In the early 80′s when I was a kid, the nation was enthralled with the Bird vs. Magic rivalry. And rightly so. they played for championships. But to get to the championship, Bird’s Boston teams had to go through my beloved 76ers.
It has been argued that Philly had as much to do with Los Angeles’ championships then as anyone. By the time Boston got there, they were so beat up from the war with Philly, they sometimes didn’t have enough left to beat the Lakers. A big reason for that was Philly shooting guard Andrew Toney.
We called him The Boston Strangler.
Toney had a penchant for making big dagger jumpers against Boston. The kind that just sap your will to go on. From impossible angles, as we would scream, “No, no, no…YES!” he would just crush jumpers.
But Boston won titles. We took solace in making it hard for them.
This year it looked like Boston was going to do it again, this time in hockey. They beat the Flyers in the Winter Classic on New Years Day. Then, in the playoffs, they jumped out on our heroes in orange and black with an insurmountable(ish) 3-0 series lead. Leading goal scorer Jeff Carter was hurt, having broken his foot just a couple of weeks ago. Andrew Toney can’t skate, plus he’s like 60.
Enter Simon Gagne. The New Boston Strangler.
Gagne, who broke his toe in the previous series, missed the first three games. Questionable for game 4, he gutted it out. He later said that the only reason he played was because it was an elimination game.
In overtime, Gagne was so winded that he couldn’t play for the first several minutes. He hadn’t played in a game in over two weeks, and it was showing. But as the overtime wore on, he could feel himself getting stronger. He told the coaches he could go in.
On his first shift, he scored the game winner.
Wrapping the noose around Boston’s neck.
“No big deal,” says Boston fan. “Just one game. We’d rather win at home anyway.”
The Strangler would have none of that, scoring two, including 0ne on the power play, off the vaunted Boston penalty kill.
The Flyers ran the Bruins out of their own building, 4-0.
The noose tightened.
“No worries,” says Boston fan. “We still have a 3-2 lead. Plus, with Flyers goalie Brian Boucher out, Michael Leighton will be making his first playoff start in an elimination game. We got this.”
The Strangler assisted on the first goal of the night en route to a 2-1 win to force a Game 7.
Everyone agreed that the first few minutes of that game would be crucial, and Boston came out storming to a 3-0 lead.
Just like in the series.
(That was a literary device known as “foreshadowing.” Do not try this at home.)
Then, Flyers Coach Peter LaViolette called a time out, and told his team, “Wake up and get in the game. We are winning this.”
Then, James van Riemsdyk, who hadn’t scored a goal since Lindsay “Milkawhaaat?” Lohan was hot, scored a goal softer than the Cleveland Cavaliers’ hearts (oh! Too soon?).
Then, Scott Hartnell scored.
Then, Danny Briere, who is turning into hockey’s miniature version of Reggie Jackson, scored his seventh of the playoffs to tie it at three.
This instant classic slugged on, back and forth with chances. Then, just as I was about to tweet, “In the 3rd period of a game seven, it will take attempted murder to get a penalty,” the Bruins did the unthinkable.
Too many men on the ice penalty.
Cue the horror music.
With 18 seconds left in the power play, Simon Gagne cemented forever his place in Philadelphia sports lore by putting home the historical series winner.
In the history of team sports, only four teams have comeback from a 3-0 series deficit to win. The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders, and the 2004 Boston Red Sox have now been joined by the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers.
But of those teams, only one has comeback from traling 3-0 in a series AND 3-0 in game seven to win. Guess which one it is?
That’s right, the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers. First team ever to do the double 3-0 comeback.
Thanks to Simon Gagne, the New Boston Strangler.