The season I fell in love with the Philadelphia Flyers

Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

For a young Philadelphia Flyers fan, the team’s 2010 run to the Stanley Cup Final was one for the ages.

Growing up, I was always a Philadelphia Flyers fan. Much like most residents of the greater Philadelphia area, I cheered for the four major sports team to play at the intersection of Broad and Pattison. Prior to 2010, I had some memories of the Flyers, but that season’s run engulfed me into the depths of fandom.

My first memory is Joffrey Lupul sending the Washington Capitals home in Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. That series helped spark optimism into the Flyers towards the end of the decade.

Entering the 2010 season, there was a lot of hope surrounding the Flyers. Veteran defenseman Chris Pronger joined a core headlined by 24-year-old captain Mike Richards. Joining Richards were the likes of Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, Daniel Briere and a young player by the name of Claude Giroux.

John Stevens was poised to lead the ship, but that plan didn’t last long when he was ousted in favor of Peter Laviolette. Stevens was the scapegoat for a slow start, but it’s not like things went into gear after Laviolette took over.

The 2009-10 Flyers were very inconsistent. They’d win three in a row, then progress to lose the next three. It was a frustrating season for sure, but one that kept fans on their toes as the Flyers remained in playoff contention.

It all came down to the final day of the season. The Flyers welcomed the New York Rangers to the then Wachovia Center with the winner advancing to the playoffs, while the loser would be eliminated from postseason contention.

The score was deadlocked at one following the conclusion of regulation and the game would enter a shootout. It seemed the Rangers had the edge with Henrik Lundqvist in net. On the other end, the Flyers had Brian Boucher.

It came down to Olli Jokinen who, as Flyers broadcaster Jim Jackson said, came “roaring on in.” Jokinen deked, and the save was made by Boucher. The veteran goaltender kicked his leg in the air and was mobbed by his teammates as the Flyers were heading to the playoffs.

It was playoff time for the “underdog” — sense a theme here Philly fans? — that snuck into the playoffs in the last game. They would open up with a trip up the turnpike to take on the New Jersey Devils. The Flyers seamlessly took care of the Devils four games to one in what was seen by many as an upset as the Flyers entered the playoffs as a seven seed. That series was highlighted by Briere’s overtime goal in Game 1.

Next up, the Boston Bruins. In the blink of an eye, it seemed the series was over. The Flyers fell down 3-0 to the Bruins and faced elimination on home ice in Game 4. As the game went to overtime after the Flyers blew an early lead, it seemed hope was slipping away.

That’s when the series hero Gagne made his first mark as he netted an overtime goal to cut Boston’s series lead to 3-1 and send the teams back to TD Garden. Philadelphia dominated in Game 5 and narrowly held on for a 2-1 win in Game 6.

At this point, it was hard not to fall in love with this Flyers team. They had battled back from 3-0 in the face of adversity. It seemed at this point that no matter what happened, the Flyers would be proud of the effort they put forward. For a team that wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs, it took a lot to get to this point.

They battled injuries, as Ian Laperriere took a puck to the face and Carter missed time with a foot injury. Both impact players were unable to contribute to the Boston series. To add, Boucher injured both of his knees in Game 5, which forced Michael Leighton into action.

Leighton’s heroics are a big reason why the series went to a seventh game in Boston. But the first period of Game 7 was not too kind to the Flyers netminder. Philadelphia quickly saw itself down in a 3-0 hole early in Game 7.

Laviolette called an early timeout and rather than pull Leighton, he instilled confidence in him by keeping the goalie in the game. The Flyers coach told his team in the timeout to just get one goal, and for Leighton to not let anything else in.

Those words were spoken into action. Much like the series went, the Flyers battled back from behind to tie the game at three. Then just past the midway point of the third period, Gagne struck again as he gave the Flyers their first lead of the night.

When the final horn sounded, I clearly remember tackling my younger brother in celebration. The joy felt by myself and the thousands of Flyers fans that packed into the Wachovia Center that night was second to none. The underdog story would continue.

Surprisingly, the Flyers were not underdogs in the Eastern Conference Finals. They had home-ice advantage as Philadelphia took on the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens. For the most part, the Flyers dominated the series, but it was not without some heroics by their captain.

Richards played perhaps one of the greatest shifts in Flyers history in that series. With the Flyers shorthanded, Richards put the team on his back, capping it off with his iconic goal as Jaroslav Halak found himself way out of the crease. The rest was history from there.

It was off to the Stanley Cup for the Flyers. They would take on the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that was about to win three Stanley Cups in five years. We all know how the series ended, but it doesn’t take away from how special that postseason run was.

Even though the Flyers struggled at points, there were still some exciting moments in that series. I think every Flyers fan will remember Giroux’s heroics in Game 3. While he was only in his second season, it was evident then that “G” would be a staple for the Flyers moving forward.

To this day, I still don’t know how Patrick Kane’s goal went in. Speaking to The Athletic, Leighton talked about that play and how if it was a year later, he would have made the save.

"“For me, the way I played that situation is something that I learned from,” Leighton said. “Actually, all goalies kind of started changing (their styles) around that time. A year later after that goal I would have already been down on my knee, covering low ice before he even shot the puck. I have no doubt that a year later I would have already been down to make that save, no problem.”"

It stung seeing the Blackhawks celebrate a Stanley Cup on the Flyers home ice. The only other championship loss I remember as a fan was the 2009 World Series. There is no emptier feeling than the emotional roller coaster of a postseason run, and it all crashing down when your team fails to reach the promise land.

Philadelphia has not been to the Stanley Cup since. It seemed like this year’s team had a good shot of making a run, but we will have to wait to see if they will get to play again this season. But with the ten-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final run coming up, it will always be a good time to recount some of our best memories as Flyers fans.

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