Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Obscure Flyers profile: Robbie Moore

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

Greetings from the desk of the Phanatic, where we kick start our brains in anticipation of the 2013-14 hockey season with a new, month-long feature which seeks to educate (or remind) Flyers fans about players they probably blinked and missed.

Starting today, and running for the next four weeks, I will be profiling a little-known skater or goaltender from each of the four major decades of team annals who had some kind of significance -- either direct or oblique -- in team history.

The first installment deals with the player who manned the crease for a significant portion of the 1979 playoffs, stuck between the eras of a Hall of Famer and rookie sensation.

This four-year starter at the University of Michigan filled the playoff gap between five years of Bernie Parent and three seasons of Pete Peeters. He was one of the shortest and lightest players on the franchise roster, standing just 5-foot-5 and weighing 155 pounds. That gave him a unique perspective on positioning, as related in Full Spectrum, when he said:

"The Flyers sent me down for a year to work on my size. Actually, I figured out I cover exactly one less square foot than (Canadiens Hall of Famer) Ken Dryden. As long as I can stand in the middle and touch both posts, I'm OK."

Signed as a free agent in November of 1978, Moore only suited up for 10 games in Philadelphia, but was credited with a rare first while bringing some stability to the net during a very uncertain time.

When Parent went down with his career-ending freak eye injury on February 17, 1979 at the Spectrum in a game against the New York Rangers, new head coach Pat Quinn wasn't left with too many options. There was Wayne Stephenson, the perennially miserable backup who once again got his chance to prove his worth with Parent sidelined, but was soon injured and hedged on playing, then Peeters, Moore and Rick St. Croix up in the AHL at Maine.

St. Croix was the victim of an obscure NHL rule regarding emergency call-ups when Quinn decided to give him a taste of the big time, so the former dental student who quit school to give hockey one more chance saw his time under the spotlight.

Moore received his first look against a pushover opponent, the Colorado Rockies, at home on March 6, and turned in an impressive 22-save shutout in a 5-0 victory that put his name in the record books as the first Philadelphia goaltender to blank an opponent in his first NHL appearance. He waited 12 more days until his next start, and made good on it by stopping 24-of-27 shots in a 5-3 decision against the Blues.

Nine days after that, he subbed for Stephenson at Madison Square Garden and halted 13 of the Rangers' final 14 shots in a 4-4 tie -- which earned him another start on home ice and another 22-save whitewash, this time of Vancouver in a 5-0 final. Moore's final action of the regular season came in mop-up duty as the Flyers were blitzed 9-2 at Uniondale, allowing three goals on 16 shots in a meaningless road finale.

After Stephenson faltered and lost to the Canucks at the Spectrum, 3-2, to open the postseason, Quinn decided to insert Moore as the starter in a potential elimination game on the road in that best-of-three playoff series as it switched to Vancouver. It turned out to be a miracle of guts and intuition as Moore held the fort long enough to see his teammates turn a 3-3 tie after 40 minutes into a season-saving 6-4 victory. Not willing to test the fates again, Moore was in goal for Game 3, stopping 29 shots and watching as the Orange and Black blitzed their foes, 7-2, to advance.

The diminutive rookie held up well against a faster Rangers attack in Game 1 of the quarterfinals, stopping 22 shots in a 3-2 Flyers overtime win, ended after 44 seconds by Ken Linseman.

Quoth Moore: "This is all a dream and I hope I never wake up."

But the dream was over and the roof caved in during Game 2. New York led 4-1 less than 27 minutes into regulation time and Moore was yanked in favor of Stephenson, who was no panacea in a 7-1 loss or through a 5-1 setback in Game 3. Quinn gave Moore one more shot in Game 4, but the Rangers turned in a 6-0 rout at a gleeful Garden despite 24 saves from the ex-Wolverine.

Moore only saw one additional game in the NHL thereafter, with the Washington Capitals during the 1982-83 season.

To ensure better goaltending depth, Flyers GM Keith Allen shipped Stephenson to Washington and signed veteran Phil Myre, while Peeters proved competent enough to get a permanent spot with the big club. Moore was assigned to the Mariners days prior to the start of the 1979-80 season, playing in 57 games over the next two years there, making his preseason statement seem as naive as it was competitive:

"I'll stab someone in the eyes with knitting needles if I think they're going to take my job. At least it was my job when I left."

Moore's AHL credentials are the ones which stand out. In one of the best eras for any Flyers affiliate, he shared the Harry "Hap" Holmes award (equivalent to the Jennings Trophy) for fewest team goals allowed with Peeters in 1979, St. Croix in 1980 and did it again while sharing time with Lindbergh in 1981. 

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