Even though I’m a couple weeks late, I figured it would be appropriate to do a Top 10 Collection from the 10 Most Memorable Flyers moments from the first decade of the 2000’s. Please keep in mind that these are the most MEMORABLE not the BEST; hence there will be some moments that may not ring too highly with some of our readers. Nonetheless as we move into a new decade as Flyers fans, let us not forget our roots that began the 21st Century.
10. NHL Locks Its Doors In ’04-‘05
I begin the ten most memorable moments with the moment that perhaps is the best known amongst the general public concerning the NHL during first decade of the 21st Century. The NHL Lockout, which stopped play in the National Hockey League during the entire season of 2004-2005, put me into a more than mild depression, and deprived the sports world of a professional hockey league. Still considered a part of the “Big Four” of professional sports (Basketball, Football, Baseball), hockey still has yet to rebound from a year of attention that was lost in 2004-2005. Many players left the United States that season, and signed deals with European hockey teams, as they were still looking for a place to play. Flyers fans still received one present from the hockey gods on the year, as the Philadelphia Phantoms, who were made up of current NHL players Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Patrick Sharp, Randy Jones, RJ Umberger, and Antero Niittymaki, captured the Calder Cup as the champions of the American Hockey League.
9. Eric Desjardins Calls It Quits
An era of defensive Flyers hockey ended in mid-August of 2006 when Eric Desjardins announced his retirement from the game of hockey. Desjardins was a class act both on and off the ice and was one of the centerpieces of the blockbuster deal with the Montreal Canadiens that brought fellow Flyer great John LeClair to Philadelphia in the early 1990’s. “Rico,” as he was called by his teammates, appeared in three All-Star Games and made a living playing the blue line in the NHL for 17 seasons, 11 of which were in Philadelphia. In 1,143 games with both the Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens, Rico tallied 136 goals and 439 assists. At the time of his retirement, he ranked 8th on the Flyers’ All-Time list of games played, finishing up with 738 in Orange and Black. As a member of the Canadiens, he won a Stanley Cup championship back in 1993. He is a rare find in that he appeared in postseason play during every one of his 17 seasons in the NHL. He was a true competitor and there hasn’t been a player like Rico in the Orange and Black since he hung ‘em up.
8. Scott Stevens KO’s Eric Lindros in Game 7
With a relatively healthy squad and a 3 games to 1 lead on the hated New Jersey Devils in the 1999-2000 Eastern Conference Finals, the Flyers finally looked poised to not only get back to the Stanley Cup Finals, but also capture the hardware. Out of nowhere, however, New Jersey reeled off wins in games 5 and 6 to force the decisive game 7 in Philadelphia. Yours truly was in the building on that night and the anticipation was mounting even before the Flyers were dealt the proverbial knockout courtesy of the Devils captain. With the Devils nursing a 1-0 lead early in the first period, the Flyers were starting to feed off the energy in the building and mount an attack. Lindros picked up a loose puck at center ice and started to make his way into the Devils’ zone in his trademark stance: his head was down. Before Lindros even knew what hit him, Stevens had sent him on his side and he lay motionless while the then First Union Center fell quiet. The concussion the followed not only ended Lindros’ season, but also for all extensive purposes marked his last game as a Flyer. After sitting out the next season in a verbal dispute with Flyers GM Bob Clarke, Lindros was dealt to the New York Rangers. He was never the same after the pop he took from Stevens that Spring night in South Philadelphia.
7. 22 Wins It In 2
The Flyers were finally (hey, we expect a lot here in Philly) back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a one year hiatus in the 2007-2008 season, and as the six-seed they drew the Southeast Division Champions and third-seeded Washington Capitals in the first round. After losing game one, the Flyers rallied to win games two and three in the best of seven series, setting up what looked to be the ultimate pendulum swinger in Game 4 in South Philadelphia. The Flyers and Caps had exchanged goals throughout the contest, and it looked like the game could go either way. After a scoreless first overtime, the fatigued sides suited up for round 2. The Flyers controlled this overtime period for the better part of the frame, before a large scramble in front of Washington goaltender Cristobal Huet resulted in a loose puck and a rebound goal from Flyers fan-favorite Mike Knuble. As great as the goal was, it’s a valid argument and point to say that the goal call is even better. The win gave the Flyers a 3 games to 1 in the series and all was fine and dandy in Philadelphia, while the Caps looked to be on the ropes. However, we all know the story. More on that later…
6. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Senators
The Flyers and Senators met up for a late season tilt at the Wachovia Center on March 5, 2004. Both teams were jockeying for positioning as the Eastern Conference’s top seed and there was a lot of bad blood between the two teams from the last time they had played, when then Sens forward Marty Havlat blatantly speared and attempted to injure Flyer forward Mark Recchi. Nothing was called, but after watching the tapes from this game, I would bet the NHL wishes they would have done something during the first game in Ottawa. With the Flyers well on their way to a victory – up 5-2 in the third – things started to get testy and when it was all said and done each team only had enough players on their respective bench to fill one line to play out the game. It didn’t matter who you were on this particular evening: goalies, players AND coaches were all getting involved. I was at this game and I feel that to completely appreciate everything that occurred, you must watch it in real-time. That’s why I’ve gotten my hands on this three part series of videos documenting one of the most memorable nights in not only the 21st Century, but in all of Flyers history.
