It was spring of 1982. E.T. was only weeks away from becoming one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, Ronald Reagan was in the White House and New Jersey had just received a hockey team. But let us rewind a few years for a second.
Houston Astros owner John McMullen had purchased the struggling Colorado Rockies, who in their six years in Colorado qualified for the playoffs once. This is where our story begins, not in New Jersey with the current adaptation of the team but with the Wilf Paiement- and Pat Kelly-led Colorado team. As the 1977-78 NHL season came to a close, Colorado was neck-and-neck with the 1970 expansion franchise known as the Vancouver Canucks. The Rockies would make the playoffs, only to be eliminated by a team that called Broad Street home: the Philadelphia Flyers.
Eventually the team, now known as the ‘Devils’, re-located to East Rutherford, New Jersey, a place they called home all the way up until 2007. The early years in the Flyers-Devils rivalry were not good years for the Devils, as the Flyers dominated them, posting a 7-0 record against the team in the 1983-84 campaign.
While Lou Lamoriello was just getting his feet wet as the General Manager of the Devils. On the other side of the Delaware, the Flyers were coming off a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers team. Flyers goalie (and current general manager) Ron Hextall was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy despite not being on the winning end of the ice.
Things were looking up in New Jersey as Lou had traded for Flyers goaltender Glenn Resch and had a team that featured key players such as Ken Daneyko, who would be a staple on the Devils blue line for the next 15 years. However, the situation in Philadelphia did not look as good, as the Flyers failed to make the playoffs in 1989-90. The Flyers were awarded the fourth overall selection in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, where they selected Mike Ricci … and we would rather not talk about who was selected next by Pittsburgh (Jaromir Jagr). Trevor Kidd was the top goalie prospect coming into this draft, but the Devils and Lou had other plans. While they were pegged to select at number 11 overall, they traded down with Calgary to the 20th draft position, where they selected a goalie by the name of Martin Brodeur. Yep, could this draft have went any worse for the Flyers?
Let us fast-forward here to the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals. The Flyers, led by Eric Lindros and newly acquired players John LeClair and Éric Desjardins had finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference while the Devils finished 5th, led by now-emerging superstar Marty Brodeur and a forward core of Stephane Richer, Neal Broten and Claude Lemieux. The Devils took the first two games of the series in dominant fashion winning 4-1 and 5-2 in Games 1 and 2 respectively. Both losses were Philadelphia’s first home losses of the Playoffs. Philadelphia trailed 2-1 late in Game 3, when Rod Brind’Amour tied the game with only 6:00 left on the clock. Eric Lindros would eventually score the overtime winner, and just like that we had a series. The Flyers would capture the next game by a final score of 4-2 despite the Devils outshooting them 34-19. Back to the Spectrum we went with the series tied at two games a piece. Philadelphia found themselves trailing in the 3rd period again, in Game 5. Kevin Dineen would score however to tie the game with only 3:13 left in the third period. 44.2 seconds remained on the clock, the game tied. Claude Lemieux picked up the puck and ripped a slap shot from the line … which found its way past Ron Hextall.
Even twenty years ago, the Flyers were creative in the ways they found to lose games. The Flyers were not able to pull out the win the following game, falling in Game 6 with a final score of 4-2. The Devils would go on to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
After missing the playoffs the following year the Devils became an Eastern Conference powerhouse. Philadelphia was doing just fine, finishing with the #1 seed in the 1999-00 season, the teams would meet again in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals. The Flyers were without Eric Lindros, who took a hit which resulted in a concussion against the Boston Bruins during a game in March. The team doctors did not properly diagnose the injury. Eric spoke out against the team and the medical staff, which resulted in General Manager Bobby Clarke stripping him of his captaincy.
