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2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Flyers took unlikely road to finals

Certain games, goals, shots and hits stand out during the course of a season as turning points, times when the season’s outcome can be defined. Perhaps it’s a time when the team overcomes an injury to a major player or how a backup goaltender stepped up and gave his team playoff hopes.

For the Philadelphia Flyers, there was no bigger moment that a shootout goal in the final game of the season.

The Flyers had to overcome an incredible amount of diversity, including a terrible run in the midst of the season that threatened to wreck any postseason hopes the Flyers carried with them into the season. They went through an incredible amount of goaltenders, eventually turning to Michael Leighton to rest their postseason hopes upon; of course, he was then lost for six weeks to an ankle injury.

Just 3-7-1 over their last 11 games headed into the final showdown of the season against the New York Rangers, the Flyers were in desperation mode. The game before, the Flyers had blown a chance to clinch a spot in the playoffs with a loss to the Rangers, thus forcing a “win-and-you’re-in” scenario in the final game of the season. Just like the season itself, the Flyers made things interesting in a closely fought game that of course had to head to overtime.

It was Claude Giroux who would score the difference-maker in the shootout, as it seemed the only Rangers player interested in playing in the postseason was Henrik Lundqvist. It was in that game that the Flyers buckled down, simplified the game and started on the path that would spell incredible postseason success in the weeks ahead.

Philadelphia is not a team that has just skated through the postseason. They’ve won two series in just five games, but became just the third team in NHL history to overcome a 0-3 deficit in a series to eventually win. That they did so in Game 7 by overcoming a three-goal deficit as well is a perfect example of just how determined this team has been. They are still without their best scorer in Jeff Carter, was able to take out the New Jersey Devils with Simon Gagne and for most of the postseason have been without Ian Laperriere.

Most amazing of all is how in the same game in which Michael Leighton finally makes his return from his ankle injury, Brian Boucher is lost for the playoffs with a devastating knee injury.

I don’t really know if there is such a thing a team of ‘destiny’, but the Flyers have certainly got to be the luckiest NHL team I’ve ever seen.

Yet they wouldn’t have gotten to this point if it wasn’t for something that most of us hate; the NHL shootout. If we had our way, then the Flyers and Rangers would have kept playing until an actual goal was scored.

By entering the playoffs on the merits of a shootout goal, many quickly dismissed the Flyers as postseason threats. Boy, were we wrong.