Here’s a prediction:
Game 7 between the Flyers and Islanders tonight will be one of the best Game 7s in Flyers history.
On the surface, that might seem bold, after all it’s GAME 7! And we all know Game 7s are epic, drama-filled, action-packed, nail-biting, heart-pounding, edge of your seat, can’t-miss-a-second-of-the-action entertainment.
Or so we’ve been led to believe.
In actuality, my prediction has a better than 50/50 chance of being right.
If the Flyers win, it likely cracks the top 10. If it’s a close game and they win, it likely cracks the top five. Even if they lose, and it’s a really good game, we’re probably talking in the No. 6-8 range.
That’s because Game 7s and the Flyers don’t have all that great a history together.
Sure, they’ve had 16 game 7s in their 53-year history. And of those 16, they’ve won nine, so, they’ve come out on the plus side more often than not.
But you know how many of those games were truly great? Maybe five – and the Flyers didn’t win all of them.
Seriously, Game 7 for the Flyers has often been a disappointment in the drama department. The hype has outweighed the result in most instances.
As proof, here’s the previous 16 Game 7s ranked in reverse order, for your perusal. While I stand by this ranking, I did do this rather quickly without too much thought basing it mostly on how I felt about the game at the time it occurred (I was alive for 15 of the 16 and I remember watching 12 of the 16), so take it easy on me of you disagree with the rankings.
16. Quarterfinals – St. Louis Blues 3, Philadelphia Flyers 1 – 04/18/68
This was before I was alive, so I have no recollection of the game. I do know it was the Flyers first season in the league and they won the Western Division with a losing record (the Division was made up entirely of the six expansion teams with the Original Six in the opposing division). This setup was so ill-conceived. It was just a matter of letting the four best, sub-.500 expansion teams play each other with the survivor being served on a plate to the winner of the Original Six for the Stanley Cup Final.
Much like the current series, the Flyers were down 3-1 and had some real dramatics in Game 6. Andre Lacroix tied the game with just 15 seconds to play in regulation and then Don Blackburn won it with a goal in double overtime, silencing the St. Louis crowd. This was the game where Bernie Parent set the franchise record for saves in a game with 63 (Carter Hart’s 49 against the Isles was fifth-most in Flyers history).
Game 7 shifted back to Philadelphia, but the Flyers were only able to muster one power play goal against legendary goalie Glen Hall who made 26 saves to win for the Blues. Larry Keenan scored the game-winner for St. Louis in the second period. Red Berenson iced the game with a goal in the final minute. The Blues coach? Scotty Bowman.
15. Quarterfinals – Calgary Flames 4, Philadelphia Flyers 1 – 04/26/81
I loved this era of hockey. Your division nor conference mattered. The league took the best 16 teams and ranked them. One played 16, two played 15, etc. regardless of conference. That’s how the year before the Flyers and Islanders played in the Stanley Cup Final.
So, here were the Flyers playing the relatively new Calgary Flames (who moved from Atlanta). The Flyers were a heavy favorite, but after Rick St. Croix shutout the Flames in Game 1 with a 35-save effort, the pesky squad from Calgary beat the Flyers three straight to take a 3-1 series lead.
The Flyers answered by crushing the Flames in Game 5, scoring nine goals at the Spectrum, and then won a tight 3-2 game in Game 6 at the old Stampede Corral in Calgary, paced by a pair of goals by Ken “the Rat” Linseman.
Coming home for Game 7 in front of a raucous Spectrum Crowd, it was a forgone conclusion that the Flyers had woken up and would blitz the Flames, setting up a semifinals series with the Cinderella Minnesota North Stars and likely a rematch in the Cup final with the Islanders.
Unfortunately, the Flames had other plans.
Calgary took advantage of the Flyers lack of discipline and scored three power play goals to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Bill Barber, who was on fire in the playoffs, scored his 11th goal in 12 playoff games to get the Flyers within two, but Bob MacMillan broke Flyers fans hearts with a goal six minutes into the third period, and the Flyers were upset.
