It was a year ago today that the Flyers won game 82 in dramatic fashion to propel themselves into the playoffs. Using the momentum from the win on the last day of the season, and benefitting from other outcomes in the postseason (Montreal beating Washington and Pittsburgh), the Flyers found themselves in the Stanley Cup Finals. Although they didn’t win it all, last year’s team was one of the most exciting Flyers’ teams to watch in recent memory.
Sitting at the bottom of the league in December, the Flyers looked as though they were going to miss the playoffs for the second time in four years. Two rough patches in the season, going 3-13-1 from November 20th to December 21st and going 2-6-2 from March 11th to March 27th, left the Flyers outside of the playoff picture approaching the end of the season.
With two games left in the regular season, the Flyers were fighting for the final playoff spot with the Rangers. Losing the first game in their season ending home-and-home with the Rangers, the Flyers found themselves in a win-and-in scenario against the Rangers on the last day of the season.
In front of a raucous home crowd, the game didn’t start out as the Flyers had planned. As we all know, Jody Shelley is one of the most skilled players in the league. Even the desperate defense of the Flyers in a must win game couldn’t keep Shelley off the scoresheet as he racked up his second goal of the season 3:27 into the game.
As the first period ended, the game remained 1-0 in favor of New York. Unfortunately for a fighting Flyers’ team, the score was still 1-0 after two periods.
Seizing the opportunity to boost his team to the postseason, Matt Carle pinched at the right time during a power play in the early stages of the third period to tie the game at one. As the rest of regulation and overtime went scoreless, the shootout awaited both playoff hungry teams.
The always clutch Danny Briere and the unconventional approach of Claude Giroux gave the Flyers all they needed to advance to the playoffs. Dispatching one divisional rival, one 0-3 comeback, and one 5-game series win over the most prolific team in NHL history and the Flyers were in the Finals for the first time since 1997.
Now its true the Flyers didn’t win the Stanley Cup last year, but for a team that barely made the playoffs at the end of the season to pull off as many miraculous results as the Flyers did is what the playoffs are all about. It’s not about the outcomes of the regular season, it’s about what you can do with the possible 28-game schedule presented.
This year, everybody related to the organization is worried about going into the playoffs without Chris Pronger and about how poor the Flyers have played over the last month. Being atop the Eastern Conference for a good chunk of the season and seeing one of the most well rounded teams across the league all season long has made us somewhat forget last year’s mentality of ‘just make it’.
Instead of appreciating the fact we still have home ice advantage for at least two rounds, many people are focused on how poor the team has played entering the playoffs. Those people should just utilize last year’s mentality. We’re here, and we’re a damn good team. Now, the Flyers have a couple days off to gather themselves for another playoff run. All the worries about the performance of this team will disappear on Thursday when the Flyers’ faithful remember this team is built for the playoffs.