A Look Back at 1974: the Big, Bad Bruins v. the Broad Street Bullies

 

Both needing seven games to get past their first-round opponents, the Flyers and Bruins face-off beginning this Saturday in a rematch of last year’s memorable Eastern Conference semi-finals in which the Flyers came back from a 3 game to zero deficit and a 3 goal to zero deficit in Game 7 to advance to the conference finals and eventually to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Most of the talk heading into this series will be about last year’s epic comeback, or collapse, depending on who you’re talking to, but let’s dive a bit deeper into history and look at the first ever meeting of these teams in the NHL playoffs.

In the 1973-74 NHL season, the Bruins were the class of the entire league offensively.  They won the most games in the NHL and scored 49 more goals than any other team in the East and 76 more goals than the Flyers, who led the West.  Their most telling offensive stat was that the players who finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in scoring in the NHL all wore the Black & Gold (Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Ken Hodge and Wayne Cashman).

The Flyers won the West with 50 wins and 112 points, but were much more gritty and defensive-minded than their Finals foe.  With Bernie Parent in net, the Flyers tied the Blackhawks with the lowest number of goals allowed (164 in 78 games). Parent’s 47 wins was a record that stood until the 2006-2007 season.  The Bullies also led the NHL by amassing 1750 penalty minutes, which was 603 more minutes than the second most penalized team in the league.  The leading scorer for the Flyers, Bobby Clarke, sat in 5th behind the four Bruins in NHL scoring.  Clarke finished with 35 goals and 52 assists in the regular season to lead the NHL West.

Entering the series, the Flyers were huge underdogs; not only because of the waves of offensive talent the Bruins could throw at their opponents, but also because of the history between the two teams.  Since joining the NHL in 1967, the Flyers faced the Bruins a total of 28 times; their record: 4-20-4.  This abysmal record included a 27 game winless streak which stretched from November 1969 to March 1974.  Piling more history against the Flyers was the fact that the Bruins had home-ice advantage in the Finals.  Prior to the series, the Flyers had won one game at the Boston Garden and that win took place 6 years, 5 months and 25 days before the Finals began (in the meantime, they went winless in 21 games at the Garden).

In Game 1, the Bruins got out to a 2-0 lead with first period goals from Wayne Cashman and Gregg Sheppard. The Flyers got one in the second and then Bobby Clarke tied the game 5 minutes into the 3rd period. The score would stay knotted until Bobby Orr’s slap shot with 22 seconds left beat Bernie Parent and put the Flyers down 1-0 in the series.

Game 2 provided the turning point of the series.  All square at 2-2, Game 2 went into overtime.  With the Flyers needing a victory to avoid digging a 2 games to 0 hole, Bobby Clarke scored the most important goal of his career:

In Games 3 and 4, a re-energized and confident Flyers team held serve at home and took the series lead 3 games to 1.  Back in Boston for Game 5, the Bruins “outmuscled, outskated and outhustled” (in the words of Bruins’ coach Bep Guidolin) the Flyers en route to a 5-1 victory.  The pressure of the series came through in Game 5, resulting in a playoff record 43 penalties, including 6 fights.  Schultz averaged 1 fight per period.

With series at 3-2, Game 6 was played in Philadelphia.  In the dressing room before the game, Fred Shero wrote his most famous pre-game quote: “Win today, and we walk together forever.”  After Kate Smith’s God Bless America caused the Spectrum to go bat-shit, Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr skated up to her, shook her hand and gave her flowers in an attempt to foil the Flyers’ good luck charm.  At that point, the Flyers were 36-3-1 when she sang.  Their attempt wasn’t successful.

At the 14:48 mark of the first period, Rick MacLeish deflected home a power play goal.  That was all Bernie needed.  Parent was under fire all night, but made save after save.  Instilling confidence in the Flyers and frustration in the Bruins, Parent was flawless.  Bernie saved all 30 shots he faced and shut out one of the best offenses in NHL history in a Stanley Cup clinching Game 6 win.



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