Niittymaki Continues Mastery of Thrashers: October 28, 2008
If ever an NHL player truly "had an opposing team's number" it was goaltender Antero Niittymaki against the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets).
Over the course of his NHL career with the Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks, Niittymaki had a perfect 17-0-0 record, 1.76 goals against average, .940 save percentage and one shutout. Most of that incredible record was compiled as a member of the Flyers.
On October 28, 2008, the Flyers breezed to a 7-0 blowout road victory over the Thrashers behind a 24-save shutout by Niittymaki. The Finnish netminder received four goals worth of support from Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble alone, as the two longtime linemates scored twice apiece.
Years later, Niittymaki said of his career-long mastery of the Thrashers, "I don't know why [it happened] that way, but it was just a coincidence. I know there was some luck in a few of those games. Just one of those things."
October 28: Through the Years
- 1976: Bernie Parent earns a 21-save shutout as the Flyers blank the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Spectrum, 3-0. Reggie Leach, Mel Bridgman and Bobby Clarke provide the goal support.
- 1977: The Flyers trade forward Harvey Bennett to the Minnesota North Stars in exchange for Blake Dunlop and a 1978 third-round pick (Gord Salt). Dunlop goes on to post a 20-goal, 48-point campaign in a 1978-79 season in which he appears in only 66 games at the NHL level.
- 1980: In a fight-filled game at the Spectrum, the Flyers burn the Calgary Flames for three first-period goals, two second period goals and three third-period goals to compile an 8-0 blowout. Pete Peeters stops all 22 shots he faces. Bill Barber (even-strength and shorthanded goals, one assist) and defenseman Behn Wilson score twice apiece.
- 1999: Valeri Zelepukin scores an overtime goal with just nine ticks left on the clock to secure a 5-4 home win over the Colorado Avalanche. Mikael Renberg, Mark Recchi, Eric Desjardins and Mark Greig also score for Philadelphia, while Daymond Langkow collects three assists. The Flyers lead 4-0 in the third period before Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk score twice apiece to force overtime.
October 28: Flyers Birthdays
Feisty goal-scoring winger and former Flyers captain Kevin Dineen was born October 28, 1963 in Quebec City, Quebec. A member of one of the hockey world's most prolific families, Kevin is the son of former NHL player, coach and scout Bill Dineen. Four of Kevin's siblings - Shawn, Peter, Gord and Jerry - also went on to play professional hockey. Two played in the NHL.
Older brother Peter Dineen was drafted by the Flyers in the ninth round (189th overall) of the 1980 NHL Draft. A defenseman, Peter Dineen broke into the pro ranks with the American Hockey League's Maine Mariners before he was traded by the Flyers to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defenseman Bob Hoffmeyer on October 22, 1983.
Kevin Dineen, who was primarily raised in the United States while his father worked in coaching and scouting, was drafted by the Hartford Whalers in the third round of the 1982 draft (56th overall). Coincidentally, the pick originally belonged to the Flyers. The pick was part of the blockbuster exchange of players and draft-selection assets that changed hands on July 3, 1981 when the Flyers traded Rick MacLeish to the Hartford Whalers and received Ray Allison, Fred Arthur, a 1982 first-round pick (Ron Sutter) and a 1982 third-round pick (Miroslav "Cookie" Dvorak) in return.
Dineen was often described as a power forward during his career, but he played much bigger than his actual size. He stood 5-foot-11 and weighed 190 pounds in his prime. In addition to his goal scoring prowess, Dineen had a Tasmanian devil-like quality to his game on the ice. Off the ice, he was friendly, kind and charitable.
The player enjoyed a solid two-year college career at the University of Denver, where he majored in business management. During his freshman year, he scored 10 goals and 20 points in 26 games. The next season, he posted 16 goals and 29 points in 36 since games while setting a team record for penalty minutes in a season with 105 penalty minutes.
In 1983-84, Dineen was invited to try out for Team Canada during the pre-Olympic tour. Playing both forward and defense, he won a spot on the 1984 Olympic roster in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. He turned pro the next season.
While his father was winning championships as a coach in the American League, Kevin Dineen was steadily making a name for himself in the NHL. As a rookie in 1984-85, he scored a very respectable 25 goals and 41 points in 57 games, to go along with 120 penalty minutes.
Over the next four seasons, he never scored fewer than 25 goals, cracking the 40-goal barrier twice (with a high of 45 in 1988-89). In 1987, Dineen was part of the victorious Team Canada squad that defeated the Soviet Union in what is considered the finest Canada Cup series played in the tournament's history.
The Whalers were a perpetual also-ran in the 1980s and 1990s, but that was hardly Kevin Dineen's fault. Montreal Canadiens' coach Jean Perron called the right winger "one of the most inspirational players I have ever known."
During the late 1980s, virtually every NHL team asked Hartford whether Dineen was available in trade. The answer was always a flat no. That changed after the 1990-91 season.
In 1987, Dineen was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, a painful and incurable digestive disorder. In December of 1990, a severe flare up of the condition caused Dineen to miss several games and ultimately resulted in him being hospitalized on January 2, 1991. Over an eight-day span, Dineen lost 10 pounds.
Dineen returned to the Whalers lineup on January 23, 1991. Although he refused to use his condition as an excuse for subpar play, the player was still not fully recuperated. He finished the season with just 17 goals, 47 points and 104 penalty minutes in 62 games.
Hartford management publicly expressed support for Dineen but was privately worried whether the soon-to-be 28-year-old would be able to recover his previous form. When Dineen got off to a slow start in the 1991-92 season (four goals, six points in 16 games), the club listened to several trade offers from other clubs.
