Throughout the season, we’ll be taking a walk down memory lane whenever the Flyers open their season series against an opponent. We’ll be remembering a game, goal, or highlight Philly created while playing against that particular team. It won’t always be the most notable memory the Orange and Black have against that team, but it’ll be something that Flyers’ fans will want to remember.
The 2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers hold a special place in all of our hearts. From the preseason hype surrounding the team when Chris Pronger was acquired, to the firing of John Stevens and hiring of Peter Laviolette, and the making the playoffs on the final day of the regular season via a shootout vs. the New York Rangers. The regular season isn’t where they became special for all of us though, it was the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Luckily, the Flyers won the tiebreaker over the Montreal Canadiens for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, which meant a date with the division-rival Devils in round one. This New Jersey team had acquired superstar Ilya Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers at the trade deadline, and appeared prime for a deep playoff run.
Kovalchuk was point per game in his 27 games with New Jersey, Zach Parise was just 25 years old and already point per game, Travis Zajac was only 24 and the likes of Jamie Langenbrunner and Patrik Elias were still getting it done. Martin Brodeur was also still consistently above a .910 save percentage, giving the Atlantic Division champs a solid lineup heading into the postseason.
Meanwhile, a last day playoff clinch combined with a late season five game losing streak had the Flyers just thankful to be here. It was an up and down regular season, starting strong but faltering quick which lead to the firing of Stevens, leaving a team that struggled for a bit under Laviolette before finding their footing. Matters weren’t helped when another offseason pickup in goaltender Ray Emery went down with a hip injury for the rest of the season, and Brian Boucher having to miss time.
Michael Leighton was a waiver pickup from the Carolina Hurricanes who miraculously stabilized the Flyers goaltending before going down himself to injury, handing the reins back over to Boucher to start the playoffs.
The Flyers would win game one in New Jersey behind goals from Pronger and team captain Mike Richards, and a 23 save night from Boucher. They’d lose game two 5-3 before heading home for game three, where the unlikeliest of heroes emerged.
New Jersey got off to an early lead with Brian Rolston teeing up a seeing-eye point shot that found its way past Boucher, but Claude Giroux would answer right back. Kimmo Timonen made a perfect slap pass to the side of the net where Giroux tapped it home to tie the game at one.
Game three would remain tied until the early portions of the second period, where the patented relentless Laviolette forecheck wreaked havoc. Simon Gagne laid a perfect hit on Mark Fraser behind the net, Daniel Carcillo followed up to retrieve the puck, and found a wide open Richards in front of the net to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead.
Late in the second however, Rolston would strike again on another point shot that had eyes. Boucher and Brodeur would keep the score even throughout regulation sending the game to overtime, where we key in on one Dan Carcillo. Acquired in the 2008-09 season for fan favorite Scottie Upshall, Carcillo had just four assists in 20 games down the stretch for that Flyers team that would lose to the eventual champion Penguins in round one. They didn’t just lose though, they were up 3-0 in game six about to force game seven on the other side of the state. Then this happened:
Carcillo may have won the fight, but it gave the Penguins a jolt they needed to get back in the game. They not only got back in the game, they scored five unanswered goals to take game six and the series. So up until this night, April 18, 2010, that fight was what Carcillo would be remembered for as a Philadelphia Flyer. With a power play coming to an end, Richards won a puck battle behind the net, tried to beat Brodeur who had the side ... well ... one side of the net covered. The puck popped free and Carcillo sent the Wachovia Center into a frenzy.
For someone like me who really only started watching hockey full-time during this incredible season, this was one of my favorite moments. The expression on Carcillo’s face after he scores was pure elation, exhilaration, and a whole hell of a lot of surprise. No one would have expected Carcillo to score this goal and that’s what made it great, and what made that entire team great. Even though he would only remain a Flyer for one more season after this incredible run, he will always be remembered in Philadelphia for this goal vs. the Devils.