van Riemsdyk. Losing out on the right to draft Kane is still a bitter pill to swallow for Flyers fans to this day.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren made some shrewd moves to quickly get the team back into the playoffs. Along with drafting van Riemsdyk, he signed free agent Danny Briere away from the Buffalo Sabers and pried away Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen from the Nashville Predators. The team returned to the playoffs in the 2007-08 season and upset the Washington Capitals in the first round. Philadelphia won the series on a Game 7 overtime goal by Joffrey Lupul, exacting some revenge for Dale Hunter‘s OT winner in Game 7 of the 1988 playoffs. The Flyers then went on to beat the Eastern Conference’s number one seeded Montreal Canadians in five games before bowing out to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference finals.
The Flyers had another good regular season in 2008-09 and again qualified for the playoffs and faced their cross state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. They went on to lose to the Penguins in six games. There were two things that were particularly vexing about this series. First, with the Flyers up one game to none and leading in Game 2, Jeff Carter missed a wide open net that would have all but iced the game and would have put a stranglehold on the series for the Flyers. Missing wide open nets and coming up small in big games seemed to become a staple of Carter’s career in Philadelphia and would later cost the Flyers dearly.
And second, the Flyers fell behind 3 games to 1 in the series but won Game 5 to force a Game 6 back in Philadelphia. The Flyers were dominating Game 6, winning the game 3-0 as the Penguins seemed content to just to sleep walk though the game and go back to Pittsburgh. With that, Daniel Carcillo allowed himself to be baited into a fight with the Penguins Max Talbot and all the momentum in the game shifted over to the Penguins. The fight immediately woke Pittsburgh up and Evgeni Malkin completely took the game over and the Flyers fell to the Penguins who would go on to win the Stanley Cup.
Next: The Comeback against the Bruins