Entering the 1984-85 season, the Philadelphia Flyers were expected to have a transitional season. The roster was the youngest in the entire NHL. New head coach Mike Keenan had no previous NHL experience. Franchise icons Bob Clarke (now the team's rookie general manager) and Bill Barber were retired, while Darryl Sittler was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for young forwards Murray Craven and Joe Paterson.
Some pundits predicted the Flyers would finish as low as fourth place in the tough Patrick Division. Instead, the team produced the NHL's best record in the regular season and reached the Stanley Cup Final.
In the series opener at the Spectrum, the Flyers took on the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers boasted an array of future Hall of Fame talent in their primes, including Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson and goalie Grant Fuhr. The Flyers, greater than the sum of their parts, had one Hall of Famer (defenseman Mark Howe) and an underrated cast of talent playing in front of the game's emerging best goaltender, Vezina Trophy winner Pelle Lindbergh.
Keenan's Flyers outworked, out-checked, out-goaltended and out-muscled Glen Sather's Oilers. Ilkka Sinisalo opened the scoring with a late first period power play goal. Lindbergh did his part in making the narrow lead stand up and the entire team, especially Ron Sutter in working against Gretzky, frustrated Edmonton by taking away the time and space to make plays. The Flyers out-shot the Oilers 41-26 for the game.
In the third period, goals by Ron Sutter at 5:56 and Tim Kerr at 8:07 created some breathing room for the Flyers. Although Lindbergh's shutout bid was broken up with 3:08 remaining in the game, the Flyers had this one well in hand. Team captain Dave Poulin restored the three-goal margin with a late empty net goal to seal a 4-1 victory.
The Flyers played nearly a perfect 60 minutes of hockey in the opener. Unfortunately, it would be their only win in the series. A winnable Game 2 at the Spectrum got away from the Flyers - a 3-1 loss that was up for grabs until an Edmonton empty netter in the final half minute - before the scene shifted to Edmonton for the next three Games. The Oilers took 4-3 and 5-3 (after the game was tied at 3-3 heading into the third period) decisions in the next two games. The Flyers lost key players Kerr and Lindbergh (torn quadriceps) to injury. The Oilers then romped in Game Five, 8-3, to win the Stanley Cup.
May 21 in Flyers History:
1995: In Game One of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Flyers hosted the defending Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers. The Blueshirts rode first-period power play goals by Brian Leetch and Petr Nedved to a 2-0 lead at the first intermission. The Legion of Doom started to assert itself in the second period as John LeClair sandwiched power play and even strength goals around a Pat Verbeek marker to cut the gap to one goal through 40 minutes of play. In the third period, LeClair completed a hat trick and Mikael Renberg (two assists) brilliantly set up defenseman Eric Desjardins for a go-ahead goal with 4:49 remaining. The Flyers were unable to nail down the win in regulation, however, as Verbeek tied the game at 4-4 in the final 19 seconds. In overtime, Craig MacTavish won a right circle faceoff back to Desjardins. The Barry Ashbee Trophy winning defenseman skated to the top of the circle and then wristed a shot that beat a partially screened Mike Richter to make the Flyers the 5-4 victors at the 7:03 mark. Desjardins, who finished with three points in the game, did a little celebratory arm-pumping dance for joy that was replayed for several years to come in the opening montage of Flyers broadcasts.
May 21: Flyers Birthdays
Speedy forward Niko Dimitrakos was born May 21, 1979.
Tough-guy forward Reid Simpson was born May 21, 1969.
Better known for his subsequent time with the Ottawa Senators, forward Todd White was born May 21, 1975.