Without question, the Flyers-Rangers rivalry is one of the greatest in the NHL. Just as Eagles and Giants fans, and Phillies and Mets fans have shown a distaste for each other, the hatred between these two teams runs deep. They have been division rivals since the 1974-75 season, playing a total of 273 meetings in the regular season to a near-even split. The Rangers hold the slight edge with a record of 119-117-37. In the playoffs, they have squared off ten times, with the Flyers winning six of the series, including the last three.
With these two teams set to face each other in the playoffs for the first time since 1997, let us reminisce on the five most notable events between the two teams.
The Eric Lindros Fiasco (1992 & 2001)
When Eric Lindros refused to sign with the floundering Quebec Nordiques after being selected first overall in 1991, two of the largest and wealthiest teams in the league smelled blood in the water. Being touted as the greatest physical talent to come along in years, Lindros had a select number of teams he would agree to play for. At the 1992 Draft, the Flyers were in extensive conversations with the Nordiques to acquire the rights to Lindros. With a deal nearing completion, Flyers president Jay Snider insisted on having Lindros’ phone number to confirm with him that he would play in Philadelphia. When the Flyers got that, the deal would be complete. Nordiques owner Marcel Aubut gave Philadelphia his phone number, and the Flyers thought the deal was complete.
At the same time, the Rangers were speaking with the Nordiques about acquiring Big E. As the Flyers were preparing to enter the draft floor in the Montreal Forum, Marcel Aubut walked into the Flyers’ room and proclaimed “I traded Lindros to the Rangers.” Chaos ensued, and after back-and-forth with a number of league officials, it was determined that an arbitrator, lawyer Larry Bertuzzi, would settle the disagreement.
Six days later, on June 26th, Lindros was awarded to the Flyers in exchange for Steve Duchesne, Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Chris Simon, the Flyers’ 1st round draft picks in 1993 and 1994 and $15 million in cash.
Fast-forward to March 2000, and Lindros was in a very public spat with Flyers’ GM Bobby Clarke, who had stripped Lindros of his captaincy during the season after a series of concussions. In the offseason, Lindros refused to sign with the Flyers and sat out the entire 2000-01 season. In a very rare move between bitter division rivals, Lindros was traded to the Rangers for Kim Johnsson, Jan Hlavac, Pavel Brendl, and a 3rd round pick.
Flyers Defeat Rangers in 7 Games in 1973-74 Cup Semifinals
During the 1973-74 regular season, the Flyers went 1-2-2 against the Rangers. In just their seventh season of existence, the Flyers enjoyed a strong regular season, winning the West Division with 112 points and finishing one point behind the league-leading Bruins. The Rangers finished with 94 points, but played in the much stronger East Division that featured five of the Original Six teams, whereas the Flyers played in a division among expansion franchises, and the Chicago Blackhawks. To demonstrate how much better the Original Six teams were, consider that until that season, an expansion team had not defeated an Original Six team in a playoff series. Six seasons without a single playoff series win.
Led by reigning Hart Trophy winner Bobby Clarke, the two teams met in the beginning of the Flyers-Rangers rivalry in the semifinals for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. The Flyers started the series out with a commanding two wins at home by a combined score of 9-2. The Rangers responded with two wins in Madison Square Garden, and the home team won Games 5 and 6. With the series tied 3-3, the series shifted to Philadelphia.
As the third period clock ticked towards zero, the Flyers hung onto a 4-3 lead. With just 51 seconds remaining, the Rangers pulled goalie Ed Giacomin in favor of an extra attacker. However, they were whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty for sending the attacker out before he reached the bench. The penalty sealed the Game 7 and series victory for Philadelphia.
The Flyers became the first expansion franchise to defeat a member of the Original Six. They would repeat the feat in the finals, where they defeated the heavily favored Bruins in six games to become the first expansion franchise to win the Stanley Cup.
