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Return Flight: Leino sends Flyers to the playoffs

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Ville Bueno, in my opinion.

Dallas Stars v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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 end of the 2010-11 season was one of the most important times in the history of the Philadelphia Flyers. After a miracle run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, the Orange and Black dominated the league for three-quarters of the following regular season before fizzling out down the stretch. Limping into the postseason combined with questionable goaltending decisions by then head coach Peter Laviolette led to an embarrassing playoff departure in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Former general manager Paul Holmgren and owner Ed Snider decided a change in net was needed, which made the 2011 offseason pretty noteworthy. Philadelphia punched their ticket to a unique playoff experience thanks to a skills competition in Texas.

After they grabbed five of the first six possible points to start the 2010-11 season, the Philadelphia Flyers found themselves at 12-4-2 halfway through December. Blowout wins against the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, and Ottawa Senators concluded a 10-game point streak for Philly that featured nine wins. Following a pair of regulation losses, the second of which was the infamous 8-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Orange and Black won 10 of their next 14 games with three of the four losses coming in the shootout to find themselves at 22-7-5 on December 18th, 2010. Thanks to an Andrej Meszaros blast, the Flyers beat the New York Islanders in overtime in late February to improve to 40-15-6 before the season started to unravel. Philadelphia proceeded to drop their next four games and six of nine (nice?) to sit at 43-19-8 when they traveled to Dallas to take on the Stars.

Towards the end of a first period where they finished with a 9-4 lead in the shot count, the Flyers were able to grab a lead in the final two minutes of the frame. Jeff Carter redirected a Meszaros’ clapper past Kari Lehtonen for his 33rd of the season with 1:21 left in the first period. Mike Richards made it 2-0 just 1:17 into the second period, as he went to the net after winning a faceoff back to former and future Flyer Matt Carle and put home a rebound caused by another shot from Meszaros.

Somewhat representative of the season as a whole, Philly managed to blow this multi-goal lead. After Alex Goligoski threw one through traffic and past Sergei Bobrovsky to cut the deficit to one later in the second period, Stephane Robidas potted his fifth of the 2010-11 season late in the third period after he danced through Flyers in both the neutral zone and offensive zone. Although they were assaulted for 26 overall shot attempts in the third period and only managed to produce nine of their own, the Flyers escaped regulation in a tie.

Overtime didn’t look like it’d be any better for the Flyers, as they had to kill off the final 23 seconds of a Kimmo Timonen delay of game call that took place late in the third period. However, Philadelphia not only killed the remainder of the Stars’ power play, but managed to produce more shot attempts than Dallas in an ultimately pointless overtime. Claude Giroux provided the first successful shootout attempt in the second round of the skills competition after the trio Jamie Benn, Danny Briere, and Brad Richards failed to convert before him. Mike Ribeiro converted on the very next attempt to level the shootout at one, which is where it stayed for the next two rounds. In round six of the shootout, Brandon Segal failed to beat Bobrovsky before Ville Leino avoided a lunging Lehtonen and put the Flyers in the postseason with a backhanded tally. With their 44th win helping them to 96 points in their 71st game of the season, the Flyers clinched a playoff berth for their fourth consecutive season.

The Flyers closed the season by losing eight of their final 11 games to grab the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 47-23-12. Despite Laviolette’s goaltending carousel and trailing 3-2 in the series, Philly managed to beat the Buffalo Sabres in seven games in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Unfortunately, the Flyers were swiftly swept by the soon-to-be champions in the Boston Bruins in the following round. What followed was a pretty active offseason that resulted in a new core for the team that is still at the center of the franchise today.

*All stats via Hockey Reference and NHL.com

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