Friday, December 14, 2012

Top 10 Flyers goaltending performances (non-Parent division)

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The Phanatic presents the fourth in an occasional series recalling the best and worst events in Philadelphia Flyers history. It continues with a look at the times the man in the crease helped the club turn in some memorable performances.

It's difficult to cull 45 years' worth of quality goaltending into 10 spots, but good thing there have been enough dates to choose from.
The one catch in this post? Performances by Bernie Parent, arguably the greatest man to guard the crease, won't be considered because we are sure to come up with 10 that just involve him.

10. March 4, 2012: Flyers 1, Capitals 0 – Ilya Bryzgalov begins his early March assault on the rest of the NHL with a 34-save masterpiece at Verizon Center. It came without reliable defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who was forced out after playing 248 consecutive games. Bryz stops Alex Ovechkin in each of his game-high seven shots on net, as well as a Mike Knuble breakaway in the second period off a fluke deflection of a pass which headed the opposite direction.

9.  December 6, 2005: Flyers 1, Flames 0 (SO) -- Three days after participating in their first-ever shooutout in Nashville, the Flyers encounter their first-ever shootout at home, in their first double-zero performance through 65 minutes since an October, 2003 game at San Jose when ties were still part of the standings. Antero Niittymaki stops 28 shots in regulation, then all three Calgary chances in the breakaway round, to seal the victory. Mike Richards beats Miikka Kipruoff for the winner.
8.  January 24, 1968: Flyers 2, Maple Leafs 1 -- In their first year of existence, ANY points expansion teams could take from the Original Six clubs at home or on the road went a long way towards establishing the legitimacy of the growth of the NHL, which had doubled to 12 teams the previous October. Philadelphia, which was atop the West Division by a comfortable margin, put Doug Favell in the net at Maple Leaf Gardens and he didn't disappoint, making 46 saves against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

7.  January 11, 1976: Flyers 4, Central Red Army 1 -- Lost in the overall triumph of Good over Evil and the sardonic nature of the NHL's Bad Boys being the only ones to beat the Mighty Soviets on their tour of North America in '75 and '76, is that Parent did not start or play in this Game of All Games. Wayne Stephenson was the beneficiary of some brilliant defensive strategy by head coach Fred Shero as the visitors only squeezed off 13 shots; still, the USSR was so talented, it only needed a handful of shots, with quality chances attached, to beat most teams across the globe. For Mr. Stephenson, all he had to do with the eyes of the world were watching was not screw it up, and he only let in one score, to Viktor Kutyergin, before shutting the door.

6.   October 9, 1986: Flyers 2, Oilers 1 -- As the Orange and Black celebrated the start of its 20th NHL season with a pregame ceremony at the Spectrum, one fact they could not escape was that their opponents were the two-time Cup champion Edmonton squad which was eliminated in the second round by Calgary after ripping the league for 426 goals. To face them was not Vezina Trophy runner-up Bob Froese, but rookie Ron Hextall. All the 22-year-old did was make 21 saves, and stoned the visitors after Jari Kurri's goal at the 2:08 mark of the first period. A career and legend was born.

5.  January 22, 1983: Flyers 1, Islanders 0 – Bob Froese had all of four games of NHL experience when he was tapped to make the start against the three-time defending Stanley Cup champions on a Saturday evening at Nassau Coliseum. Forget that one of those starts was a shutout, six days earlier, at Madison Square Garden where he needed to make just 16 saves. This was the first true trial by fire for the St. Catherine's, ON native. He acquitted himself well, stopping all 31 shots and outdueling Billy Smith -- who allowed a blue-line goal from Darryl Sittler for the lone score.

4.  Ron Hextall and John Vanbiesbrouck: January 7-13, 1999 -- A shutout streak so nice, they thought they'd do it twice. On the heels of the original run of scoreless hockey mentioned below, this one came during the latter stages of a 15-game unbeaten streak in December and January and while coming up just short of a franchise record for whitewashing opponents, was still pretty damned impressive at 256:18.

This one started in the latter stages of a 3-3 tie in Edmonton four days prior to the first goose egg, then stretched out to home victories over the Islanders (5-0), Hurricanes (2-0), expansion Predators (8-0) and a final one in Washington (3-0) before concluding three days later in the first period of a loss to Toronto. Hexy and Beezer even shared a clean sheet in the decision over Carolina.

3.  Ron Hextall and Garth Snow: December 14-21, 1996 -- In a time when the NHL hadn't yet totally slid down the abyss created by the neutral-zone trap, the Orange and Black put together one of the most impressive runs in franchise history during their 17-game unbeaten streak which carried them from average to best club in the NHL from Thanksgiving to New Year's.

After holding Hartford scoreless for the final 22 1/2 minutes of a 3-2 home win on December 12, Hextall and Snow blanked Hartford (4-0) on the road, then Boston (6-0), the Islanders (5-0) and St. Louis (4-0) in turn. It was the highlight of a 17-game unbeaten streak which stretched into 1997, and didn't end until a Sergei Krivokrasov goal early in a December 22 game at Chicago. In the end, it added up to a still-standing franchise mark of 265 minutes, eight seconds of fruitless attack from the opposition.

2.   February 8, 1972: Flyers 3, Canucks 1 – It's one thing when a goalie drops to the ice due to fatigue or dehydration. It's quite another when a serious medical issue impairs his play. In the days before hockey players were finely-tuned athletes, pretty much anything went in the offseason until the rigors of training camp got them back into shape. Bruce Gamble was no different.

A long-time smoker, Gamble suffered his way through a 30-save performance at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.  Out of concern for the 33-year-old crease guardian, play was halted twice before resuming. Gamble ended up vomiting after the game, looked like "death warmed over" on the flight to California, and a diagnosis of a heart attack was made a day later in Oakland. His career was officially over, and Gamble passed away at age 44 in December of 1982. 

1.   January 25, 1986: Flyers 1, Blues 0 – On a Winter Saturday night at the old Arena, rookie back-up Darren Jensen makes 48 saves, 24 in the third period alone, to help the Patrick Division leaders pull out a victory. The 25-year-old British Columbia native, who stoned seven chances from Hall of Famer Joe Mullen and six from cannon-armed defenseman Rob Ramage, participated in just nine more NHL games -- all with Philadelphia.

Three weeks earlier, the Blues used stifling defense to deal the O&B a 2-1 loss to end an otherwise successful five-game holiday road trip. In a season defined by the death of Pelle Lindbergh, this was the best performance of the season by any of the three goaltenders who suited up in 1985-86, the highlight of a trying season from a goaltending standpoint despite eight total shutouts, as well as the high-water point of Jensen’s brief NHL career.
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