May 25, 2010, 5:28 PM EDT
Certain games, goals, shots and hits stand out during the course of a
season as turning points, times when the season’s outcome can be
defined. Perhaps it’s a time when the team overcomes an injury to a
major player or how a backup goaltender stepped up and gave his team
For the Philadelphia Flyers, there was no bigger
moment that a shootout goal in the final game of the season.
Flyers had to overcome an incredible amount of diversity, including a
terrible run in the midst of the season that threatened to wreck any
postseason hopes the Flyers carried with them into the season. They went
through an incredible amount of goaltenders, eventually turning to
Michael Leighton to rest their postseason hopes upon; of course, he was
then lost for six weeks to an ankle injury.
Just 3-7-1 over their
last 11 games headed into the final showdown of the season against the
New York Rangers, the Flyers were in desperation mode. The game before,
the Flyers had blown a chance to clinch a spot in the playoffs with a
loss to the Rangers, thus forcing a “win-and-you’re-in” scenario in the
final game of the season. Just like the season itself, the Flyers made
things interesting in a closely fought game that of course had to head
It was Claude Giroux who would score the
difference-maker in the shootout, as it seemed the only Rangers player
interested in playing in the postseason was Henrik Lundqvist. It was in
that game that the Flyers buckled down, simplified the game and started
on the path that would spell incredible postseason success in the weeks
Philadelphia is not a team that has just skated through the
postseason. They’ve won two series in just five games, but became just
the third team in NHL history to overcome a 0-3 deficit in a series to
eventually win. That they did so in Game 7 by overcoming a three-goal
deficit as well is a perfect example of just how determined this team
has been. They are still without their best scorer in Jeff Carter, was
able to take out the New Jersey Devils with Simon Gagne and for most of
the postseason have been without Ian Laperriere.
Most amazing of
all is how in the same game in which Michael Leighton finally makes his
return from his ankle injury, Brian Boucher is lost for the playoffs
with a devastating knee injury.
I don’t really know if there is
such a thing a team of ‘destiny’, but the Flyers have certainly got to
be the luckiest NHL team I’ve ever seen.
Yet they wouldn’t have
gotten to this point if it wasn’t for something that most of us hate;
the NHL shootout. If we had our way, then the Flyers and Rangers would
have kept playing until an actual goal was scored.
By entering the
playoffs on the merits of a shootout goal, many quickly dismissed the
Flyers as postseason threats. Boy, were we wrong.
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