Then and Now: Sami Kapanen

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In the middle of the 2002-2003 regular season, the Philadelphia Flyers shipped defenseman Bruno St. Jacques and winger Pavel Brendl to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a pair of players. Ryan Bast was one player Philly acquired in the deal, a defenseman who only played a pair of games in the NHL, both of which were with the Flyers. The other was Sami Kapanen, a veteran left winger in his eighth season in the NHL.

After several seasons with the Hartford Whalers’ organization, who became the Hurricanes in his third season with the club, Kapanen became a member of his second and final organization in the NHL when he joined the Flyers.

In his first game with the Flyers, Kapanen potted the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the visiting New York Rangers on February 8, 2003. It was the forward’s only game-winning goal for the Orange and Black during his first year here, as he registered four goals and nine assists in his first 28 regular-season games for Philadelphia.

As for the 2003 postseason, Kapanen played in all 13 of the Flyers’ playoff games, as the club defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals’ match-up before falling to the Ottawa Senators in six games the following round. Although he didn’t record any game-winners in the playoffs, Kapanen put home four goals, two of which came in Philly’s 4-1 Game 5 win against the Leafs. His other multi-point performance in the 2003 postseason was Game 1 against the Senators, where he had a goal and an assist in a Flyers’ 4-2 loss.

In 2003, Kapanen not only endured his second season as a Flyer, but he became the franchise owner of Kalevan Pallo, or more commonly known as KalPa, of the SM-liiga.

During the 2003-2004 regular season, Kapanen took part in 74 games for the Flyers and registered 12 goals along with 18 assists.

In the 2004 NHL playoffs, the Flyers beat the New Jersey Devils and the Maple Leafs in the first two rounds before painfully losing by one goal in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Finals’ matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Although he had three goals and seven assists, Kapanen’s most memorable moment from Philly’s 2004 run came after receiving a thunderous hit.

After blowing a 2-0 lead in Game 6 of the Eastern Semis in Toronto, the Orange and Black found themselves under critical pressure for the majority of the overtime period. In one of their brief possessions in the offensive zone, a Michal Handzus’ shot missed wide of Ed Belfour and wrapped around the boards to Kapanen, who was surging into the zone. With his head down focused on the puck, Kapanen was hit by Leafs’ pest Darcy Tucker with a check that is still stuck in most Flyers’ fans minds (go to 1:05 for the hit). A dazed and bumbling Kapanen managed to gain enough balance to reach Philly’s bench, which allowed Jeremy Roenick to step on to the ice and send the Flyers into the Eastern Conference Finals with a blast by Belfour.

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Not only did the 2004 NHL postseason feature Kapanen’s most remarkable moment as a Flyer, it was his highest point total for any of his four postseasons in a Flyers’ uniform.

During the 2004-2005 lockout season, Kapanen joined KalPa in the Mestis, Finland’s second-highest level of professional ice hockey.

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With Kimmo Timonen and Adam Hall along his side, Kapanen helped KalPa claim their second straight Mestis Championship. After they finished first in the 12-team league with 75 points, KalPa swept all three of their best-of-five playoff series on their way to their second consecutive Mestis title. As KalPa beat Kiekko-Vantaa in the Quarterfinals, TuTo in the Semifinals, and Vaasan Sport in the Finals, Kapanen produced five goals and three assists in nine games. Timonen earned the honor of being the playoffs’ MVP, as KalPa was promoted to the SM-liiga.

After the lockout, Kapanen returned to the Flyers’ roster to take part in the 2005-2006 campaign.

Although he played in only 58 games, his lowest total for any of the four full seasons he was in the Flyers’ organization, Kapanen posted his highest point total for any of his seasons while in a Flyers’ jersey, as he potted 12 goals and 22 helpers during the 2005-2006 regular season. He also had a pair of game-winners, both of which came in overtime in consecutive days, as he found the decisive goals in the Flyers’ 4-3 win on December 28, 2005 against the Atlanta Thrashers and Philly’s 4-3 win over the Canes the next day.

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The forward played in all six of Philly’s games during the 2006 postseason, as the Orange and Black fell to the Buffalo Sabres in a six-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals’ match-up. Kapanen went pointless with two PIMs and a minus-4 rating.

