Over the years that Flyers have had many quality goalies that have put up big numbers. And I am amazed at the speed in which Bob moves and recovers. In the 70s we were blessed to have one of the best goalies in the game, ever. Bernie delivered 2 Stanley Cups. But quite frankly since then it is not like we have had a bunch of bums in the net. Let’s take a look at some of the goalies over the years.
Here I will look at the play of the goalies in Philly over the years. In 1979-80, the Flyers went with a pair of goalies one older veteran and one rookie. This tandem helped produce the best run ever by a professional sports team, 35 straight games without a defeat. 25-0-10. I still remember this streak as a teenager. It was said during training camp that the Flyers did not have a number 1 goalie and the two would simply alternate starts. So Game 1 of the regular season sees Pete Peeters start and the Flyers win. Game 2 of the season they switched to Phil Myre and lost. That was in October. The Flyers did not lose again until January. They were hands down the best team in the sport during that season and their goaltending was average. They made it to the Stanley Cup finals again, after 3 straight seasons 74-76, they were back on top. They were beaten in OT of Game 6 on 2 famous officiating screw ups. The Islanders directed a puck into the net with a high stick to take the lead. Philly tied it and took the lead. Then the infamous Leon Stickle offsides call happened. A player that was at least 8 feet offside took a pass and shot into the net as the goalie relaxed because he was offside. Wrong they decided it was good and the Islanders went on to win the cup in OT of that game.
The Flyers drafted a young goalie out of Sweden (one that Baker beat to tie Sweden in the 80 Olympics) and groomed him. He started and quickly became the best goalie in the league. He won the Vezina trophy an carried a badly wounded Flyers team into the Finals again in 1985. This time they ran into the Oilers of Gretzky and were beaten.
We all know the sad story about Pelle. However the Flyers started 1986-7 with a goalie controversy again. A young goalie had emerged and he was different. He was big, physical, and could really skate and shoot the puck, like nobody had ever done before. Mike Keenan rode Ron Hextall during that season all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals again against Edmonton. This kid was amazing. He took penalties, he got into fights, he even scored goals by himself. The Flyers ruined the Oilers plan for a quick defeat and parade by stealing Game 5 and 6 to extend the Oilers to Game 7. It was not until the 3rd period that the Oilers got the upper hand and took the Cup away.
The Lean Years
After that run the Flyers began to flounder and had a parade of goalies through the system. Hextall was part of the trade made to bring Eric Lindros to Philadelphia. Hexy then was returned to Philly in another deal and with Garth Snow (and his HUGE shoulder pads), helped the Flyers be the best team in the league and return to the Finals again after a long drought. In 1997 the opponent was the Red Wings and the Flyers were, on paper, the best team. Lindros, LeClair, Brind`Amour, Hawerchuck, Desjardins, etc. They had crushed everyone they played and Detroit simply outplayed and outcoached the Flyers to win the Cup easily. This was crushing. The team basically was outcoached and never did recover.
After the loss, the goalies were blamed and began a period of chasing goalies through free agency. They decided on Vanbiesbrouck and he put up great numbers in the Flyers net. Don’t believe me, look up his numbers in Philly, they are simply amazing. He lost a playoff series in 6 games in which he gave up a total of 9 goals. However since the team was not scoring and the timing of the goals were questioned, Beezer was considered a bust. Beezer also took a lot of heat because Clarke signed him over Curtis Joseph.
Next was the first run of Brian Boucher. This backup took over late in the season and ran the Flyers to a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals versus the mighty Devils. Then the team just collapsed in front of Boosh as he continued to play great. But the Devils came all the back and after the elbow to the head of Lindros in Game 7, the Flyers had nothing left.
Next up in the cycle was Roman Checkmanek. He replaced Boosh and again he put up some of the best numbers this side of Bernie Parent. But this guy was WEIRD! He would head pucks away with his mask like a soccer player. He put up lifetime number in Philly of a GAA of 1.96 over 3 seasons and 2.33 in the playoffs over those 3 years. However, since unlike Beezer, he called out the forwards that were not trying in the last game blowout to Buffalo, he was sent packing. Sprinkled in a couple of times, Sean Burke was added and was solid but not spectacular. He was again treated to a blowout final game as was Checkmanek. Also we cannot forget the Jeff Hacket signing!
The Round Robin Format
The Flyers of this millennium have also used some career backups to fill the net. Guys like Robert Esche, Marty Biron, and Antero Nittymaki. These guys were all NHL quality but not glamour. But nothing compares with the goalies used last season. We all know the story of Ray Emery, Brian Boucher (again), Michael Leighton, John Graham, Jonus Backlund, Brian Boucher, Michael Lieghton season that took us to Game 6 of the Finals again!
Finally Another Stud?
This brings me to Sergei Bobrofsky and all I can say is FINALLY! The Flyers finally have a goalie that appears capable of being one of the elite goalies – notice I said appears. It is only a month into the season, but they are approaching the ¼ point of the year, and he is competitive, big, fast, and starting to shoot the puck around too. His numbers are great and he has other players talking about the speed in which he moves. That is good to be in the other players heads. A note to Peter Laviolette, do not overplay him now. Sprinkle in games for Boosh and Leighton to keep “Bob” fresh.
The Flyers have almost always (except the Tommy Soderstrom/Dominc Roussel years) had good goaltending. Since the Cups of the 70s the Flyers legitimately could have won in ‘80 with Pete Peeters, ‘85 with Lindberg, ‘87 with Hextall, ‘97 with Hextall/Snow, 2000 with Boucher, and 2010 with Boucher/Leighton. My point here is that goaltending is always the first thing people talk about when the Flyers are involved, but it really has not been the main factor for the lack of championships.
Good Night and Good Hockey!
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