Flyers End 22 Years of Futility With Win in Detroit

NHLHS Philadelphia Flyers’ correspondent David Strehle discusses how the club’s win over the Red Wings at the Joe not only ended two decades of futility, but was a much-needed victory over an elite club.

The Philadelphia Flyers put together their best performance of their current road trip yesterday to end a long drought, beating the Detroit Red Wings, 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena. 

The win was significant for the Flyers because the last time they had recorded a victory at the Joe was on November 4, 1988.

How long is that?  Just consider that winger James van Riemsdyk wasn’t even born yet, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and center Claude Giroux were less than a year old at the time.

Head coach Peter Laviolette went with Brian Boucher in net, who not only was celebrating his 34th birthday, but has been the most consistent of the Philadelphia netminders.

As has been the case for just about every start this season, Boucher was stellar in between the pipes for the Flyers.  The birthday boy made 25 saves, many of them difficult, in picking up his seventh win in his last nine decisions (7-1-1). 

For his efforts, Boucher was named the game’s number one star.

The Flyers could ill-afford getting behind, as their confidence was at an extremely low level after losing three of their previous four contests.

Even though they were missing Pavel Datsyuk, who broke a bone in his right hand / wrist just before Christmas, the Red Wings were still tied for the Western Conference lead with the Vancouver Canucks.

There were two key moments in the first period - killing off a Red Wings’ two-man advantage with Danny Briere and Giroux in the penalty box, and a very crucial stop by Boucher on a breakaway opportunity by Darren Helm.

Philadelphia took control of the game in the second period, and it began early as van Riemsdyk got the scoring started at the 51 second mark.  The 21-year-old winger saw linemate Andreas Nodl in front of Detroit starting goaltender Jimmy Howard, and attempted to get the puck to the net.  It pinballed off of Red Wing Valtteri Filppula’s stick and past Howard for van Riemsdyk’s ninth of the year to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead.

Less than five minutes later, the Flyers made it 2-0.  Defenseman Andrej Meszaros fired a shot from the right point that was deflected in by Daniel Carcillo.  It was just Carcillo’s second of the season and first since October 29th, breaking a 15-game goalless drought for the guy they call “CarBomb”.

With just under five and a half minutes left in the middle frame, another Philly defender would make a key play in jump-starting the Flyers to a goal.

Sean O’ Donnell beat a Detroit forward to the puck as he pinched in on the left wing boards, tipping the puck ahead to Scott Hartnell.  The winger gathered the puck in the left circle and with a mass of humanity in front of Howard, whirled and fired a shot that caught the top corner.  It was Hartnell’s 10th of the year, becoming the sixth Philadelphia player to score 10 goals or more this season.

It was probably the best period the Flyers had mustered on the road trip, putting 19 shots on Howard. 

Taking a three-goal lead into the third period would be money in the bank against many clubs, but you knew that the Red Wings wouldn’t go quietly. 

Coach Mike Babcock, being one of the top bench bosses in the NHL, knew he had to make some kind of adjustment.  He made a goalie change to try and light a fire under his troops, bringing in 38-year-old Chris Osgood.

And it worked. 

Osgood made a couple of kick saves with the left pad with Flyers’ captain Mike Richards whacking away at the puck in the opening seconds of the third, keeping his club within three.

At the 51 second mark Filppula got Detroit on the board with his 10th of the year, and it got the fans who had been silenced by the Flyers’ dominant second period back into the game.

With the Red Wings possessing all the momentum and carrying play, Boucher made several excellent stops.  His best may have been a glove save on Johan Franzen that was ticketed for the upper corner over the goaltender’s left shoulder.

Philadelphia’s Ville Leino, who was dealt to the Flyers by Detroit last February, appeared to be a man on a mission the entire game.  It was clear he wanted to show the Red Wings that they had made a big mistake in giving up on him.  

Leino had near misses on a few chances, but was the victim of a questionable call with just 8:49 left in regulation.  As he went to the net in front of Osgood in search of a rebound, Leino was cross-checked from behind into the Detroit netminder – and given a two-minute minor for goaltender interference for his troubles. 

With the crowd going crazy and the Red Wings playing with a playoff-type intensity, Henrik Zetterberg scored his 14th of the season on the ensuing power play.

With 7:32 left in the third and Detroit buzzing, it must have seemed like an eternity left in regulation for Philadelphia – just like the past 22 years without a win in the Motor City must have for Ed Snider.

But Boucher and the Flyers’ defense made the one-goal lead hold up, and one the club’s longest dry spells against any team was finally a thing of the past.

The effort was much-needed in the restoration of Philly’s fractured confidence.  In beating an elite-level Red Wings club, the Flyers head back East with a 2-2 record.  That really isn’t bad at all, considering they had to play the West’s best - Vancouver (1st overall), Detroit (2nd), Anaheim (5th), and Los Angeles (6th).

The Orange-and-Black now head to New Jersey for the first end of a home-and-home series with the Devils on Thursday.  They return to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon for the back end with NJ before hitting the road yet again.

Back in the Top Spot Again

The win boosts Philadelphia ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings.  The two teams are tied with 53 points, but Pittsburgh has played one more game than the Flyers.

Second Streak to Fall on Trip 

Another streak came to an end on the road trip - a 14-game Flyers’ winning streak in Vancouver against the Canucks that dated back to 1989.  Philadelphia had gone 10-0-4 during that time against the Canucks, until Vancouver finally ended it last week with a rather convincing 6-2 win over the Flyers.

Gustafsson Sent Back to Phantoms

As reported by Frank Seravalli via Twitter, the Flyers have returned defenseman Erik Gustaffson to Adirondack of the AHL. 

The 22-year-old rear guard had been recalled last week on an emergency basis for the West coast trip.


Taking a FlyerJeff Carter led Philly with three blocked shots.  He limped off the ice after taking one in the skate, but returned after walking it off in the runway to the locker room…Detroit was 1-3 on the power play, while the Flyers went 0-2…By virtue of their 19-shot second period, Philadelphia outshot the Red Wings, 32-27…Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart left the ice after a scary incident.  He went down to block a Carter shot and was hit in the back of the head.  Stuart was sent to the hospital where he received several stitches and a CT scan, which was negative.  He is listed as probable for Tuesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.


David Strehle
NHLHS Philadelphia Flyers Correspondent
Twitter: @PhilaDAVEia