Though the game itself wasn’t what you’d expect, the Flyers earned a 7-4 win over the Islanders and erased weeks of losing hockey by clinching the Atlantic Division.
The Flyers were facing an Islanders team with nothing to lose and nothing to play for except personal pride, so they were going to be feisty.
With New York’s young talent playing in those conditions, and the Flyers’ explosive offense staring down a less-than-reliable Rick DiPietro, the stage was set for fireworks – and these two teams did not disappoint.
Game 82 was an up-and-down rollercoaster, with the Flyers opening the game with back-to-back scoring shifts within the first minute – Kimmo Timonen blasted a one timer past Rick DiPietro after he fumbled a puck to Mike Richards, and Scott Hartnell found himself alone on a breakaway for the second.
Near the mid-point of the first, though, the Flyers gave up a breakaway goal and soon afterwards found themselves facing a 5-on-3 penalty kill, which the Islanders capitalized on. But barely 20 seconds after allowing the tying goal, the Flyers were back on top courtesy of Danny Briere.
And that’s just the way this game went.
The Islanders tied it back up, went on to a lead of their own, but then the Flyers turned around and scored four goals – including the empty netter – through the second and third periods.
Andrej Meszaros, after winning the team award for defenseman of the year, promptly posted a career-high four points with two goals and two assists.
However the game went, though, is irrelevant now that the season is over.
All 82 games are now blurred together into nothing more than a way of deciding that the Flyers are the number 2 seed and will face the Buffalo Sabres in the opening round.
Scott Hartnell sees this season as nothing more than waiting for another chance at the playoffs after last Spring’s ending.
“We’ve been waiting 82 games to get back to this point and it’s a big relief to get that second overall spot,” he said. “Now we can have some fun, win a few series and get back to where we were last year.”
It’s a new season, you could say, now that the playoffs are starting, and the Flyers are ready to wipe the slate clean and let their talent write a new script in place of the one that’s dominated recent weeks.
Danny Briere is excited for the opportunity to start fresh in the playoffs.
“You’re starting from scratch once again,” he said. “It doesn’t matter anymore what happened before, what you did in the regular season. You have to put that behind you and start all over. To start the series nobody is ahead – we start from the same point. We have to find a way to get our confidence going once again, but we should.”
The other welcome change the playoffs bring according to Briere is a departure from standings, battling for a seed, and comparing yourselves to the teams around you – instead looking just at the one team in front of you.
“I guess the focus now is solely on our series with Buffalo,” he said. “There are no worries about where we finish or anything like that. Now it’s all about the game at hand and what’s in front of us – and that’s definitely exciting. We’ve been waiting for the playoffs to start for quite some time now so I’m definitely excited about it just like everybody else in the room, I believe.”
And after a few days off here while the season wraps up, the Flyers will once again be back in that place where they made so much magic last Spring, and they’ll be looking for a bit of that this year as well.
Flyers’ Award Night
Before Saturday night’s regular season finale, the Flyers hosted their annual awards ceremony on the ice at the Wells Fargo Center. Honorees were as follows:
The Bobby Clarke Trophy (Team MVP)
Claude Giroux (Voted by a panel of writers and sportscasters)
Giroux’s MVP year could also be categorized as his breakout season. The Flyers forward scored 25 goals and recorded 51 assists, up from his previous career high of 16 and 31 respectively. Giroux served as the offenses most consistent piece, playing in all 82 games.
Barry Ashbee Trophy (Outstanding Defenseman)
Andrej Meszaros (Voted by a panel of writers and sportscasters)
Meszaros has proven to be one of the team’s most valuable off-season acquisitions. Meszaros’ plus-30 rating leads the team and is a 46-point improvement over last season’s minus-14.
Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy (Most Improved Player)
Andreas Nodl (Voted by his teammates)
In Nodl’s first full season with the Flyers, he posted a total of 11 goals and 11 assists. The forward spent the majority of last season with the Phantoms, only playing 10 games with the orange and black. In 67 games this season, he was able to fit into one of the league’s top offenses and make himself a bona fide scoring threat.
Yanick Dupre Class Guy Memorial Award (Best Illustration of Character, Dignity and Respect Both On and Off the Ice)
Brian Boucher (Voted by a panel of writers and sportscasters)
Brian Boucher, all would agree, is someone who gets it. He understands his role on the team and his role with the media. As someone in a tough situation this season, platooning with a rookie goaltender, Boosh handled himself with tremendous class and did nothing but support his colleague.
Gene Hart Memorial Award (Most “Heart”)
Claude Giroux (As voted by members of the Flyers fan club)
Toyota Cup (Most Points in association with “Star of the Game” selections)
Danny Briere (1st Star 5pts, 2nd Star 3pts, 3rd Star 1pt)
Danny Briere was second on the team with 34 goals. He was selected “First Star of the Game” eight times, “Second Star” six times, and “Third Star” four times, giving him 62 total points. He was undoubtedly one of the offense’s steadiest and most poignant scoring threats.
Shay Roddy contributed to this report.