By Kevin K
It all started for this team and it's fans in the preseason. The Flyers acquired Goalie Ray Emery, who was said was going to carry this team throughout the year into the Stanley Cup. ESPN Analyst, Barry Melrose, believed this move was going to be the move that pushed John Stevens and the Philadelphia Flyers into the Stanley Cup Finals, he was right on the Stanley Cup part, but wrong on the Goalie and Coach.
The Flyers started off the season well as it looked like Emery was finally the solution for the Flyers in net .... but then the FLyers started to skid. Emery kept giving up more and more goals which left a question in Flyers fans minds, what is wrong with Emery? It turned out that Flyers Goalie Number One had an abdomen injury that cost him the season (Emery came back for a short period of time, but then re-injured his abdomen).
The Flyers season was slowly faltering in November and they had to make a move with the goal-tending and team playing the way they were.
On December 4 with a 13-11-1 record and sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers fired Head Coach John Stevens in a year that he was expected to take the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals.
That same day the Flyers announced the hiring of Peter Laviolette as their head coach. With Lavy came a change of how the Flyers practiced, worked together, and brought in to play. Peter Laviolette brought in a different look to the Flyers team and knew the talent he had on the team.
On December 15th the Flyers claimed Goalie Michael Leighton off of waivers, a move that showed was going to help the Flyers as Ray Emery was trying to recover from an injury. Leighton originally came in as a backup for Goalie Brian Boucher. Boucher was then injured on December 21st, and Michael Leighton found himself as the Flyers Goalie. The Flyers would win four of their next six games with Leighton in net.
Leighton played strong for the Flyers down the stretch and was a pivotal part of the Flyers making the postseason.
On January 30, the Flyers signed Defense-man Lukas Krajicek which left fans wondering what move was coming during the trade deadline.
That move was made on February 6th where the Flyers acquired Ville Leino in exchange for Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a 5th Round Pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. This move was a huge question mark for Flyers fans because it was the Flyers big trade deadline move; a trade deadline in which fans wanted a Goalie.
I mention these three moves because they are what helped the Flyers get to where they were in the postseason. Krajicek was a good defender who was no doubt going to play in the postseason with the question mark of Ryan Parent.
The Flyers then headed into the Olympic break on a four game winning streak and their Playoff hopes remaining alive.
On April 18th it was win or miss the Playoffs for the Flyers. At this time their were doubts in Flyers fans heads about this team and how they would play if they made the Playoffs. A week before this game, GM Paul Holmgren said if the Flyers did not make the Playoffs he would step down as GM. The disappointing season for the Flyers came down to one game, if they win they make the Playoffs as the 7th seeded team in the East. If they lost, the Flyers would finish 9th, one place out of the Playoffs and golf season would officially begin. With injuries to Emery and Leighton, Brian Boucher was the goalie for the Flyers in the last month of the season and was called upon to face the New York Rangers in a do-or-die situation.
The Rangers struck first with a quick goal from Shelley in the first period of play. The Flyers saw themselves down one heading into the third period. Matt Carle was finally able to punch one through in the third to keep the Flyers Playoff Hopes alive. The game went into Overtime with no team scoring which then forced a shootout. Danny Briere struck first for the Flyers, but the Rangers were able to answer. Claude Giroux stepped in for the Flyers and scored to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead in the shootout with the Rangers having one shooter to go. Jokinen took the puck .... AND BOUCHER MADE THE SAVE! THE FLYERS MAKE THE PLAYOFFS! What if Boosh didn't make the save? History will be made commercials started up for the Playoffs.
The Flyers were set to face division rival and number two seeded New Jersey Devils. The Flyers did quick work of them and were able to defeat them in five games. Brain Boucher was able to get his revenge from ten years earlier were the Devils came back on the Flyers down 3-1.
The Flyers were now set to face the Sixth Seeded Bruins, who upset the Buffalo Sabres in the first round. The Bruins took a 3-0 lead on the Flyers as the season seemed to be over for the Flyers. Simon Gagne, coming off of a broken foot, came back for Game Four of the series and was the Flyers overtime hero as he gave the Flyers their first win of the series. Gagne and Briere continued their hot run as the Flyers came into Game Five and Boucher went down, leaving just activated Michael Leighton to take his place. The Flyers won Game Five 4-0 and cut the Bruins lead to 3-2 in the series. Could it be, could the Flyers make history and be the third team in NHL history to come back down 0-3 in a series? In came Game Six in Philly as the Flyers took a 2-0 lead with goals from Richards and Briere after two periods of play. In the third period, the Bruins got a goal from Lucic with a minute to go in the game. The Flyers were on their toes, but were able to pull through to tie the series 3-3. It all came down to Game Seven, the Flyers on the brink of elimination again. The Bruins took an early 3-0 lead in the game, but just like in the series the Flyers slowly came back. First JVR at the end of the first period to cut the lead to two goals. Hartnell and Briere were able to tie it in the second period. Then in the third, the improbable happened, Simon Gagne put one past Rask to give the Flyers a lead and a victory .... What if the Bullies didn't fight back? History will be made.
Then came 8th seeded Montreal who came off of upsets of the best team in the East, the Washington Capitals, and the defending Stanley Cup Champion, Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers finally had home ice advantage and utilized it. The Flyers won the first two games in Philly, then lost Game three in Montreal (with a poor performance out of Chris Pronger). The Flyers were then able to defeat Montreal in Game Four to give the Flyers a 3-1 lead in the series. The Flyers came back to Philadelphia and clinched the Eastern Conference Championship in Five Games over the Habs.The Flyers were resilient in Game Five as they made great goals and played like the Bullies of the past. What if Richie didn't play like Clarkie? History will be Made.
The stage was set for the Stanley Cup Finals and it was exactly what Melrose predicted, Flyers versus Blackhawks. The Blackhawks were heavy favorites and were predicted to win in five games over the Flyers. The Hawks took the first two games in Chicago, but the Flyers took those games right back in Philly. The series was tied 2-2 heading into Game Five where the Flyers were outplayed and were destroyed, falling now to face elimination.
Game Six, do-or-die again for the Flyers. The Hawks came out with a one goal lead, but Scott Hartnell answered with a goal of his own, tying it after one period, 1-1. The Flyers kept fighting as Danny Briere put one through giving the Flyers life and a 2-1 lead. But the Hawks weren't done, two more goals out of the Blackhawks and the Flyers found themselves down 3-2 after two periods. The Flyers continued to be resilient in the third and kept fighting. Chance after chance was being put aside by Niemi. Then Leino was able to find Scott Hartnell for his second goal and a tie game.
The game went into overtime, where the Flyers continued to have their chances. Patrick Kane then put a shot on net for the Hawks, that went through the five hole of Michael Leighton for the game winner. Nobody knew it went in, because no one really saw that it went in. But watching reply, it was a goal and the Hawks won the Stanley Cup. The Flyers improbable run and Cinderella story was now over. Yes it was heartbreaking, but it wasn't disappointing.
This team overcame injury after injury, six different goalies, a fired coach, and locker room troubles only to find themselves two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.
Thank you Flyers for giving us fans a thrill ride.
What if the Flyers never fired Stevens? What if the Flyers never hired Laviolette? What if the Flyers never signed Leighton? What if the Flyers never traded for Ville Leino? What if the Flyers remained healthy all year? What if Ray Emery never went down with an injury? What if Boosh didn't make the save? What if the Bullies didn't believe in comebacks? What if Richie didn't play like Clarkie? What if sudden death didn't give new life? History will be made .....
The Flyers will be back .....