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.
Both the Sixers and the Flyers are in action today with their playoff lives on the line. The Sixers, down 3-0 in the first round, try to avoid being swept by the Heat at home at 1pm. The Flyers, down 3-2 in the Conference Quarterfinals, are in Buffalo where the puck drops at 3pm.
Having two teams in this precarious position on the same day isn’t common: this is only the second time it’s occurred. The only other time both the Sixers and Flyers needed wins on the same day to avoid playoff elimination was May 1, 1977.
The 1976-77 Sixers was one of the most talented and deep teams in franchise history. In addition to reaping the benefits of the ABA-NBA merger by adding Julius Erving, George McGinnis and Caldwell Jones, the 76ers were loaded with Henry Bibby, Steve Mix, Fred Carter, Joe Bryant, World B. Free and Darryl Dawkins. Oh yeah, there was also that Doug Collins guy. The Sixers rolled through the Eastern Conference, earning the #1 seed and the first-round playoff bye that came with it.
The Sixers faced the pre-Bird Celtics in the Conference Semifinals. Each team traded wins, forcing a Game 7 on May 1, 1977 in Philadelphia. The Sixers took the seventh game 83-77 and went on to the NBA Finals.
In the Finals, the Sixers lost 4 games to 2 to the Bill Walton led Portland Trailblazers. Game 2 of that series saw the series changing Darryl Dawkins sucker-punch followed by Maurice Lucas sucker-punch followed by Dawkins/Lucas square-up seen below:
On the same day the Sixers beat the Celtics in Game 7, the Flyers were in Boston trying to avoid being swept in the Conference Semifinals. The 1976-77 Flyers were led by Rick MacLeish, Bobby Clarke and mid-season pickup Bob Dailey. The Flyers advanced to the semis by defeating the Maple Leafs in six games. After losing their first two games at home against the Leafs and being down 2-0 in game three, the Flyers turned the series around and reeled off four straight wins.
Reaching the conference semifinals for the fifth straight year, the Flyers repeated their early first series performance by digging an 0-2 hole with home losses. However, this time there was no turnaround. When the series shifted to Boston, the Flyers lost Game Three 2-1. On May 1, 1977, Boston completed the sweep with a 3-0 shutout victory. After the game, the Bruins’ organist John Kiley poured some salt into the wounds by switching out his normal victory song for “God Bless America.” Douche.
The last time both teams faced elimination, Philly was treated with a mixed bag of results. There is no telling what will happen later today, but by the time 6 o’clock rolls around, there’s a chance that the Phillies will be getting our undivided attention.
Perhaps there’s a Toronto sports history blog that looks at April 22nd, 1976 as the day Darryl Sittler scored five goals in a playoff win against the Flyers. But in Philadelphia we look at today as the anniversary of Dave “The Hammer” Schultz setting a playoff record for penalty minutes in a single game. The 42 minutes in penalties Schultz racked up in the Flyers 8 to 5 loss still stands as a record.
Although the Flyers 2011 playoff run is still in its infancy, there isn’t a shortage of story lines. You’ve got Danny Briere going up against his former team; you’ve got JVR playing in beast-mode; you’ve got Boosh taking over for Bob; and you’ve got Prongs day-to-day with a broken (maybe twice) hand. Then there’s the goalie mask. Yep, the goalie mask.
Both Flyers goaltenders have had mask issues. Sergei Bobrovsky thought he’d try on a new mask for size before entering the playoffs. He changed his paint scheme and went with Rocky IV on one side and Sideline, I mean, Sideshow Bob on the other. The move hasn’t really worked out for him as he was pulled in Game Two and was a healthy scratch in Game Three. And then last night, the goalie mask proved important as well. During a frenetic 5 on 3 PK with the puck in our zone, Boosh knocked his mask off his head to stop play because it “became loose.” I’m not sure the Buffalo faithful believe him.
I’ve always been a fan of the goalie mask. In most sports, you are fined for the most trivial deviation from the team uniform. The paint scheme on a goalie mask is that rule’s biggest exception, making it the best outlet in sports for a player to show off some personal flair. With the goalie mask being a story in the playoffs so far, and this being a sports history site we thought we’d take a look at goalie masks throughout Flyers history. (Note: I’m still waiting for a Flyers goalie to use a Clockwork Orange styled design around one eye-hole. Please, please, please.) Without further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the memorable masks donned by Flyer goaltenders over the years:
#10: Kicking off the top ten is Pete Peeters going blackface long before Ted Danson.
#9: Michel Larocque played only 2 games for the Flyers and gave up 8 goals. However, the nickname “Bunny” on his mask is good enough to overcome a 4.00 GAA.
The Top 8 masks can be seen after the jump.
The Flyers take on the Sabres tonight in Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs. And while it may turn out to be an interesting game, it’s a good bet that it won’t be as weird as another Game 3 between these two teams.
The Sabres and Flyers met in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1975 (The divisions were quite different then, and there were only 18 teams in the whole league.) They had tied for the most points in the regular season, and the town of Buffalo was so excited about their team they released a terrible song called “We’re Gonna Win that Stanley Cup”. Seriously.
The Flyers won the first two games handily, so the Sabres went into Game 3 desperately needing a win. They would get it, but not before things got really weird.
A bat began flying around the arena, and distracting the players and the fans. Finally, Buffalo center Jim Lorentz decided to take a swat at it. He killed it. In true horror movie fashion, a few minutes later, a creepy fog began rising from the ice (it was an unusually humid May in Buffalo, thus causing the fog). The fog got so bad that soon the players couldn’t see the puck. Nonetheless, play resumed, and the Sabres ultimately won in overtime and went on to win Game 4 as well. The Flyers then took games 5 and 6 and hoisted the Stanley Cup Trophy. Since then, neither the Flyers not the Sabres have won a Stanley Cup. In Buffalo, many people blame Jim Lorentz for cursing the team.
In the past, we’ve mostly dealt with local baseball history. But since the hockey team is in season right now, let’s talk hockey history. Specifically, let’s discuss the short lived Philadelphia Quakers. The team was originally known as the Pittsburgh Pirates, but when financial hardship set in, they decided to move the squad to Philly, and they dropped the puck for the first time on November 11, 1930. The team played at the Philadelphia Arena at 45th and Market. They lost their first game 3-0 to the New York Rangers, and according to a reporter, by the end of the game, Philly fans were making “caustic remarks”. (What? Philly fans?) Things only got worse. The team averaged only 2,500 fans a game, and no wonder. The team was brutal to watch, finishing the season with a 4-36-1 record, and their .136 winning % was the worst in NHL history until the Washington Capitals had a .131% in 1974-75. After one season, the NHL suspended the team, and they never took the ice again. Surprisingly, one member of the team went on to have a Hall of Fame career. Syd Howe later became a star player for the Detroit Red Wings and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1965, two years before Philadelphia got a new NHL hockey team. For a more detailed history of the Quakers one and only season, click here on Flyershistory.net.