5. Signed, Sealed, and Delivered to Round 2
Remember that Mike Knuble Overtime goal I mentioned earlier? Here’s the grand finale. After the Flyers took the commanding 3 games to 1 lead over their opponent, the Washington Capitals, the Flyers were suddenly at a loss for heart and determination on the ice, while the Caps quickly began thinking comeback. After winning game 5 back in Washington, the Caps overcame a 2-0 deficit on the road in game 6 to send the sudden-death game 7 back to the Nation’s Capital. The kicker in this situation was that game 6 and game 7 were back-to-back contests, which left the Flyers searching for answers while the Caps were riding high. Washington took control early off a power play goal in the opening frame but the Flyers answered later with the combination of two now ex-Flyers working together on the Orange and Black’s first tally, Scottie Upshall and RJ Umberger. The Flyers even took a two to one lead on a controversial Sami Kapanen goal after Peter Thoresen had crashed into the Caps goalmouth, knocking goaltender Cristobal Huet over and paving the way for a wide open net for Kapanen to feast upon. Midway through the third period, however, Mr. Do Everything for the Caps, Alex Ovechkin knotted things up at 2 a piece with a laser-beam wrist shot that Flyers goalie Marty Biron never had a chance on. With the score tied at two, this sudden death game would, ironically, head to sudden death. At that point in time, Joffrey Lupul decided it was time for him to score his first goal of the series, and thus of the postseason. Great timing, Joffrey. Jim Jackson has the call in an awesome moment in Washington.
4. SUDDEN DEATH MAGIC FOR JR!
In the early parts of the 21st Century, the Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs had quite a rivalry brewing. They met in the playoffs in consecutive years, with the Flyers winning both series, but no game was more entertaining than the contest played on the Air Canada Centre ice during Game 4 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. After a 7-2 dismantling at the hands of the Flyers in game 5, the ‘Leafs were faced with a do-or-die situation at home against the Orange and Black. Early on, it appeared the Leafs were content to die. The Flyers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, and took the crowd out of the game immediately. However, the Leafs persevered through the Flyer pressure and finally broke through in the third as they pulled to within one off a fluke goal, and then tied the game late in the third period off the stick of a man who I absolutely despise in Mats Sundin. The game went to OT tied at 2 a piece, but that’s when the action really started. An up and down frantic pace highlighted the extra frame which came to a breaking point when the Leafs’ Darcy Tucker destroyed Sami Kapanen along the boards near the Flyers’ bench. In a great sight, Flyers captain Keith Primeau literally pulls the clueless Kapanen off the ice with his stick, and every Flyers fan will be happy he did forever. In the chaos that followed, Flyers goaltender Robert Esche made a few great saves on the Leafs before the Flyers came down on consecutive 2-on-1’s. The first attempt by the Flyers featured Mark Recchi and John LeClair and Maple Leafs goaltender Ed Belfour was up to the task, robbing the Recchi offering. The second time around, however, Jeremy Roenick danced down with Tony Amonte and tickled to twine to give the Flyers an emotionally exhausting victory, and propel the team to the Eastern Conference Finals. I remember watching this game in my basement, and literally losing my mind and jumping up and down when Roenick beat Belfour. I think it’s safe to say I woke up the whole neighborhood that night.