If you want to relive this series through the eyes of a die hard Calgary Flames fan with his white board and stickers, well, here you go:
14. Eastern Conference Quarterfinals – New York Rangers 2, Philadelphia Flyers 1 – 04/30/14
You know what I remember from this series? The Flyers just weren’t good enough. That’s what I remember. It was a bit back-and forth. Steve Mason replaced Ray Emery in Game 4 of the series and once he did, he was playing really well in goal but the Flyers struggled to score. They netted 16 goals in seven games, which included a five-goal outburst in Game 6 led by a Wayne Simmonds hat trick to force a Game 7.
If the Flyers would have gone to Mason at the start of the series, maybe they have a chance to win one of the odd numbered games they lost (the teams alternated wins in this series.
Game 7 was at Madison Square Garden. After a scoreless first period, Dan Carcillo and Benoit Pouliot gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the second period. From there, Alain Vigneault’s Rangers put the clamps on and although the Flyers were able to get one back from Jason Akeson:
It wouldn’t be enough as Henrik Lundqvist simply was too good.
This game was actually the best of this series, but the series was damn frustrating. Watch the whole 11-minute video above and see how good Mason was. Shame.
13. Quarterfinals – Philadelphia Flyers 7, Toronto Maple Leafs 3 – 04/25/76
The Flyers were the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. They had beaten the Soviet Red Army Team. The Broad Street Bullies were easily the most popular hockey team in the world – and of course the team with the biggest target on their backs.
So, it’s no surprise that the upstart Leafs were gunning to be the team to take down the champs.
However, this series was oddly, not close. The home team won every game. And with the exception of Games 3 and 4, both one-goal victories by the Buds, the games were blowouts. The winning team scored at least four goals in six of the seven games. The Flyers crushed the Leafs 7-1 one night, then lost 8-5 two nights later.
So, Game 7 rolls around at the Spectrum, which of course was rocking, but the Leafs got out early to a 2-1 lead.
You have to know that Freddy “the Fog” Shero laid into the boys between periods because the Flyers came out in the second period and just dominated Toronto. They scored five goals, four in a span of 3:18 and advancing to the next round was a forgone conclusion. Mel Bridgman scored two of those goals just 16 seconds apart.
Finding any highlights of this game are next to impossible, but, the Flyers and Leafs hated each other in 1976. And the Flyers and the Toronto fans hated each other too. Enjoy.
12. Patrick Division Finals – Philadelphia Flyers 5, New York Islanders 1 – 05/02/87
The Flyers and Islanders have only played each other in the playoffs five times in history, but they will now be playing their third Game 7 against one another, making them the Flyers most frequent Game 7 opponent.
This was the last time they played each other in the postseason prior to 2020 – and this series was a doozy too.
The Islanders had come into this series after playing, at that time, the longest playoff game in the modern era – beating the Washington Capitals in quadruple overtime of Game 7. (Imagine that for Saturday!) overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to win.
So, it was no surprise that the more talented Flyers jumped out to a 3-1 lead in this series. But, the Islanders of 1987 had a refuse to lose mentality, won a nip and tuck Game 5 at the Spectrum and then won in front of a rabid fan base in an electric-charged atmosphere in Game 6, forcing Game 7 back at the Spectrum.
The Islanders truly believed they could pull off the big comeback a second time – the Flyers had other plans.
Dave Brown scored first and the Flyers were off and running. The Flyers then scored two shorthanded goals – on the same penalty – to stretch the lead to 3-0 in the first period. Ilkka Sinisalo netted a pair of goals and stretched the lead to 5-0.
It was all over but the shouting. The Islanders were never in this game.
Again, video highlights are sparse. This is the best I could come up with:
11. Eastern Conference Quarterfinals – Philadelphia Flyers 5, Buffalo Sabres 2 – 04/26/11
Another nip and tuck, back and forth series leading up to a Game 7. The most memorable moment of this series was probably Ville Leino’s overtime game-winner in Buffalo in Game 6, but Flyers fans probably remember the acid reflux brought on by rotating goalies in this series, whether it was Sergei Bobrovsky, Michael Leighton, or eventual series-clinching goalie Brian Boucher, Peter Laviolette simply spun the roulette wheel and saw where it landed before picking a goalie each night.
