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The Flyers’ most improbable moment of the decade is one we never saw coming

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You’ll never believe this, but the Flyers are really bad at shootouts. That’s what makes this moment so darn hard to fathom.

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

As the decade winds down we take a look back at some of the moments the Flyers enjoyed —and didn’t enjoy— in the 2010s.

The decade started with much promise as the Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in the 2009-10 season, falling admirably in six games to the Blackhawks.

With what was a young core group of homegrown prospects like Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Claude Giroux joining veteran stalwarts like Chris Pronger, the Flyers seemed poised to be a consistent Cup contender throughout the decade. But like Patrick Kane’s Cup-winning goal snuck by Michael Leighton, the decade would too slip by the Flyers.

But this isn’t to dwell on the decade that wasn’t, it’s to dwell on just how improbable that Cup run was that season. It was improbable for a myriad of reasons —a coaching change after 25 games, a player leaving literally almost everything on the ice, to overcoming a 3-0 series deficit to the Bruins in the playoffs, and more— one moment stands out above the rest: the shootout win in the regular season finale over the rival Rangers to qualify for the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Without Danny Briere and Claude Giroux’s goals, and Brian Boucher’s save on Olli Jokinen; the Flyers never have Daniel Carcillo’s overtime heroics, never have their historic 3-0 comeback against the Bruins (they were also down 3-0 in game four, by the way), never have “The Shift” from Richards against the Canadiens, and never have Kane streaking across the then-Wachovia Center ice celebrating Chicago’s first Stanley Cup in 47 seasons.

That’s a whole heck of a lot that —good and bad— activated by virtue of that shootout win over slam-dunk Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers that afternoon. And what is crazy is just how dang improbable it all was for one simple fact: the Flyers are statistically the worst shootout team in NHL history.

The Flyers are armed with the worst shootout win percentage in NHL history (.358%), and have just one more win in the skills competition than the Flames despite 26 more attempts, and six more than the Hurricanes despite 35 more attempts. Unsurprisingly, the Flyers have allowed opponents to score on more than 38% of their shootout shots while only the Bruins have a worst shooting percentage (25.6%) than the Flyers (27%).

In what has historically been an awful discipline for the Flyers, they were on the money that late afternoon in 2010 as they needed just three rounds to dispatch the Rangers and their all-everything netminder.

Lundqvist has tortured teams historically in the shootout (he’s got the most wins ever in it), and the Flyers in general to the tune of a 35-18-5 mark to go along with four shutouts in 60 career games. And while history wasn’t on the Flyers’ side in terms of winning that shootout, they did catch the only team to earn less points via the skills competition than them that season in the Rangers. Must have been fate as the Rangers rank as the NHL’s third-best shootout team since the tiebreaker has been in play per the NHL’s records page.

But on this day, Lundqvist was beaten by two pinpoint snipes from Briere (who would go on a historic scoring team in the subsequent playoffs) and Giroux, who would go on to lead the Flyers throughout the decade and finish among the top-five point producers in the 2010s.

At the other end, a man that helped usher in the previous decade with a remarkable rookie season was left standing at the end as Brian Boucher’s second stint with the Flyers would entertain nearly as much drama as his first. The 34-year-old, then a journeyman playing out his career, would deny Erik Christensen (owner of 10th-best shootout scoring percentage, 29 goals in 55 tries, and one of the first preeminent shootout snipers) as well as Jokinen (21 goals in 60 tries) to hand the Flyers a dramatic win to propel them to the playoffs in ridiculously improbable fashion.

Boucher punched his blocker through the air in triumph, soon to be mobbed by his teammates flowing over the bench as the crowd roars nearly blew the roof off the Wachovia Center. The Flyers’ improbable, bizarre, wonderful, and equally agonizing Cup run was set to begin...almost as improbably as it began —almost.


Stick tap to hockeyreference.com, NHL.com, and records.nhl.com for the tedious statistics in the above.