Saturday, November 02, 2013

Holmgren chants and Capital punishment of Philadelphia

It was almost 22 years ago when I last heard the chants for Paul Holmgren's job.

A 13-year-old on holiday break, sitting with my Dad in the upper level of the Spectrum for the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving matinee contest. In 1991, it was Holmgren's struggling Flyers hosting the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins coached by Scotty Bowman.

The Orange and Black, in the tail end of an eight-game winless string, put up a fight in the first 13 minutes of the third period. Problem was, Pittsburgh was already up by a robust 6-0 score by that time. Though the Flyers came back with three goals to halve their deficit, the visitors snapped back to life and continued to pour it on, eventually winning by a 9-3 count.

Chants came early and often from an angry, sellout crowd, "Paul Must Go!" which ringed through the seats in the Spectrum and crashed together as the call came in waves from opposite ends of the ice. Two games and six days later, following two-plus seasons at the helm without a playoff berth in sight, Holmgren did in fact go, fired in favor of Bill Dineen.

Friday night's ugly 7-0 home loss to the Washington Capitals and reports of "Fire Holmgren" chants in the arena brought back memories of that unlikely, discordant Friday afternoon so long ago.

It doesn't seem possible that the same guy, Bob Clarke's successor both on and off the ice for this franchise, could go through the same thing twice. But at 3-9-0, with the worst loss in franchise history against their opponent lurking in the rear view mirror, how can those higher than Homer not consider a shake up on par with the infamous Bloody Sunday of late October in 2006?

What is there left for Holmgren to accomplish as General Manager -- with two non-playoff seasopns already on his ledger -- that might earn him a reprieve except for a total and mind-blowing in-season turnaround?

Back to the game itself, in which the Capitals blew out the Flyers in record fashion.

Only six times since Washington was granted an NHL franchise in 1974 had it beaten the Orange and Black by as many as six goals in any game, regular season or playoffs.

December 21, 1980: Capitals 6, Flyers 0 at the Spectrum -- Having lost 12 in a row at Philadelphia since entering the league, Washington decided the streak would go no further on this Sunday night. Mike Palmateer stood up to a 21-shot barrage in the first period and made 44 saves in all for the shutout. Jean Pronovost scored twice, Dennis Maruk added a goal and assist, and future Flyer Tim Tookey also beat Phil Myre in the blowout victory.

November 21, 1981: Capitals 10, Flyers 4 at Capital Centre -- In the front end of a home-and-home series, the last-place Caps exploded against their undisciplined foes. Washington racked up five power-play goals on the night, with Dennis Maruk and Tookey recording hat tricks. Maruk ended up with six points and Greg Theberge also pumped home a pair of goals.

January 8, 1984: Capitals 7, Flyers 1 at the Spectrum -- Bengt Gustafsson became the final opponent to date to score five goals on Philadelphia in a regular-season contest. Since then, only Mario Lemieux repeated the feat, in Game 5 of the 1989 Patrick Division Finals.

December 26, 1984: Capitals 6, Flyers 0 at Capital Centre -- Having been dispatched by a 7-4 count thanks to a Tim Kerr hat trick three days earlier in Philly, the hosts sprang to life in the back end of the home-and-home set while battling for first place in the Patrick Division. Scott Stevens, Gary Sampson and Mike Gartner tallied in the first period, Gartner added another goal then Bobby Carpenter and Gaetan Duchesne also scored to back an 18-save shutout from Pat Riggin.

March 16, 1991: Capitals 6, Flyers 0 at Capital Centre -- Holmgren's club fell out of playoff contention thanks to a 2-10-2 March, and this Saturday night in Landover was Philly's second six-goal whitewash defeat in their last three games. Mikhail Tatarinov scored a pair of goals, Michal Pivonka totaled a goal and three helpers, with John Druce adding three assists in the rout. Don Beaupre cruised to victory with 25 saves.

December 5, 2009: Capitals 8, Flyers 2 at Wells Fargo Center --Peter Laviolette's infamous first game behind the bench here went about as badly as could be imagined. Tomas Fleischmann scored twice, Washington ripped the game open with a four-goal second period that increased its lead from 3-1 to 7-1, and to top it all off, Dan Carcillo sucker punched Matt Bradley, receiving 19 penalty minutes and a resulting suspension.
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