Friday, September 21, 2012

Top 10 Flyers games of the 1990s

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

As promised, the second installment in a series intended to stave off boredom while the NHL lockout continues to make the masses miserable.

The 1990s was a decade of near constant change for the Flyers organization, beginning with the gradual sloughing off of players from the 1980s Renaissance, and ending with the stirrings of the Eric Lindros concussion drama.

10. October 8, 1993:  Flyers 6, Devils 4 at the Spectrum  -- Big E's arrival in the NHL came two nights earlier in the season opener, a 3-3 tie in Pittsburgh where he scored his first official pro goal. But this was his first crack at the big time in front of his home crowd, and the 19-year-old did not disappoint, scoring this highlight-reel tally which untied the game late in regulation. It was an indication of how, at that moment, all things were possible for the Oshawa, Ontario native.

9.  January 25, 1990:  Flyers 8, Jets 6 at the Spectrum -- A night which should be considered Rick Tocchet's official blossoming into a true team leader. Mired in a then-franchise-worst 10-game losing skid aided by injuries which helped drop them from first place to the doldrums of the Patrick Division, Tocchet put the Flyers on his back, posting a career-high 6 points on 4 goals and 2 assists in the heart-stopping victory. Despite the fact that they would miss the playoffs for the first time since 1972, this game showed how much pride there was in representing the crest during the worst of times.

8.  January 19, 1994:  Flyers 8, Blues 3 at the Spectrum -- Lindros put together his most dominant period of his young career to date, registering a hat trick and one assist as the hosts rolled to a 5-0 advantage after the first 20 minutes of action. It was his best performance since missing a month with his second knee injury in as many years and warmed up a crowd which braved the coldest temperatures in years in the Delaware Valley to witness the rout.

7.  March 20, 1992:  Flyers 7, Capitals 6 at Capital Centre -- The biggest problem the Flyers faced in the early days of their five-year postseason drought was a lack of offense. That was solved when a 3-team trade with the Kings and Penguins netted Mark Recchi one month prior. The other problem was a total inability to win on the road within the division, which sunk the Orange and Black on many occasions when competing for a playoff berth. On this Friday night in Landover, they led 2-1 after one and were down 6-3 after two. Cue a tremendous third-period comeback against a stacked Caps squad which gave Philly its first win of the year on the road against a Patrick Division foe.

6.  February 6, 1997:  Flyers 9, Canadiens 5 at CoreStates Center -- One thing the Legion of Doom era Flyers had no trouble with was offense. Two days after being held at bay in a 1-1 tie by Dominik Hasek of the Buffalo Sabres, Terry Murray's club exploded against Jose Theodore and Tomas Vokoun in his NHL debut. When it ended, the Legion set a still-standing single-game club record for points by a line with 16. John LeClair led the way with 6 points thanks to his first career 4-goal effort, Lindros totaled 5 (1G, 4A) and Mikael Renberg chipped in a goal with four helpers as well. The Habs also suffered their ninth defeat in 10 tries since the big trade between the franchises in February of 1995.

5.  December 29, 1992:  Flyers 10, Kings 2 at the Forum in Inglewood -- The first indication that the Flyers just might be all right without Lindros came during the club's West Coast swing. Felled by a knee issue, 88 looked on as his teammates piled it on a Gretzky-less LA squad in obvious need of defense and goaltending. Rod Brind'Amour picked up the hat trick and this game marked the last time the team hit double digits on the scoreboard.

4.  December 31, 1997:  Flyers 8, Canucks 0 at GM Place -- Proof that there was, in fact, life after the break-up of the Legion, the 1997-98 team reached its apex on New Year's Eve in Vancouver, dishing out a beating to Mark Messier and former head coach Mike Keenan. The blowout victory -- the worst ever doled out via shutout by the franchise on the road against any team to the present -- pushed them past New Jersey into first place in the Atlantic and into the top seed in the Eastern Conference. It was the highlight of a mid-season stretch of nine wins in 11 games (9-1-1) that seemed to assure fans that the head coaching switch from Terry Murray to Wayne Cashman was going to be seamless.

3. April 20, 1995:  Flyers 2, Islanders 1 at the Spectrum -- The entire 1994-95 season acted like an accelerated climb to the summit of Mount Everest. This game acted as the base camp just short of the peak. Needing a win to clinch their first playoff berth since 1989, the Orange and Black played with abandon, peppering Isles goaltender Tommy Salo with 38 shots. Lindros connected on a power play less than a minute into the second period, and Renberg put in the winner with 8:31 remaining, and the surprising club matched a season high with their eighth straight win in front of a sellout crowd 17,380 strong.

2.  April 22, 1995:  Flyers 4, Devils 3 (OT) at the Meadowlands -- The peak was reached less than 48 hours later, and it wasn't without the typical drama which infused the entire shortened schedule. The visitors were up 2-0 less than seven minutes in, then led 3-1 midway through regulation. But New Jersey roared back with scores from Stephane Richer and Scott Niedermayer to send the game into overtime.

Enter LeClair, who did the dirty work around Martin Brodeur's crease to pot the winner from the right side only 54 seconds into the extra session. This victory cemented the meteoric rise of a franchise which claimed its first regular-season division title since 1987 and set a new season high in consecutive wins at nine.

1.  October 7, 1995:  Flyers 7, Canadiens 1 -- Any night at the Montreal Forum used to spell doom for just about every other NHL team but the Habs, despite a Stanley Cup two years prior, fell precipitously, sinking to sixth place in the Northeast in '95 thanks in part to the disastrous deal with Philly in February. The first Saturday night of the 1995-96 season was a litmus test, a chance to see if the previous Spring was a fluke or the start of something big for Philadelphia.

The visitors passed with flying colors, racing out to a 4-0 lead after one period and inflicting the first serious damage in the reign of Montreal head coach Jacques Demers with their largest margin of victory in La Belle Province. LeClair, Eric Desjardins and Gilbert Dionne combined for 4 points in the rout. It also stretched the Flyers' unbeaten string at the corner of Ste. Catherine and Atwater to four games (2-0-2) and provided a turbo-charged commencement in a 5-0-1 start to the season.

Thus, the "Legion of Doom" era became strengthened on its foundation.

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