2007-08 Philadelphia Flyers Season: A Building Block
The 2006-07 season ended in disappointment, with the Flyers finishing dead last with a franchise worst 56 points. However, some key additions at the trade deadline, along with some offseason trades and free agency pick ups, left the Flyers optimistic for the 2007-08 season.
The Flyers acquired the likes of Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, Braydon Coburn, and Marty Biron at the deadline, and added Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Joffrey Lupul, Jason Smith, and Danny Briere in the offseason. The new roster gave some hope to the franchise and fans for the next season.
Training camp and preseason came and went, with the Flyers going 3-5, and with a little bit of controversy as well. Rookie Steve Downie received a 20-game suspension for a big hit on Dean McAmmond of the Ottawa Senators.
The regular season began with the Flyers on a three-game road trip in western Canada. The season started off with an exciting 3-2 win over Calgary with Danny Briere scoring two goals. The Flyers finished off the road trip in Vancouver with a big 8-2 win over the Canucks that once again came with the controversy that would continue to haunt the Flyers throughout the season.
Jessie Boulerice was handed a 25-game suspension for a cross check to the face of Ryan Kessler. With the exception of the two large suspensions, the Flyers were off to a great start with a 6-1 record, and won their first six home games. Riley Cote would also receive a suspension for elbowing against the Dallas Stars.
As the season wore on through October and November, the Flyers went on a lengthy streak of winning every other game. It seemed the Flyers had trouble carrying over momentum from one game to the next, as well as the suspension bug returning—Randy Jones and Scott Hartnell were suspended for two games, each for an accidental hits to Boston's Patrice Bergeron and Andrew Alberts, respectively, in two separate games.
The Flyers would continue the W-L streak until late December, when they went on a six-game losing streak just before Christmas.
After the Christmas break, the Flyers came back a brand new team it seemed. Through January and early February, the Flyers would go 14-3-1, led by Mike Richards, who was having his best season in the NHL so far.
The Flyers seemed to lose their momentum after the All-Star break, going 0-8-2, dropping them from first in the division and second in the conference to out of playoff position.
But after an inspiring comeback from a 3-0 deficit against Buffalo, capped off with a game winning shootout goal by former Sabre Danny Briere, the Flyers were back on track. With just a little over a month left in the season and the Flyers clinging to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, it was a race to the playoffs between the Flyers, Sabres, Hurricanes, and Capitals.
The Flyers' cause was helped out by the acquisition of Vinny Prospal, who wasted no time forming chemistry on the top line with Briere—they were the leading scorers for the Flyers down the stretch.
The Flyers' playoff hopes would come down to the last two games of the season, both of which were at home. The first was against the New Jersey Devils, who had the Flyers' number all season long, winning six of the seven previous games.
However, the Devils had been lacking in terms of offensive production as of late, and the Flyers came out checking and fighting for every puck.
RJ Umberger would score the game's first goal about six minutes in, and it would be the only goal until the third period, when Scottie Upshall and Joffrey Lupul would score less than a minute apart to give the Flyers a spirited 3-0 win.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes were battling for their playoff lives against the Florida Panthers—with a regulation Hurricanes loss, the Flyers would clinch a playoff berth. In a back-and-forth game, the Panthers would hold on giving the Flyers their playoff berth.
The last game of the season was against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which has turned into a heated rivalry. With a Flyers win, they would clinch the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and face the winner of the Southeast division. With a loss, the Flyers would take the eighth seed in a matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Flyers would squeak out a 2-0 win over the Penguins and take the sixth seed, while the Washington Capitals would eventually clinch the Southeast Division, setting up a series between the Flyers and Capitals.
Prior to the beginning of the Flyers and Capitals series, all of the experts picked the Capitals to win because they were the hottest team in the league, and had the most prolific goal scorer the league has seen in a long time in Alex Ovechkin.
The Flyers would come out and stun the Caps and take a two-goal lead in Game 1, only to let it slip away—they ended up losing the game 5-4, with the game-winner scored by Ovechkin.