It was this debacle that led to the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov.
That said, Game 7 wasn’t all that exciting. The Flyers took an early lead and just built on it until it was at a point the Sabres could no longer bounce back.
Not even poor goaltending could stop the Flyers in the this game. Braydon Coburn’s marker in the final minute of the opening period was the spark, and Danny Briere, James van Riemsdyk and Ville Leino pounced in the second period to blow the game open.
Boosh only had to make 21 saves as the Flyers clamped down defensively. It was the last win of the season though as the Flyers were unceremoniously swept by Boston in the second round.
Here are the highlights. My favorite thing is reminiscing about the good old days of Versus as a TV network. Good luck finding hockey if you were looking for it on the tube back then:
10. Patrick Division Semifinals – Washington Capitals 5, Philadelphia Flyers 4 (OT) 04/16/88
I don’t want to write about this one. Too many mental scars.
The Flyers blew a 3-1 series lead against the Caps, an inferior team. After winning Game 4 in OT on a goal by Murray Craven, the Flyers seemingly had this series in the bag.
Then they went to sleep for two games, getting blown out in both Game 5 and Game 6, setting up Game 7 at the Cap Centre in Landover, MD.
I was at my high school girlfriend’s house watching the game. She had very little interest. I was watching it intensely, donning my Ilkka Sinisalo jersey.
It looked like it was going to be a good night as the Flyers led 3-0 midway through the second period on goals by Tim Kerr, Brian Propp and Mark Howe.
Then things went sideways.
Washington scored three goals in the span of 11 minutes to tie it and then took the lead in the third period when Dale Hunter scored a power play goal.
I was incensed.
Brad Marsh tied it to force overtime, and I was on the edge of my seat. They couldn’t blow this, right?
That’s when Hunter scored the game-winner:
I hated Hunter. Not until I met him as coach of the London Knights in 2014 did I realize how good a guy he actually was. He’s one of Craig Berube’s best friends. I literally hated him though for 26 years.
Oh, and the girlfriend wanted me to go hang out in her bedroom after the game. I was in no mood. The relationship ended soon thereafter.
9. Eastern Conference Quarterfinals – Philadelphia Flyers 6, Toronto Maple Leafs 1 – 04/22/03
The Flyers have only ever played in two playoff series where three games went to overtime. The current one against the Islanders, and this series against Toronto in 2003.
These two teams hated each other around the turn of the century. The Leafs eliminated the Flyers in the 1999 playoffs, and the Flyers got them in both 2003 and 2004 – with the latter ending with the epic sudden death magic by Jeremy Roenick.
But the 2003 series was a war. It was nasty. The two teams literally beat the hell out of each other. There was no way the winner was going to beat Ottawa in the second round, but damn, that didn’t matter. They didn’t want to lose to one another.
After splitting the first two games at the Wachovia Center, the scene shifted to Toronto for all the dramatics.
The Leafs won Game 3 in double overtime on a goal by Tomas Kaberle. The Flyers answered by winning Game 4 in triple overtime on a goal by Mark Recchi. After a quick return to Philly and a 4-1 win by the Flyers, it was back to the Air Canada Centre (the same arena where the current Flyers/Isles series is taking place) for another double overtime game – this one ended by current Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green, forcing a Game 7 back in Philly.
This series deserved a better ending – not that Flyers fans complained. The Flyers blew the Leafs doors off, which is why this game doesn’t rank a little higher. It had all the juice coming into it, but the Flyers did all the squeezing as Toronto was rendered lifeless. Recchi had two goals. Justin Williams and Claude Lapointe each had three-point games. It was a clinic – but not all that exciting.
8. Eastern Conference Finals – New Jersey Devils 2, Philadelphia Flyers 1 – 05/26/00
This is all you need. No more.