The Shootout to Make the Playoffs (2010)
After a dismal beginning to the season, the Flyers fired John Stevens and brought in Peter Laviolette. Laviolette appeared to right the ship, but a 2-6-2 skid in March put the Flyers’ playoff chances in jeopardy. For the first time since the shootout was instituted in 2005-06, it would end up deciding which team would make the playoffs. Entering the game, the teams were tied with 86 points each. The winner of the game would make the playoffs, and the loser would be golfing.
After finishing regulation and overtime with a 1-1 score, the game entered a shootout. With Henrik Lundqvist in one net, and Brian Boucher, in his third stint with Philadelphia in the other, the Flyers’ chances seemed bleak. Danny Briere and Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers, and PA Parenteau cashed in for the Rangers. Needing a goal to continue the shootout, Olli Jokinen circled in his defensive zone and picked up speed, bearing in on Boucher. He faked to his backhand and was denied by Boucher. The Flyers were going to the playoffs.
2009-10 ended up being a magical season that was cut just short. The Flyers made the Stanley Cup Finals after a momentous comeback from 3-0 against the Bruins. However, Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks proved to be too much for the Flyers, winning the Cup in 6 games.
Flyers vs. Rangers Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park (2012)
Consisting to two large-market, competitive teams, the Flyers-Rangers rivalry is a personal favorite of NBC for high ratings. As a result, the two were chosen to play in the 2012 Winter Classic. Along with the actual game, the two teams were featured on HBO’s 24/7 (where my Dad was a featured topic) and played an Alumni game.
In the Alumni game, legendary Flyers goalie Bernie Parent suited up in the nets. Donning his original pads from the 1970s, Parent made a number of saves, much to the delight of the roaring crowd. He even stoned Ranger Ron Duguay on a breakaway. The Alumni game also marked the anticipated return to Philadelphia for Eric Lindros, whose tenuous feud with Bobby Clarke had finally subsided. He was given a hero’s welcome, and set up John LeClair for the game’s first goal, reminiscent of their Legion of Doom days.
In the actual game, the Flyers controversially started Sergei Bobrovsky ahead of their $51 million dollar man, Ilya Bryzgalov. The decision appeared to pay off at first, with the Flyers jumping out to a 2-0 lead. However, two goals from an unlikely source, Mike Rupp, knotted the score at two. Brad Richards put the Rangers ahead 3-2 with 14:39 left to go. The Flyers were given a golden opportunity to send the game to overtime when Danny Briere was rewarded a penalty shot with just 19.6 seconds left in the game. However, Henrik Lundqvist stood tall and stopped the attempt to ensure a 3-2 Rangers victory.
Flyers vs. Rangers in Eastern Conference Finals (1997)
Before meeting in the matchup to decide who would make the finals, the two teams took very different paths. The Flyers defeated the Sabres and Panthers (181 regular season points), whereas the Rangers defeated the #1 seeded New Jersey Devils and #4 seed Florida Panthers (193 regular season points). Despite the fact that the Flyers had 17 more points in the regular season, they had gone 2-3-1 against the Rangers.
The Rangers boasted a number of veteran acquisitions that were supposed to put them over the top. The most notable was, of course, Wayne Gretzky. However, they also acquired goalscorer Russ Courtnall, and super-pest, playoff warrior Esa Tikkanen.
After splitting the first two games in Philadelphia, the Flyers rattled off three straight victories, including two at Madison Square Garden, to send them to the Finals. They were led by a dominant performance from Eric Lindros, who recorded five goals and four assists in the five game series. The series ended up being notable for the wrong reasons for the Rangers. It would be the last playoff game that legends Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier would every play in. It would also be the last time the Rangers would make the playoffs until 2005-06, eight seasons later. The Flyers wouldn’t fare much better, as they were swept in the finals by the Red Wings.
Flyers-Rangers Rivalry Renewed
After a storied past, these two rivals will draw fresh blood once again this postseason. Each team won two games this season, and they finished just two points apart in the standings. Who will win the newest instalment of the rivalry?