Philadelphia was riding high without their captain, though, as they held a 3-1 series lead against the Devils. New Jersey would end up taking Game 5 by a final score of 4-1. ‘The Big E’ would return for the Flyers in Game 6, as he would go on to score the only Flyers goal in a 2-1 loss, the series went back to Philadelphia for Game 7. At 8:50 of the first period, Eric Lindros picked up the puck after a turnover at center ice, he dangled his way over the blue line, right into Scott Stevens’ path. Stevens laid a punishing (and legal, at the time) hit on Lindros, knocking him out cold in his tracks.
Eric would never play another game in a Flyers uniform, and after sitting out the entire 2000-01 season he was traded to the New York Rangers.
The 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals was our next battleground. The Devils fresh off their third Stanley Cup Championship finished one point behind the Flyers in the Atlantic Division. From the start of the 1993-94 season to the 2013-14 season, the Flyers or Devils won 15 of the 19 Atlantic Division titles. The Keith Primeau-led Flyers took Games 1 and 2 of the series both by a score of 3-2, Primeau scoring the game winning goal in game one and Mark Recchi scoring the game winner in game two. New Jersey would take Game 3 on home ice, but the Flyers, with 35 saves from goalie Robert Esche, would shut the Devils out in Game 4. The Flyers clinched the series at home in the newly-renamed Wachovia Center with a game winning goal from an unlikely goal scorer, defenseman Danny Markov, with only 5:23 remaining in the third period. Philadelphia would go on to lose in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the eventual Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
After squeaking into the 2010 playoffs by defeating the New York Rangers in the shootout in Game 82, the Flyers matched up against the number two seed Devils. Games 1 and 2 were split between the teams in New Jersey. The stage was set for Game 3 as the Flyers were looking to forget about an embarrassing loss to Pittsburgh at home in the playoffs the previous year. Regulation time was not enough for the teams however as the game went into overtime. With all the offensive firepower the Flyers had with Mike Richards, Daniel Briere and more they were a threat to score in overtime. So, naturally Dan Carcillo wins the game for the Flyers in overtime.
Philadelphia would go on to win Game 4 by a score of 4-1, and eventually take the series with a 3-0 Game 5 win, in which Ian Laperriere cemented himself in Philadelphia sports history by blocking a shot with his face to help preserve Brian Boucher’s shutout. The Flyers would end up going on a storybook run, coming back from a 3-0 series lead against Boston but just falling short in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. (Well, that is what the record book states, but if I remember correctly Game 6 and the rest of that series was cancelled ... oh well.)
The Devils were looking like a team on the decline as their reign over the Eastern Conference was coming to an end. The Flyers however were in the opposite position as they were a top team during the 2010-11 season.
After the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter trades and the signing of Jaromir Jagr, the Flyers were a new-look team going into the 2012 season. Philadelphia and New Jersey would once again match up in the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals, after the Flyers dismantled the Cup favorite Pittsburgh Penguins, in a series in which 56 goals were scored over the course of six games. The Flyers were the favorite to win this series as the Devils struggled to get past the Florida Panthers in first round. Game 1 was tied at three, and we needed extra playing time once again. Unfortunately Dan Carcillo was not the OT hero that night, as he had signed with the Chicago Blackhawks the year before. Mr. Playoffs, Danny Briere, took the spotlight as he gave Philadelphia the overtime winning goal.
Everything looked to be on the Flyers side, as they had dominated a heavily-favored Pittsburgh team and just taken Game 1 against New Jersey. While we’d like this to be the case, Game 1 would be the last game won by the Flyers in the 2011-12 season. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov fell apart, letting in four goals in three straight games, including one in which he fired a puck directly at Devils forward David Clarkson which bounced right back and into the net. The Devils would would go on to the Stanley Cup Finals where they would lose to the Los Angles Kings in six games.
2012 was the last time the two teams met in the playoffs, however with both teams in the middle of a re-tooling state it is very possible we see Flyers/Devils playoff hockey once again in the near future.
All-Time Series Statistics:
Flyers’ All-Time Record vs. Devils: 82-102-15
Post-Season Record: 16-14
Post-Season Series: 3-3
Statistics via flyershistory.com.