This took place the year before I started covering the team. I had several conversations over the years with players on that team and to a man they all felt like they should have won a Stanley Cup and that the biggest problem was having Eric Lindros re-inserted into the lineup after so much time off.
It’s not that he wasn’t a great player, it’s that they all felt like they were playing the right way and the right brand of hockey with everyone knowing their role well. Bringing Lindros back into the lineup changed all that.
The players were asked at the time if they wanted him to come back. They voted no. However, management insisted that he play after a lazy effort in Game 5.
Lindros was the best player on the ice in Game 6, which the Flyers lost 2-1. Lindros scored the lone goal. That set up Game 7 which will be remembered by the hit above and not the fact that Patrik Elias scored both goals, in another 2-1 victory, including the game-winner with just over two minutes remaining.
Brutal loss. Just brutal. But a great game from a great series (that also included Brian Boucher making the save of the century on Elias.
(Bonus video here):
7. Patrick Division Finals – Philadelphia Flyers 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 1 – 04/29/89
This was a crazy series. The Penguins led the series 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2. In Game 5, Mario Lemeiux set all kinds of records with five goals and eight points in a bananas 10-7 Pittsburgh win.
The Flyers recovered to win Game 6 at home, but Ron Hextall was dinged up, meaning the Game 7 start in Pittsburgh would go to backup goalie Ken Wregget.
Not good, right?
Except Wregget was touched by an angel that night. He made 39 saves to lead the Flyers to the upset of the higher-seeded Penguins.
Dave Poulin scored the game-winner shorthanded (no surprise there) and the Flyers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals where they would lose to the Canadians.
It was the last playoff series the Flyers would win until 1995.
No highlights for this one – just the full game for your viewing pleasure:
6. Semifinals – Philadelphia Flyers 4, New York Islanders 1, 05/13/75
In the first of the Game 7s between these two franchises, the Islanders were fresh off of becoming just the second team in North American Sports history to overcome an 0-3 deficit to win a series when they stunned the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Could you imagine if they did it twice in two weeks?
That’s what they were trying to do, after dropping the first three games to the Flyers, they somehow won Games 4, 5 and 6 to again force a Game 7, this time at the Spectrum.
There was so much going against the Flyers at this point. A lot of skeptics didn’t think the Flyers could repeat as champions. Some experts considered them a one-hit wonder. And the Islanders were a real darling of a story who was trying to do something that had never been done before or since.
All the pressure was on the Flyers. All of it.
And they responded.
Gary Dornhoeffer scored just 19 seconds into the game. Rick MacLeish scored on the power play two minutes later and the Flyers never looked back.
They limited the Islanders to just 15 shots on goal – in a Game 7. Bernie Parent had an easy go of it as the Flyers defense was outstanding.
MacLeish added two more goals to finish with a hat trick and the Flyers were on their way to winning a second straight Cup.
This is a short one, but the best available video-wise:
5. Eastern Conference Finals – Tampa Bay Lightning 2, Philadelphia Flyers 1 – 05/22/04
I argue that this team was the best Flyers team to not win the Stanley Cup. If they had any of their four injured defensemen in this series, it could have swung it in their favor.
When we had Ken Hitchcock on Snow the Goalie this summer, he talked about that being one of his two biggest regrets in his storied coaching career – not winning the Cup with that Flyers team (the other was not winning with the St. Louis Blues, who eventually did win last year with Craig Berube at the helm).
That said, this was still a great series. Iconic moments like Tampa coach John Tortorella telling Hitchcock to “Shut yer yap.” Like Keith Primeau playing with a concussion and having one of the best playoffs of any Flyer ever. Like the epic game 6 where Primeau tied the score in the final minutes of regulation and Simon Gagne potted the game-winner to force Game 7.
It was a thrill ride for sure.
Game 7 was close for a good long while. Former Flyer Ruslan Fedotenko scored the first goal for Tampa and Freddy Modin put them up 2-0 in the second period.
The Flyers answered quickly with a goal from Kim Johnsson, but despite several chances, couldn’t solve Nikolai Khabibulin a second time. It was a frustrating loss, but this was a great game in a great series between two great teams. In retrospect, you have to admit that.