3. One Word: Suprimeau
Never in all my years of watching hockey (in my lifetime, not prior to my existence) have I ever seen a player single-handedly dominate a playoff season such as Keith Primeau did in 2004. The Flyers captain, who was repeatedly bashed in Philadelphia for his “lack of heart”, showed an overwhelming amount of it as the Flyers came within five wins of winning the Stanley Cup. During the ’03-’04 regular season, Primeau was nothing special, as he appeared in 54 games for the Flyers scoring 7 times, adding 15 assists, and tallying 22 points. With a performance like that, it’s no wonder that no one was expecting the sensational show that was put on by the Flyers’ captain once that season shifted to the playoffs. In 18 playoff games in ’03-’04, Primeau had 9 goals and 7 assists for 16 points, and blowing his opponents over with both his size and skill in the process. Despite the Flyers not even making the Stanley Cup Finals that season, Primeau was still considered for the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is awarded the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Generally, that award is reserved for a player participating on either the winner or loser of the Stanley Cup Finals. However, in Primeau’s case, the NHL made an exception. Below, I’ve put down three of Primeau’s biggest moments in the 2004 playoffs. Two are against Tampa Bay, the first being a shorthander that he scored against the Lightning in game 4, and the second being the unbelievable game-tying goal with under two minutes left that he scored in game 6. The final clip is a phenomenal move he pulled against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils during the Flyers’ first round series. If that one was any indication, Philadelphia Flyers fans should’ve known Primeau was going to give us one wild ride.
Shorty vs. Tampa:
Ties it up vs. Tampa:
Beauty vs. New Jersey:
2. AND THERE WILL BE A GAME SEVEN!
With my dad being a Flyers’ season ticket holder since before I was born, I have seen my fair share of Flyers games. I’ve been there for the good games, and also the not so good games. However, when people ask me what the best game I have ever been to was, there is little to no hesitation. Game 6, Eastern Conference Finals, 2004. Philadelphia Flyers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts hold a 3 games to 2 lead in the series and are looking to continue their unexpected year of success with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers are barely holding on to life and trying to live another day by forcing a game seven. The game featured an up and down emotional roller coaster, as Vinny Lecavalier opened the scoring early in the first and sent a cloud of nerves over the crowd. The Flyers responded and even took the lead before late second period goals by former Flyer and now token Flyer-killer Ruslan Fedetenko gave the Lightning a 4-3 lead heading into the third. It’s safe to say that my heart was literally coming out of my chest during the third period of action, as the Flyers had their chances but just couldn’t convert. That was, of course, until Matthias Timander kept in a puck along the boards and threw it towards Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and the Tampa Bay goal. The initial save by Khabibulin rolled right to Keith Primeau who poked the puck over the Lightning goaltender’s pad, and into the crease. Primeau then proceeded to swoop around the goal, and with his long reach, buried an absolute masterpiece of a finish to tie the game in dramatic fashion with less than two minutes left. With the game heading into overtime I, like any other Flyers fan, thought I was going to puke. The Flyers dominated the overtime period, but Khabibulin had an answer for everything the Flyers threw his way. Finally however, the Flyers broke through. And it was the young Simon Gagne, who with the help of linemates Primeau and Jeremy Roenick made sure that, as ESPN broadcaster Gary Thorne puts it, “There will be a game seven!”
1. 5 OT Thriller in the Steel City
How can you NOT put this game as #1?! The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, two teams that absolutely hated (still do) each other, matched up in the 2000 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, with the Flyers being the favorite. However, Pittsburgh soon stole the momentum from their cross-state rivals, taking the first two contests in Philadelphia and sending the series back to Pittsburgh with a 2 games to 0 lead. The Flyers took care of the Penguins in Game 3, setting up a crucial game 4 at Mellon Arena. The Flyers knew the task at hand: win and it’s a whole new series. Lose and the Pens can wrap it up in Philadelphia in game 5. The Flyers knew they could accomplish that task. 5 Overtimes after the contest started – 5 OVERTIMES! – the game ended with the Flyers being crowned victorious over the Penguins by a score of 2-1 and evening up the series at 2 games to 2. The Flyers went on to win the next two games and capture the series, but this will be remembered as one of the greatest games in Flyers history. It ranks 3rd all time as the game took a total of 92 minutes and 1 second to reach it’s conclusion. And it doesn’t get any better than the fact that its against the Penguins. Keith Primeau over Ron Tugnutt’s left shoulder, baby. It doesn’t get any better. Watch it again and enjoy.
Thank you for reading my Top 10 Moments in 2000-2009 For the Philadelphia Flyers. The first decade of the 21st Century certainly had a lot of memories for the Orange and Black, so let’s hope this group can create new moments as we embark on the 2010’s. Let’s Go Flyers!