The late Flyers Hall of Fame defenseman Barry Ashbee toiled for many years in the minor leagues before he got his first bonafide chance to stake down a regular National Hockey League job. A longtime member of the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears, Ashbee finally got a 14-game NHL look with the Bears' NHL parent team of the time, the Boston Bruins, for 14 games in 1965-66. Unfortunately, injury issues forced him to sit out the entire 1966-67 season.
Thereafter, he was written off by Boston's Harry Sinden and returned to the AHL for the duration of his stint in the Bruins organization. Finally, after seven years spent mostly in Hershey, Ashbee got a much-needed change of scenery. On May 22, 1970 the Flyers swapped Darrryl Edestrand and Larry Killop in exchange for Ashbee in what was initially deemed by the press as strictly a minor-league trade.
Instead, Ashbee quickly became an NHL mainstay as a 31-year-old "rookie" with the Flyers. His defensive savvy, toughness, competitive drive and stoicism in playing through enormous thresholds of pain (even by hockey standards) from chronic ailments made him a team leader. He was one of the players who helped forge what soon became the Flyers' signature identity.
Ashbee's career came to an abrupt end when he suffered a serious eye injury in the 1974 Stanley Cup semifinals against the Rangers. The Flyers went on to win the Stanley Cup. The next season, with Ashbee now an assistant coach under the legendary Fred Shero, the Flyers repeated as Stanley Cup champions.
May 22 in Flyers History:
1975: The Buffalo Sabres evened the 1975 Stanley Cup Final against the Flyers at two games apiece, downing Philly, 4-2, at the Aud in Game 4.
1980: The Flyers narrowed the gap in the 1980 Stanley Cup Final to three games to two as they defeated the New York Islanders, 6-3, at the Spectrum in Game 5. Rick MacLeish tallied twice, while Bob Clarke, Mike Busniuk, Brian Propp and Paul Holmgren (10th goal of the playoffs) notch a goal apiece and Ken Linseman racked up three assists. The Flyers output was more than enough to overcome two more power play goals by a scorching hot Islanders' power play.
1987: After losing in overtime in Edmonton in Game Two of the 1987 Stanley Cup Final to trail two games to zero, the Flyers earned a comeback 5-3 win at the Spectrum in Game 3 for their first win of one of the all-time classic series in NHL history. Philly trailed 3-0 near the midway mark of the game before exploding for two unanswered goals in the second period and three in the third. Murray Craven and Peter Zezel got the comeback started with power play goals to cut the gap to 3-2 in the middle stanza. In the third period, Scott Mellanby tied the game at 4:37. Just 17 seconds after play resumed, the cacophonous Spectrum crowd was whipped into an even greater frenzy as Brad McCrimmon put the Flyers ahead. Ron Hextall (23 saves including 10 in the third period) slammed the door and Brian Propp tacked on some late empty-net insurance with his 11th goal of the 1987 playoffs. Checking center Ron Sutter earned three assists in the tilt.
1995: For the second straight game in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the host Flyers went overtime with the defending Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers. For the second straight game, a Flyers defenseman provided the winning score in OT. After Eric Desjardins netted the winner in Game 1, defense partner Kevin Haller did the honors in the next match. Once again, the Flyers had to play comeback hockey early as Brian Leetch built a 2-0 lead in the first period with a pair of goals. Eric Lindros and Dmitri Yushkevich drew the Flyers' even in the second period before Legion of Doom right winger Mikael Renberg put the Flyers ahead, 3-2, on the first shift of the third period. As with Game One, the Flyers were unable to protect a third-period lead. This time, Leetch completed a hat trick midway through the frame. Finally, just 25 seconds after overtime started, Renberg and Lindros completed their respective three-point days by combining to set up a wide open Haller for the 4-3 game winner.
2004: One of the hardest-fought Conference Finals in modern NHL history came to a bit of anticlimactic and over-cautious Game 7 as tired Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning teams both played not to lose the deciding game in Tampa. A power play goal by ex-Flyer Ruslan Fedotenko and a second period Fredrik Modin goal built a 2-0 lead for the Bolts before Flyers defenseman Kim Johnsson drew the team back within a goal with 29:46 of hockey left to be played. This time, unfortunately, there were no more dramatic comebacks left in the Flyers' legs. Tampa won the game, 2-1, and went on to win the Stanley Cup over the Calgary Flames. During the semifinals, the Lightning won all four of the odd-numbered games and the Flyers won the three even-numbered games.
2010: Riding waiver-wire pickup goaltender Michael Leighton's third shutout performance in the 2010 Eastern Conference Final, the Flyers built a three games to one lead over the Montreal Canadiens with a 3-0 road win in Game Four. After a scoreless first period, Claude Giroux and Ville Leino notched second period goals to build a 2-0 lead. Leighton, who saw just 17 shots for the game and few of significant danger, nailed down the shutout in the final stanza. Giroux added an empty netter for his second goal of the game and eighth of the 2010 playoffs.
May 22: Flyers Birthday
Offensive minded Finnish defenseman Janne Niinimaa was born on May 22, 1975.