As SB Nation’s Rivalry Weeks comes to a close let’s talk about a club that has, on at least one occasion, caused the Philadelphia Flyers immense pain in the Tampa Bay Lightning. From annoying head coaches to ending one of the franchise’s best bids at a third Stanley Cup here are the reasons why you should hate the Bolts.
The 2004 Eastern Conference Finals still sting today. All the horrible flashbacks to Martin St. Louis flying around everyone else on the ice on ESPN and ABC broadcasts in a frustrating series that was always just out of the Flyers’ grasp. It felt like every time the Lightning threw a punch the Flyers answered the call, but it wasn’t enough to take down John Tortorella’s squad.
The 2003-04 Flyers were pretty loaded and could have taken the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Final, but a one-goal loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals handed Tampa Bay that chance. If that wasn’t a big enough kick to the goods former Flyer Ruslan Fedotenko had a game-high six goals in the series including the opening goal in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 Game 7 decision. In what seems to be the story most times the Flyers are deep in a playoff run, the goaltending fell apart when the team needed it most. Robert Esche posted an .897 save percentage and let in some absolute stinkers throughout the series.
The loss was demoralizing at the time and thinking about the opportunity missed in 2004 isn’t any easier to deal with today. The 2003-04 season was the last season of the bigger, slower version of the NHL that produced some deep playoff runs from the Flyers. Thanks to the season-long lockout in 2004-05 which led to a salary cap and a transition to a quicker game, the Orange and Black have grappled with piecing together a Stanley Cup contender since. They reached the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals and the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, but both postseason runs surpassed almost everyone’s expectations and came with the Flyers being lower seeds in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. With the way the Flyers looked like possible contenders before the season paused maybe they could return the favor in this year’s Eastern Conference Finals.
The man behind the bench for the Lightning in 2004 was none other than John Tortorella. You know, the former Vancouver Canucks’ head coach who sometimes does the lord’s work. The 2004 series may have already been enough for you to hate Tortorella, but if it’s not the fact he coached the New York Rangers for years and is now trying to make another divisional rival in the Columbus Blue Jackets a success story in back-to-back seasons should do it. It’s also pretty annoying Tortorella doesn’t get the treatment Alain Vigneault was getting last summer of being labeled a ‘head coach who couldn’t win with elite goaltending.’ AV took both the Vancouver Canucks with Roberto Luongo and the New York Rangers with Henrik Lundqvist to the Stanley Cup Final while Tortorella essentially nudged Luongo out of British Columbia and won a grand total of three playoff series with Lundqvist in net (Vigneault won six playoff series with New York in the same number of seasons as Rangers’ head coach).
The 1-3-1 game
The trap isn’t exactly conducive to winning hockey games, but Guy Boucher managed to make it work in two different seasons. Before he took the 2016-17 Ottawa Senators to within a goal of the Stanley Cup Final Boucher started his NHL coaching career in 2010-11 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who he also took to within one goal of a Stanley Cup Final. In November of the following season the Flyers visited the Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and had something to say about Boucher’s 1-3-1 system.
Peter Laviolette’s group provided a bunch of those confrontational non-breakouts that night and they even utilized it after Scott Hartnell gave them a lead on the power play halfway through the game. Unfortunately Marc-Andre Bergeron tied the game on the man advantage in the third period before Brett Connolly put home a rebound created from a Dominic Moore attempt off the rush in overtime.
The loss was frustrating because not only did the Flyers lose a point in the standings but they also highlighted why Boucher’s system was bad for the game. Philly spent part of the game intentionally not initiating offense, but they still only mustered 15 shots on net in that tilt making it one of 28 games in Flyers’ history with 15 shots on net or less with only four instances happening since that loss in 2011.
I’ll never understand how Vincent Lecavalier had a 20-goal season with this team. He was one of the biggest, slowest forwards the Flyers have had in years and weighed down his linemates for a few seasons in Philly. It’s not the Lightning’s fault Paul Holmgren signed a 33-year-old Lecavalier to a five-year deal with a cap hit of $4.5 million a season, but why’d they have to cut him? I know, because he was pretty bad at hockey by that point, but why The Lightning? Those are years of my life I’ll never get back because Lecavalier came to play for a head coach the Flyers fired three games into the 2013-14 season.
Stop giving Philly bad players
Lecavalier wasn’t the only player who wasted our time coming over from Tampa Bay. Chris Gratton sucked. Pavel Kubina sucked. Valtteri Filppula sucked. Matt Walker sucked. Radko Gudas sucked. Again I guess the blame is more on the Flyers for taking these players, but I’m still going to irrationally blame it on the Bolts. What makes it even worse is the Orange and Black gave up a fair amount to get some of these bums. Kubina cost Jon Kalinski and a pair of picks for just 22 games, Walker cost Philly Simon Gagne, and Gudas cost the Flyers their 2018 playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Over the years Philly has had some players most of the fan base can’t stand and a handful of them came from the Lightning. The Flyers did give Tampa Bay Steve Downie and Steve Eminger though so maybe these teams are just good at duping each other in deals.
*Stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference