VOORHEES, N.J. — As they took the ice at Skate Zone in Voorhees Monday, it had been 2,178 days since the Flyers had last won a playoff series.
Claude Giroux was 24, Jakub Voracek was 22, and 15 of the players on the current roster had yet to make their NHL debut.
The Flyers have cycled through three different head coaches and have replaced their general manager since then as well.
“You look at it differently since you’re six or seven years older,” Voracek said. “You don’t have much time anymore to make a run. You have to appreciate every win in the playoffs and every series win I think.”
“Winning that series was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had so far in my career,” said Sean Couturier, who was a 19-year-old rookie at the time. “You want to replicate that and go as far as you can.”
Only once in franchise history (1989-95) have the Flyers endured a similar stretch of postseason futility, and the present-day Flyers will top that era if they fail to advance past the Penguins in the next few weeks.
Those Flyers teams in the early 1990s simply didn’t have the talent to even reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs — finishing either fifth or sixth in the standings during a five-year stretch.
The current core is considerably better. It's led by a captain who was labeled the “the best player in the world” in 2012 by then-coach Peter Laviolette when Giroux leveled Sidney Crosby on the opening shift of Game 6 and then proceeded to score the game’s first goal in a series-clinching win. Giroux feels there’s a different element to the Flyers than the team that lost to the Rangers in 2014 and the Capitals two years ago.
“Looking back to when we lost to the Rangers and lost to Washington in the first round, I think we’re a different team, our identity is different,” Giroux said. “I think we’re a more mature team. That first game is going to be everybody running around. For us, it’s just keeping our composure and make sure we play smart.”
Only five Flyers, and surprisingly three Penguins (Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang), remain from that 2012 series that went six games.
“It’s going to be a good series,” Voracek said. “Not many players are left from that team or our team. It’s going to be exciting, that’s for sure.”
Compounding that six-year drought for Giroux and the rest of Flyers Nation was witnessing Mike Richards and Jeff Carter win Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014 with L.A., and later Crosby and the Penguins claiming the throne in back-to-back seasons.
“I think when it doesn’t go your way and you look at other guys being successful and win the Cup, it makes you a little hungrier every season,” Giroux said. “The worst is when you get kicked out in the playoffs and you go home and you watch all those playoff games. You want to be a part of that and you make sure when you watch the games, you remind yourself that when you’re in the playoffs, you don’t want to take it for granted.”
Which is precisely why Giroux has watched very little playoff hockey since 2009.
It just happens to be the last time the Flyers lost a playoff series to the Penguins.