Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Worst 10 Flyers Games of the 1980s

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The Phanatic presents the third in an occasional series recalling the best and worst games in Philadelphia Flyers history. It continues with a look at the perils and pitfalls for the Orange and Black during the Decade of Decadence.

Ahhhh, the 80s. When the Broad Street Bullies era came to an end but not before an NHL-record 35-game unbeaten streak and an ill-fated trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. When some fashion faux pas (see picture at left) framed some underperforming teams, and a franchise Renaissance occurred by merging the spirit of the 70s with the European influx of the 80s.
That doesn't mean there weren't some big missteps along the way, as growth and change always produces some painful moments.

10. November 6, 1986: Flyers 5, Devils 5 at the Meadowlands -- For most of Mike Keenan's tenure, losing a simple hockey game was met with the same negative reaction some generals feel when they've lost a war. Early in his third season at the helm, against a New Jersey team which hadn't finished higher than fifth in the Patrick Division, the visitors wasted a 5-1 lead with roughly nine minutes remaining. Claude Loiselle, Aaron Broten, Greg Adams and Doug Sulliman did the damage. The tie came two nights after a 7-1 demolition of these same Devils at the Spectrum, and marked the first time in Keenan's tenure the club blew a four-goal lead at any point and failed to win.

9.  February 13, 1988: Maple Leafs 7, Flyers 4 at Maple Leaf Gardens -- Nope, it's not the score that helped vault this game on the list -- though Toronto did only win 21 games out of 80 all year -- but it's the fact that a club-record 25 shots on goal in the second period produced a single goal against Ken Wregget. Ron Hextall, on the other hand, allowed four on nine shots in the middle frame, then two more in the third. In all, 53 Philadelphia shots weren't enough to secure a victory against a team competing for worst in the NHL.

8.  December 17, 1985: Devils 7, Flyers 4 at the Meadowlands -- Yeah, some freaky things happened to the Orange and Black up the Turnpike in the 80s. In this one, Jersey chased rookie goalie Darren Jensen early and coasted thanks to a five-goal first period. What was there left to do, but start pounding on the innocent? When defenseman Joe Cirella scored at the 10-minute mark of the second, it was 7-1 for the home team, and Philly, the best team in the league at that point, managed a weak comeback.

7.  December 30, 1987: Oilers 6, Flyers 0 at Northlands Coliseum -- Philly's first trip back to Edmonton since losing Game 7 of the previous Spring's Stanley Cup Finals went worse than they could have expected. Riding a league-high 14 game unbeaten streak (12-0-2) into the Canadian portion of their holiday road trip, Hextall was shelled for all six goals on 29 shots, and the game was sewn up in the first period thanks to strikes from Jari Kurri, Kevin Lowe and Esa Tikkanen. Wayne Gretzky, who assisted on all three scores, later added a third-period marker.

6.  December 3, 1985: Red Wings 4, Flyers 1 at Joe Louis Arena -- Never talented enough to be an NHL starter, Mark Laforest gained back some goalie cred with his winning performance in the Alumni Game before last year's Winter Classic. What people don't know is that he recorded his first NHL victory against the Flyers, in a year when Detroit won 17 games and was so desperate for help in the crease, the club recalled him from the AHL to face what was one of the top two offenses in the league. He stopped 35 shots on the night, including a half-dozen point-blank chances. Bob Froese, on the other hand, helped the Wings win by allowing two goals from 50 feet or more.

5.  November 27, 1988: Sabres 7, Flyers 3 at Memorial Auditorium -- Paul Holmgren's first year as head coach featured this game, the final piece to a 1-9-1 slide which pulled his club into the dregs of the Patrick Division. Ahead 3-2 after two periods, the game exploded in Philly's faces, as Buffalo scored five times in the final 20 minutes to steal a victory. Two days later, the first head to roll became Peter Zezel, who struggled for the better part of a year and a half, dealt to St. Louis for reclamation project Mike Bullard.

4.  March 19, 1988: Penguins 7, Flyers 0 at Capital Centre -- The first signs that Pittsburgh was about to break from its decade-long doldrums came early in this season, when it was able to swing a deal to bring Paul Coffey over from Edmonton. The second, was that Mario Lemieux started inflicting some serious damage on his tormentors from Southeastern PA. In the final Steel City contest of four between the teams in 1987-88, the Pens laid a hurting down on the visitors. The seven-goal margin marks the largest for Pitt against the Flyers in their 45-year rivalry, and this game still stands as the largest shutout loss by the club in Western PA.

3.  November 21, 1982: Capitals 10, Flyers 4 at Capital Centre -- In its eighth year of existence, Washington had yet to snag a playoff berth, and only snapped a long winless slide in Philadelphia the previous December. To this point, the Caps had only scored as many as six goals against the Orange and Black on one occasion in the previous 30 meetings, so this double-digit explosion came as quite a shock. But it wasn't when you consider Philly committed a whopping 22 penalties, and the Capitals pumped five power-play goals past Rick St. Croix, who stopped 29-of-39 shots in the blowout. Dennis Maruk totaled three goals and three assists, and AHL journeyman Tim Tookey also added a trifecta.

2.  January 2, 1981: Jets 4, Flyers 3 at Winnipeg Arena -- Only 10 days earlier, the second-year NHL entry from Winnipeg managed to halt a league-record 30-game winless streak (0-23-7) by beating the Colorado Rockies. After three more losses, Winnipeg managed to pick up its third win of the year against Pat Quinn's club -- one which went 11-0-2 earlier in the season and only lost three games from mid-October to mid-December. A four-goal first period was enough to hand the fearsome Flyers, who were tied for the second-best record in the NHL behind the Islanders, an embarrassing loss. Doug Smail, Willy Lindstrom, Dave Christian and Thomas Steen beat St. Croix, and Pierre Hamel stopped 36 pucks. It was the most glaring defeat in a season-worst 1-5-2 stretch.

1.  October 27, 1981: Canadiens 11, Flyers 2 at the Forum -- There are easier ways to see an unbeaten streak end than a nine-goal blowout loss on the road to one of your rivals from the previous decade. Still, the Flyers chose to do many things the hard way during the entire turbulent 1981-82 season. After setting a still-standing club record by going eight games without a loss (7-0-1) from the start of the year, it all exploded in a span of 20 minutes. The Habs chased starter Pete Peeters before the first period was over, jumping out to a 6-0 lead after one period and didn't take their foot off the accelerator. A grinder of the late 80's and early 90s for Philadelphia, Keith Acton was once a scoring winger and recorded a hat trick in the rout. Steve Shutt and Mario Tremblay added two goals each.

The game set several dubious records: most goals scored by Montreal against Philadelphia in one game, largest margin of victory for either side against the other, worst loss by the Flyers on the road against any other NHL club.

Be sure to stay tuned to the Phanatic for the next in the series, top Flyers goaltending performances (non-Parent division).


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