Flyers general manager Russ Farwell was looking to shake up the roster. The team had missed the playoffs the previous two seasons and stumbled out of the gates in October and November of the current season.
On November 13, 1991, Philadelphia and Hartford struck a deal. The Flyers sent veteran Murray Craven and a 1992 fourth-round draft choice (Kevin Smyth) to the Whalers in exchange for Dineen.
The next night, Dineen was placed on right wing on the line centered by first-year Flyer Rod Brind'Amour. Dineen scored his first goal as a Flyer in the closing seconds of regulation to seal a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Two nights later, the Flyers downed Montreal, 3-1.
Unfortunately, the wins proved to be the final ones of Paul Holmgren's three-plus season tenure as head coach. The club went on to lose six of its next seven games with one tie.
When Holmgren was fired as head coach, Farwell chose Bill Dineen (who had been working as a Flyers scout) as his replacement. The Dineens became the first - and only - father and son, coach and player duo in Flyers' franchise history.
The Flyers had a winning record over the remainder of the 1991-92 season but the team fell short of the playoffs. Nevertheless, Kevin Dineen was one of the bright spots, posting 26 goals, 56 points and 130 penalty minutes in 64 games.
In his second and final year as coach, the still-undermanned Bill Dineen-led Flyers club might have snuck into the playoffs if rookie phenom Eric Lindros had not missed 23 games due to injury. On the second line, center Rod Brind'Amour produced 37 goals and 86 points. Tenacious as ever, linemate Kevin Dineen tallied 35 goals, 63 points and a career-high 201 penalty minutes as well as a plus-14 rating at even strength.
With new head coach Terry Simpson at the helm, Dineen was named captain of the Flyers for the 1993-94 season. Struggling with a setback in his Crohn's Disease regimen, he missed five games during the middle of the season. The next year, Lindros became captain as Terry Murray became head coach. After five seasons of missing the playoffs, the Flyers re-emerged as a Stanley Cup contender. Dineen battled a shoulder problem for much of the shortened regular season.
Dineen re-signed with the Flyers during the 1995 offseason. However, he got off to a slow start during the 1995-96 season. On December 28, 1995, the 32-year-old was traded back to Hartford for a 1997 third-round pick (Kris Mallette) and a 1997 seventh-round pick (later reacquired by the Whalers).
Dineen had something of a bounce-back season for the Whalers in 1996-97 (19 goals, 48 points, 141 penalty minutes). He played six additional NHL seasons after that, spending the first two years of the Carolina Hurricanes' franchise history with the club after they relocated from Hartford to Raleigh. Thereafter, he spent one season with the Ottawa Senators and three seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets before retiring as an active player.
For his distinguished NHL playing career, Dineen played 1,1184 regular season games (355 goals, 405 assists, 760 points, 2,229 penalty minutes) and 59 playoff matches (29 goals, 18 assists, 41 points, 127 penalty minutes). As a Flyer, he posted 176 points (88 goals, 88 assists) and 533 penalty minutes in 284 regular season games. During the 1995 playoffs, he stepped up to score six goals and four assists for 10 points in 15 games to go along with 18 penalty minutes.
After his playing days, Dineen began a successful coaching career. As head coach of the Florida Panthers in 2011-12, he guided the team to first place in the Southeast Division. In 2014, Dineen served as head coach of the gold medal winning Canadian national women's Olympic team. Joining the Chicago Blackhawks as an assistant coach for the 2014-15 season, Dineen won the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career.
Related Story: Dineen Father-Son Team Lifts Flyers http://flyers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=436023
Former University of North Dakota center Chris Jensen was born October 28, 1963 in Fort St. John, British Columbia. Drafted by the New York Rangers in the fourth round (78th overall) of the 1982 NHL Draft, the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder broke into the NHL with the Rangers in the latter part of the 1985-86 season.
On September 28, 1988, the Flyers acquired Jensen from the Rangers in exchange for minor leaguer Michael Boyce. Jensen primarily played for the AHL's Hershey Bears during his five-season stay in the Flyers' organization but he did dress in 21 NHL games for the Flyers, including 18 games during the 1990-91 campaign (two goals, three points).
As a member of the Hershey Bears in 1991-92, Jensen posted 38 goals, 71 points and 134 penalty minutes in 71 games. He remained with Hershey through the 1991-92 season. Thereafter, he played elsewhere in the American Hockey League and the now-defunct International Hockey League (IHL). In 1998-99, Jensen served as the head coach of the Wheeling Nailers of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
Colorado College product Mark Cullen was born October 28, 1978 in Moorhead, Minnesota. Unselected in the NHL Draft, the 6-foot, 187-pound center earned a pro contract with the Minnesota Wild organization after starring at Colorado College.
After racking up 68 points in 54 games at the AHL level for the Norfolk Admirals during the 2005-06 season, Cullen got his first shot in the NHL as he spent 29 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and posted 16 points (seven goals, nine assists).
The Flyers signed Cullen as a free agent on July 5, 2006. He was waived before opening night and assigned to the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms. Cullen later dressed in three NHL games for the Flyers (zero points, minus-three, average 6:15 of ice time) during the 2006-07 season. As a Phantom, he posted 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 56 games.
A free agent again in the summer of 2007, Cullen signed with the Detroit Red Wings organization. Although he did not again appear in the NHL apart from a six-game stint with the Florida Panthers in 2011-12, Cullen remained a productive offensive player in the AHL and in Europe.
Mark Cullen's older brother, Matt Cullen, enjoyed a prolific NHL playing career that started in 1997-98 and spanned two decades in the league.