In the 2006-2007 season, Kapanen posted 11 goals and 14 assists in 77 games, as the Orange and Black failed to reach the postseason for the first time since the 1994 playoffs.

The winger had three notable performances during the Flyers’ lost season of 2006-2007, as he had a pair of two-goal games and one game-winner. After he potted a pair of goals in the Flyers’ 7-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks on November 15, 2006, he deposited the game-winner in the final minute of the second period in Philly’s 4-3 win over the Lightning on December 28. Less than two weeks later, Kapanen had his second two-goal game of the year, as he put two past Tim Thomas in a Flyers’ 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on January 6, 2007.

While Paul Holmgren brought in new players during the summer of 2007 to push the Flyers back into the postseason, Kapanen’s ice time dropped significantly for the 2007-2008 season, which resulted in a reduced point total. Dropping from 16:58 TOI/game during the 2006-2007 campaign, Kapanen averaged only 13:19 TOI/game over 74 regular season games in 2007-2008. As a result, he recorded his lowest goal, assist, and point total for any of his four full seasons with the Flyers, as he had five goals and three assists for eight points.

In the 2008 postseason, the Flyers made an unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Finals before bowing out to the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games. As the squad beat the Washington Capitals in seven games and the top-seeded Montreal Canadiens in five games, Kapanen put home a pair of goals in 16 appearances. After he missed Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Caps, Kapanen recorded a goal in Philly’s 6-3 Game 3 win and the second goal in the Flyers’ Game 7 3-2 overtime win in Washington.

After the 2008 playoffs, Kapanen decided to play for KalPa for the 2008-2009 season. As the team’s captain, the left winger led the team in goals and points, as he registered 21 goals and 45 points during the SM-liiga regular season.

In the 2009 postseason, Kapanen helped KalPa earn the bronze medal. After beating Hameenlinnan Pallokerho (HPK) 4-2 in the Quarterfinals, KalPa fell to JYP in a five-game Semifinals’ match-up. In the bronze medal game, KalPa beat the Espoo Blues by a score of 2-1.

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In addition to his four goals and five assists in 12 postseason games during the 2009 run, Kapanen earned several awards. After earning the honor of being named player of the month for October of 2008, Kapanen made the SM-liiga All-Star team and was named the league’s Gentleman of the Year.

Kapanen also took part in a pair of international hockey tournaments in 2009, as he represented Finland in both the IIHF World Championship and the Euro Hockey Tour. The forward had a goal and an assist in six games during the EHT, as Finland was the runner-up to Russia. He also had two goals and three assists in seven games as the captain of Finland’s IIHF WC club, a squad that finished fifth out of the 16 teams to take part in the tournament.

For the 2009-2010 season, it was much of the same for Kapanen, as he helped KalPa to another bronze medal game and represented Finland at both the IIHF World Championship and Euro Hockey Tour.

The forward was once again one of the highest point producers on KalPa’s roster, as he led the team in assists and points during the regular season with 31 helpers and 46 points to be named to his second straight SM-liiga All-Star team appearance. As for the 2010 postseason, Kapanen led his team with 13 points over the team’s 13-game run, which concluded in a 4-0 bronze medal game loss to JYP. After a 4-2 series’ win over Tappara in the Quarterfinals, KalPa fell to HPK in the Semifinals after six games.

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In international play, Kapanen one goal and one assist in a pair of games for Finland in the Euro Hockey Tour, as they won the EHT for the first time since 2004. In the 2010 IIHF World Championship, Kapanen had a goal and an assist in seven games as captain of Finland, who finished sixth in the 16-team field.

After taking the entire 2010-2011 season off, Kapanen decided to come back and play for KalPa on a two-year contract. He didn’t play for Finland in either the EHT or IIHF WC, as he took part in 35 games for KalPa recording 13 goals and 12 assists as an alternate captain.

In the 2012 SM-liiga postseason, KalPa made history. Unfortunately for them, they were on the wrong side of a SM-liiga first. After they went up 3-0 on the Espoo Blues, they managed to lose four straight games to allow the Blues to become the first team in SM-liiga history to overcome a 0-3 series deficit to win a series. Kapanen only took part in two games during the infamous series and was able to put home a goal.

For the 2012-2013 season, the 39-year-old is expected to return to KalPa as an alternate captain.