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Return Flight: Coburn scores from the neutral zone

Not one of Niklas Backstrom’s finer moments.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Braydon Coburn is a defenseman who probably got a lot more shit in Philadelphia than he deserved. He’s an average to above-average mobile blue liner that didn’t provide many flashy plays, goals, or physicality in his 576 games over 9 seasons in the Orange and Black. He did have some notable goals and a few memorable fights, but for the most part Coburn received more than his fair share of criticism for not being Chris Pronger or for being a top-four defenseman on some horrible Flyers’ defenses after Pronger.

One of Coburn’s more noteworthy plays came when he scored one of his 37 regular-season goals as a Flyer in a game against the Minnesota Wild, a team the d-man may not have the fondest memories of playing against as highlighted by the video above. It wasn’t a pretty play or a goal that came in the dying seconds, but it was where Coburn took the shot that makes this particular tally pretty memorable.

After a 4-1 loss at home to the Dallas Stars on December 1st, the Flyers traveled to Minnesota four days later with a record of 14-9-2 to take on the 14-10-2 Wild, who entered the tilt on a four-game winning streak. The 2007-08 Wild were led by Marian Gaborik, who finished the season with 42 goals and 83 points, and Brian Rolston, who finished with 31 goals and 59 points. Along with the team’s only two 20-goal scorers, Pierre-Marc Bouchard produced 63 points and Pavol Demitra had 54 points to give Minnesota four players who finished the campaign with over 50 points. Brent Burns was part of a defense that featured three former Flyers in Kim Johnsson, Nick Schultz, and Kurtis Foster to play in front of Niklas Backstrom, who posted a .920 save percentage and four shutouts in 58 games.

The game didn’t start off on the best note for the Orange and Black, as a Danny Briere rough and Mike Richards slash put Philly down two men 1:26 into the contest. Luckily, the visitors managed to keep the Wild from scoring during the 5-on-3 advantage that lasted 1:09. The game’s first goal came 1:18 after the teams returned to even strength thanks to Scottie Upshall finding a way to push the puck through absolute chaos in Backstrom’s crease. A little less than five minutes later, Upshall shoveled a pass from the corner to Denis Tolpeko on the side wall, who fired a pass to a wide open Jeff Carter in front. With a nice forehand-backhand move Carter beat Backstrom to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead and to give Tolpeko A TWO-ASSIST PERIOD (despite scoring a total of six points in 25 games with Philly, somehow this wasn’t Tolpeko’s only multi-point game).

This is where the score stood until early in the second period. With Scott Hartnell in the box for interference, Rolston rifled a shot from the point that Demitra redirected past Antero Niittymaki to make it a one-goal game just 55 second into the second period. Despite the fact they provided five high-danger chances in all situations to the Flyers’ two in the second period, the Wild still found themselves down by a goal after 40 minutes.

Then, with the teams skating four-on-four due to a Briere trip and Dominic Moore dive, Coburn provided an insurance goal for Philadelphia with the team’s first shot on goal of the third period. After Gaborik turned a takeaway in the defensive zone into a rush opportunity for the Wild, Randy Jones jumped on a loose puck in the Flyers’ d zone and moved it forward to Coburn in the neutral zone. Coburn skated from along the boards at the red line to a few feet outside Minnesota’s blue line and, somehow, put a shot on net that eluded Backstrom for his first goal of the season. The blue liner’s dinger from the middle third of the ice finalized the score with 15:59 left in regulation.

The Flyers went on to reach the 2008 postseason, where they knocked off the Washington Capitals in seven games and the Montreal Canadiens in five games before they fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a five-game Eastern Conference Final. Coburn had six helpers and averaged 22:25 of ice time per game in 14 contests before he took a Hal Gill shot to the face early in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final and missed the Flyers’ last three games.

*Stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com

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