However, the Flyers would come back strong in Game 2, with Biron posting a shutout and Timonen completely shutting down Ovechkin. The Flyers would go on to win Game 3 with a big 6-3 win, with a great penalty shot by Mike Richards, who was continuing his strong play in the postseason.
The Flyers would also take Game 4 in double overtime after once again letting a two-goal lead slip away. The Capitals would come back and take Games 5 and 6, setting up a Game 7 in Washington.
Game 7 was a tight game that would once again make it to overtime. In overtime it seemed the Caps were outplaying the Flyers, but the Capitals would get whistled for tripping, the second obvious trip by the Capitals in overtime.
During the ensuing powerplay, Richards would make a pass to Briere in the slot, whose shot was blocked but went right to Timonen, who would send a point shot through to Huet. Huet lost sight of the rebound that bounced directly to Lupul, who would put it in the open net.
The Flyers got great defense from Timonen and Coburn, who did a great job of shutting down the Ovechkin line, and also got good offensive production from Briere, who would be one of the league leaders in playoff points.
In the second round, the Flyers would take on the the Montreal Canadiens, whose fans rioted after their seven-game series win over Boston. The Flyers would be the underdogs again.
Game 1 of this series was eerily similar to that of the first round against the Caps. The Flyers would take a two-goal lead, but then let it slip away and would end up losing the game. As they did in the first-round series, the Flyers would come back and win Games 2, 3, and 4, being led by RJ Umberger. Umberger would score eight goals in this series, with his first in Game 5 being one of the most spectacular of the playoffs.
Marty Biron was outstanding for the Flyers, keeping them in every game by making key saves at key times. Meanwhile, Carry Price for the Canadiens was having a dreadful series, letting in plenty of soft goals. He was pulled in one game, and benched for another, but put back in net for Game 5.
In Game 5 the Canadiens would come out and take a 3-1 lead. Price seemed to be back in normal form, making some huge saves in the first period, but the second period was not so good to Price.
The Flyers would get within a goal on a shot that seemed to deflect off Mike Richards glove. After a review the goal was allowed because Richards didn't purposely direct it in with his glove, it merely deflected. A few minutes later, Umberger would score again on a goal from the side of the net that Price probably should have had.
A few minutes after that Hartnell would give the Flyers a lead with a laser from the left circle that beat Price far side. The Canadiens would tie at four early in the third, but Scottie Upshall would give the Flyers the lead for good late in the third when he deflected a Jeff Carter shot past Price.
The Flyers would follow this with an empty netter for a 6-4 win and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals against Pittsburgh.
On the eve of the conference finals, the Flyers learned they would be without their star defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who developed a blood clot in his ankle. Then, early in Game 2, Braydon Coburn would take a slap shot to the face and be out for the rest of the series.
Without their top defensive pair, the Flyers were heavily outmatched against the likes of Crosby, Malkin, and Hossa. The Flyers' powerplay, which was second in the playoffs, was also without its quarterback in Timonen. The Penguins would win Games 1, 2, and 3.
The Flyers would give their fans one last show in Game 4, with a spirited 4-2 win to avoid the sweep. The Penguins would close out the series in Game 5 with a 6-0 win.
Even on the sour note that the Flyers' season ended, all of the players and coaches were still optimistic. The Flyers were only the second team since the 1987 Red Wings to go to the Conference Finals after being in last place the season before.
The Flyers enjoyed a roller-coaster regular season, and an exciting postseason run. Many players stepped up for the Flyers throughout the season as well—most notably Mike Richards, who set career numbers and was one of the leaders for the team.
When Richards went down with a hamstring tear during the 10-game losing streak, Jeff Carter stepped up and proved he's an important part of the team. Danny Briere, even with a tough middle part of the season, was second on the team in points, and led in goals with over 30.
The Flyers had the deepest roster with six 20-goal scorers, and the only team with three centers to score over 20 goals.
Marty Biron also proved he can be a No. 1 goaltender and a solid playoff goalie in just his first time in the playoffs. Kimmo Timonen emerged as the team's best defenseman and one of their true leaders. Meanwhile, don't forget all of this was achieved with out Simon Gagne, who missed all but about 26 games with concussion problems.
With a few tweaks in the offseason, the Flyers will be contenders once again next season.
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