Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top 10 Flyers playoff games of the 2000s

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

While we all wait with bated breath for the End Times to arrive, I thought I'd dip back into the remembrance pool for some light-hearted fare.

Today, we recall the Top 10 Flyers playoff games from the first decade of this millennium.

(Note to readers: 2010 doesn't count in this group, so no quarter given to the Stanley Cup run, sorry.)


10. April 23, 2009 -- Flyers 3, Penguins 0 Game 5 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: While everyone remembers the Game 6 collapse in front of the home crowd before a national TV audience which cost them the series, the Flyers wouldn't have made it that far if it weren't for Martin Biron. The embattled backstop recorded 28 saves, while Arron Asham, Mike Knuble and Claude Giroux supplied the offense for the stunning decision at Mellon Arena. It still stands as the lone shutout pitched by a Philly goaltender against Pittsburgh in the postseason.

9.  May 20, 2000 -- Flyers 3, Devils 1 Game 4 Eastern Conference Finals: Craig Berube was the hero, scoring the game-winning goal with 7:02 left in regulation. Yes, you read that right. The Orange and Black crept within one victory of the Finals thanks to a puncher on his last NHL legs, adding another level of weirdness to one of the more unsettling series in franchise history. The Flyers took both games at the Meadowlands and assumed a 3-1 series edge.

8.  May 2, 2004 -- Flyers 7, Maple Leafs 2 Game 5 Eastern Conference Semifinals: In a playoffs which served the NHL notice that Keith Primeau was a force to be reckoned with, this game, at 3601 S. Broad Street, served as his official breakout. Toronto, while sending skaters out for each shift, was never really in the game, going down 6-1 before the midway point of regulation. It allowed Ken Hitchcock's team a breath of confidence heading back to Canada for Game 6.

7.  April 16, 2003 -- Flyers 3, Maple Leafs 2 (3 OT) Game 4 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Perhaps we don't get to see the fullness of Roman Cechmanek's meltdown if Mark Recchi didn't beat Ed Belfour from the right wing as the clock approached midnight. The Flyers, down 2-1 in the series, and having dropped a double-OT decision two days prior, had their backs to the wall but did everything they could to strafe the Leafs -- including a 75-38 shot advantage. Recchi did his thing at 13:54 of period six, this puck not one of the 72 Belfour stopped on the night.

6.  April 22, 2003 -- Flyers 6, Maple Leafs 1 Game 7 Eastern Conference Finals: An emphatic end to an epic series, the hosts bombarded their foes from the outset, officially putting to rest the nightmare scenarios which marked the end of the first round in the two previous years. The win was the most decisive series-clinching victory since a similar result against the Lightning on the road in 1996, and still stands as the largest series-clinching margin to this day.

5.  May 4, 2004 -- Flyers 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT) Game 6 Eastern Conference Semifinals: Had the Flyers been in control from the outset, perhaps this game would rank a bit higher, but they allowed the Leafs to make things interesting with a pair of goals in the final minutes of regulation, sending this pivotal game into extra time. The end sequence to this thriller pretty much encapsulates Flyers hockey at its core, and more to the point, sent the Flyers to the conference finals for the first time in four years.

4.  May 20, 2004 -- Flyers 5, Lightning 4 Game 6 Eastern Conference Finals: In an unfamiliar position, on the brink of elimination on home ice against an upstart franchise which was just gaining a foothold in the National Hockey League, the veteran-laden Flyers responded in atypical fashion to keep their hopes alive. Not since 1989 against Montreal did the club find itself gasping for air, one step away from going home in a semifinal round on friendly ice. But two strokes of luck kept the season alive long enough for a Game 7.

3.  April 22, 2008 -- Flyers 3, Capitals 2 Game 7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: The importance of this playoff win in club history can't be emphasized enough. Coming just over a year since the Flyers finished dead last in the NHL, with a new, relatively inexperienced head coach thrust into a pressure situation while guiding a promising crop of youngsters, Philadelphia stared down the Red, White and Blue abyss, spit in the face of Alex Ovechkin on his home ice, and came away with as dramatic a victory as any in 45 seasons. It marked the team's first playoff series win in four years and seemed to put to rest a heap of uncertainty in a quick "rebuilding" phase. Joffrey Lupul ended it, scoring his first goal of the series at the best possible time.

2.  May 4-5, 2000 -- Flyers 2, Penguins 1 (5 OT) Game 4 Eastern Conference Semifinals: Momentum can kill a team just as much as build it up. That was the case on a Thursday night in Pittsburgh, the Penguins holding a 2-1 lead with one more game on home ice with which to take a stranglehold on the series. Andy Delmore had given the Flyers sudden life with a Game 3 OT tally, and whoever won this pivotal tilt would most likely advance to the next round. More than six hours after it began, into the eighth period, Primeau decided to wake up his teammates and the city of Philadelphia in the wee small hours with a miracle. It was the longest playoff game in the NHL's modern times, the longest by far in Flyers history. Two days later, the Flyers won Game 5 at home, then closed things out two days after back in the Steel City.

1.  May 3, 2008 -- Flyers 6, Canadiens 4 Game 5 Eastern Conference Semifinals: Another unlikely playoff run continued as John Stevens' club posted an emotional come-from-behind victory against the Canadiens in Montreal. Simply advancing to the conference finals wasn't enough. The kids waltzed into the Mecca of hockey and stole the limelight from the Habs, who were celebrating their 100th year of existence. It seemed like every one of the young stars made an impact -- R.J. Umberger netted his eighth goal of the series in surprising fashion...Mike Richards lent a "hand" in the proceedings. Scottie Upshall and Scott Hartnell added key tallies, while Braydon Coburn played shutdown defense at the right time.

Any questions whether this run, and particularly the OT win in Washington, was a fluke were laid to rest in La Belle Province. It was off to face the rival Penguins in the next round, but not before proving that the 2008 Flyers were proof that the team had made it all the way back from the bottom.

Tune in shortly for the next installment: Top Flyers regular-season games of the 1990s.

 
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