The mid-1970’s Flyers enjoyed some tremendous moments in late April and early May, and today is no different with this moment in history being delivered by one of only five players to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP as part of the losing team.
That man was Reggie Leach, who lived up to his billing as “The Riverton Rifle” in 1976 with a franchise record 61 goals during the regular season. But Leach was far from done after the regular season ended, piling up 24 points —including 19 goals— in 16 games for the Flyers that postseason.
Averaging more than a goal per game is astounding in any scenario, but especially during the Stanley Cup playoffs no less. But Leach was able to accomplish the feat in part due to a personal goal barrage he unleashed on the Boston Bruins on May 6th of 1976 in game five of their Stanley Cup Semifinals series.
Making the feat all more impressive is that Leach was out late the previous night following a heated practice exchange with the coaching staff. Only after lobbying from captain Bobby Clarke and help from his teammates was Leach allowed to play by coach Fred Shero. The move proved to be a stroke of genius from the future Hall of Fame coach as Leach delivered the greatest single-game performance of his career.
Leach scored the Flyers’ first four goals of the night and added another in the third period to tie Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s single-game record while marking his ninth-straight game scoring,
breaking Richard’s record of eight-straight.
Though the goals would send the Flyers a third-straight Stanley Cup Finals with a chance to complete a three-peat, the Canadiens proved to be too much and dethroned the Flyers by sweeping them in four games.
Despite the loss, Leach scored four more goals in the losing cause and was awarded the Conny Smythe for his incredible scoring run through the playoffs. Leach was just the third ever winner of the award as part of the losing side, and only Ron Hextall (1987) and Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2003) have won it since without also hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Also on May 6th in franchise history...the Flyers grab a 3-1 series lead over the North Stars in the 1980 Stanley Cup Semifinals thanks to a 3-2 win in game four in Minnesota on the backs of the LCB line with Bill Barber scoring twice and Leach adding the third...they’d finish out the series in five games but go on to lose in the Cup Finals in six games to the Islanders...