Milestone Madness

It’s amazing to think the Flyers are on pace to reach 1,000 home wins in franchise history.  It would have been sweet to see the Orange and Black do it this past Saturday against the rival New Jersey Devils, but Johan Hedberg and Patrik Elias had a little something to say in that regard.

Anywhoo…Philly gets another crack at a grand tonight against the Montreal Canadiens, in the final meeting of a four-game regular-season series which serves as the Flyers’ final contest before the All-Star Break.

Since our hockey club, which sits atop the NHL standings, is so close to this momentous occasion, it’s only appropriate we take a look back at all their other milestone home victories in this 44-year journey of epic proportions.

Many thanks to Flyers History for their compendium of statistics.

First win: October 19, 1967…Flyers 1, Penguins 0. In what proved to be the very first home game in club history, the nascent franchise needed only a Bill Sutherland third-period goal and 21 saves from Doug Favell to emerge victorious.

By the end of that season, with the Spectrum roof having blown away in a vicious windstorm, “home games” meant such exotic locales as Maple Leaf Gardens, Madison Square Garden, and what was Le Colisee de Quebec.

100th win: February 13, 1973…Flyers 8, New York Islanders 2. Year One of the Broad Street Bullies era saw Fred Shero’s club begin their ascent by beating up (both bodily and on the scoreboard) the lesser clubs in the NHL, like this first-year Islanders squad.

Rick MacLeish scored four goals, including his first three in a five-goal second period,  Jean (brother of Denis) Potvin added two scores, Gary Dornhoefer contributed three assists and Favell allowed just two first-period goals in the rout.

200th win: March 18, 1976…Flyers 3, Canucks 2. In spite of setting a club record with 36 home victories in 1975-76, not all of them were blowouts for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

In fact, Vancouver racked up a 41-35 shot edge, including a 20-8 margin in the first period alone, against a defense which was a little looser in a year where Bernie Parent was injured and the league went goal-happy.

Dave Schultz of all people, got the last laugh with the winning goal at 13:07 of the second period, part of a three-goal burst in the middle period that erased an early 2-0 hole.

300th win: November 11, 1979…Flyers 5, Canucks 4. In the early stages of the Flyers legendary (and still a professional sports record) 35-game unbeaten streak   — the 12th game to be exact — the Canucks posed yet another challenge.

Fresh from a 5-2 win on Long Island the night before, the Flyers found themselves in a potential trap game at the Spectrum, but kept the Canucks at bay. MacLeish recorded a hat trick, including an insurance tally with 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation and Phil Myre halted 24 shots.

400th win: October 23, 1983…Flyers 8, Maple Leafs 5. Bobby Clarke’s last season in uniform, one year before Mike Keenan’s reign of terror lifted the Flyers beyond all expectations, the NHL was a fast-paced enterprise. Ten-or-more goal games were the norm, and this was the Orange and Black’s first speed-scoring salvo of that season, coming against a bottom-feeding Leafs club.

In an odd twist, it was the first game in team lore to feature twins Rich and Ron Sutter — both of whom scored a goal. Eight different Flyers hit the net as part of a 50-shot effort, which also included giving up 35 shots and nearly wasting leads of 2-0 and 5-2. A young, but struggling sophomore goalie by the name of Pelle Lindbergh allowed all five goals but still picked up the win.

500th win: December 2, 1986…Flyers 7, St. Louis 1. Fresh from a first-round exit to the Rangers the previous Spring, the 1986-87 Flyers came out on fire, and, backed with a home-heavy early portion of the schedule, raced out to an 18-4-2 start.

At the end of the run was this contest, a laugher thanks to a four-goal night from Brian Propp — he of the Guffaw at this point in his career — and a four-goal third period that broke open a close game. Glenn “Chico” Resch got a rare start for the rookie Ron Hextall and won with 26 saves.

600th win: January 9, 1992…Flyers 5, Kings 2. It was a long, dark stretch to get the next 100 home victories, and this one came in the midst of their five-year sojourn in the cold wilderness of the few non-playoff teams.

No matter what team he played for, the Flyers’ sole mission was to put a wet blanket on Wayne Gretzky each and every time out. Five days earlier, the Great One posted a goal and two helpers in a 7-3 Kings victory in LA, but this game saw any hopes of Gretz’s magic act muted by a three-goal first period.

He was held to a minus-2 with four shots on goal, Kevin Dineen scored twice, Rick Tocchet and Rod Brind’Amour each posted a pair of assists and Hextall earned a rare (for that period) win by making 28 saves.

700th win: October 7, 1996…Flyers 3, Devils 1. Brand new digs across the parking lot from the old Spectrum deserved a victory over a division rival, and the fans finally got one, after a loss to the Florida Panthers officially opened the regular season two days before.

Brind’Amour, Karl Dykhuis and Shjon Podein all notched their first goals of the year in a three-goal third period. Hextall and Martin Brodeur dueled, with the former coming away victorious with 24 stops.

Despite the absence of Eric Lindros until Thanksgiving, the ride, which included a 17-game unbeaten string soon after 88′s reappearance, didn’t stop until an abrupt end in early June in Detroit.

800th win: December 10, 2000…Flyers 5, Islanders 2. Admit it, after seeing Lindros knocked out by Scott Stevens and that painful Game 7 loss to New Jersey after a 3-1 series lead disappeared the previous May, it all was ashes in our mouths that next season. Who really remembers anything that went on except for the Lindros trade saga, starring Angry Old Man Bob Clarke?

Apparently, another milestone was reached a little more than two weeks before Christmas, in Game One of the Bill Barber era. Barber, who took over for the emotionless (and ultimately fired) Craig Ramsay, was the beneficiary of two Keith Primeau tallies, a goal and assist from Kevin Stevens (!) and peppering former goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck with 40 shots.

Barber went on to win the Jack Adams Trophy at the end of the season, but two bitter first-round playoff losses wrote his ticket out of town.

900th win: March 6, 2006…Flyers 5, Canadiens 4 (SO). One of the compromises which led us away from the nightmare that was(n’t) the 2004-05 season, the shootout led to another milestone home victory.

Of course, the home team just had to blow a two-goal, third-period lead just to ratchet up the drama. Peter Forsberg’s goal and assist, along with two assists from Mike Knuble weren’t enough to decide the contest; that honor fell to the disaster that was Petr Nedved, who scored in the fourth round on Cristobal Huet.

Two months later, the Flyers were being booed off the ice after a blowout Game 6 loss to Buffalo.

999th win: January 20, 2011…Flyers 6, Senators 2. These two clubs revived their riot act to shake off the mid-Winter hockey blues. Going in opposite directions — the Flyers to the top of the NHL standings and the Senators headed to the basement of the Northeast Division — these combatants didn’t fail to produce some Old Time Hockey.

Mike Richards posted two goals and two assists, Danny Briere produced one and one, and Sergei Bobrovsky added 25 saves in the rout made possible by three goals in the final 20 minutes. In garbage time, both sides combined for five fights and four game misconducts, a regular misconduct and 126 total minutes in penalties.

It wasn’t nearly reminiscent of an NHL-record 419 PIMs between the teams on March 5, 2004, but a reasonably good imitation.

1000th win: ??? It would be nice not to have to wait until after the All-Star break to hit the four-digit plateau, but if Montreal once again places a hitch in the plans, there’s February 3 against Nashville, February 5 with Dallas and February 10 hosting Carolina looming ahead.