Philadelphia Flyers: Clutch Time

The Philadelphia Flyers had a chance today to leap frog the New York Rangers to take over second place in the Metropolitan Division. All they needed was a win in a Sunday matinee in Philadelphia. The only down side was their opponent…the Atlantic Division leading Boston Bruins. The Bruins have not only nailed down a playoff spot, they have clinched the Atlantic Division. Rumors were swirling that the Bruins would rest their big line guys against the always physical Flyers. Those rumors turned out to be untrue, as most rumors are. The Bruins dressed everyone that was healthy, and beat the Flyers in a shoot out, 4-3. With the point, the Flyers pulled even with the Rangers for the moment.

That the Flyers are even in the playoff race is a story in and of itself. After three straight losses to start the season, General Manager Paul Holmgren, on the hot seat himself, fired coach Peter Laviolette and replaced him with former Flyer Craig Berube. The Flyers continued losing, winning just one game in their first nine tries. The Flyers were in last place in the Metropolitan Division, Captain Claude Giroux was all but invisible, having not scored a goal…not one. Amazingly, in an interview in October, Giroux guaranteed the Flyers would make the playoffs.

“We’re not far off at all. How many points are we out, six? To think of the start that we had and we’re that close. We never thought about not making the playoffs. We’ve got to go game by game and we will make the playoffs.”

Pretty tough talk for the Captain of the team that was in last place. Giroux and his Flyers got mad. Giroux started scoring, and the Flyers started winning. The Flyers, just as their Captain had predicted, went game by game and started climbing up the standings. Then, Giroux got even angrier when he was left off the Canadian Olympic Team. From December 11 until the start of today’s game, no one in the NHL, not Evgeni Malkin, not Sidney Crosby, NO ONE has more points than Claude Giroux, who has notched 58 points in that span.

Things looked dire for the Flyers today, as they were losing 3-2 with less than a minute left in the game. Being down in the third period has not bothered the Flyers this year; they have won an amazing 11 times when they were losing going into the final 20 minutes. As the seconds ticked off, the Flyers, who have become the definition of clutch, buzzed around the net. Vinny Lecavalier scored at 19:35 to tie the game, sending the Flyers and Bruins to overtime. Neither team could score in the extra five minutes, and the game ended with the Bruins winning the skills competition that is the shoot out. While the Flyers did not win the game, they got mad, fought back, and got a point. The Philadelphia Flyers are back, and are not going anywhere except the playoffs.

[Image courtesy flyers.nhl.com]