This video is from the Tampa Bay Stanley Cup video, but give them credit because they really respected the Flyers in this production and it’s interesting to see how another team perceived the series. You got the feeling that they understood just how much of a war this series was.
4. Stanley Cup Final – Edmonton Oilers 3, Philadelphia Flyers 1 – 05/31/87
The last game of arguably the greatest Stanley Cup Final in the history of hockey was a great game. It was the only game in the entire 7-game series where the underdog Flyers scored first against the greatest team ever assembled.
And although Murray Craven’s goal had a lot of people excited that the Cup was coming back to Philadelphia for the first time in 12 years off of an incredible upset, Mark Messier quickly tied it. Jari Kurri gave Edmonton the lead in the second period and Glen Anderson all but sealed the deal with his goal with a little over two minutes remaining.
In between the Flyers had their chances – Ilkka Sinisalo hit the crossbar with a shot that could have tied it in the third period.
But in the end, Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers were just a little too good.
Nevertheless, this is a Game 7 that while it left you disappointed in the moment, was one that Flyers fans today can look back on fondly and remember just how amazing the hockey was for two weeks in late May, 1987.
3. Eastern Conference Quarterfinals – Philadelphia Flyers 3, Washington Capitals 2 (OT)
The Flyers were the underdog in this thrilling series, but built a 3-1 series lead on the Caps, which included a double-overtime classic won on a goal by Mike Knuble.
But the talented Caps, led by Alexander Ovechkin, fought back to force a Game 7 in their home arena, the Verizon Center.
The Flyers jumped out to a 2-1 lead, but once Ovechkin tied it in the second period, it was all Washington.
They outshot the Flyers 16-5 in the third period, and it was only Marty Biron who kept the Flyers in the game with stellar goaltending.
The game slinked to overtime, and there was a feeling that the Flyers still had no chance. That Washington was going to continue their onslaught of pressure and eventually find the game-winner.
But then Joffrey Lupul happened:
The look on alternate captain Tom Poti’s face alone in the penalty box is only trumped by the later look of Capitals owner Ted Leonsis after Lupul’s goal happened.
This, for a team who a season earlier, had the worst record in hockey. It was an awesome finish. The Flyers only OT game-winner in a Game 7. There’s nothing better. Well… there are two that were better… but you get the point.
2. Semifinals – Philadelphia Flyers 4, New York Rangers 3 – 05/05/74
The Rangers wouldn’t go away. The Flyers were trying to become the first non-original six team to win a Stanley Cup. Back and forth this series went until a Game 7 at the Spectrum on Cinco de Mayo.
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead, making everyone nervous.
But then Rick MacLeish tied it. In the second period, Orest Kindrachuk and Gary Dornhoeffer gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead.
In the third period, Steve Vickers cut it to 3-2, but 12 seconds later, Dorny scored again with what would be the eventual game-winner.
Yes, the Rangers got back within 4-3, But the final five minutes was all Bernie Parent. He finished with 31 saves and the Flyers earned their first of eight berths in the Stanley Cup Final. This was probably the most important series win for the fledgling franchise at the time, and it catapulted the Broad Street Bullies into national prominence. That’s why it’s so high on this list.
1. Eastern Conference Semifinals – Philadelphia Flyers 4, Boston Bruins 3 – 05/14/10
The only way this one ever gets topped is if the same thing happens in the Conference Finals or Finals, or the Flyers win a Stanley Cup in a Game 7.
Otherwise, this will reign supreme.
How else do you explain overcoming a three-goal deficit on the road in Game 7 after originally trailing the series 3-0 and forcing a Game 7? It’s storybook. It’s inconceivable. And yet, it happened.
Van Riemsdyk. Hartnell. Briere. Gagne.
You can erect a Mount Rushmore in Philadelphia of their four faces and everyone will know what it represented.
Reliving this game and this series is one of my favorite things to do. Living the series in the moment as one of the beat writers was easily the greatest thing I’ve ever covered.
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