Healthy Carter Hart driving Flyers’ recent surge

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You could not possibly blame Philadelphia Flyers fans if they were some combination of wildly optimistic and simultaneously terrified with the way goalie Carter Hart has began his NHL career.

On one hand, there is plenty of reason to believe he could finally be the franchise goalie they have been waiting decades for their team to find.

On the other hand, this is a Flyers goalie we are talking about. If there is a team and fanbase that knows a thing or two about false hope and crushing disappointment at the position, it is them. At this risk of being hyperbolic, they have been to goalies what the Cleveland Browns have been to quarterbacks. It is almost as if you are always waiting for Lucy to pull the football away at the last second when a Flyers goalie is the topic of discussion and there is even a shred of optimism about their play

The list of names that have trailed — and ultimately failed — to lock down that position is an exercise in “hey, do you remember that guy?” fun. Just consider that since the start of the 2000 season the Flyers have had eight different goalies start at least 99 games for the franchise. That is more than any other team in the league. The only teams that have had at least seven during that stretch are Toronto and Atlanta/Winnipeg. For the Flyers, that list includes everyone from Roman Cechmanek, to Ilya Bryzgalov, to Antero Niittymaki, to Robert Esche.

Many have tried to fix the problem. Some gave them real reason for excitement. All have failed to some degree.

But ever since the Flyers drafted Hart in the second-round of the 2016 draft (when he was the first goalie taken off the board at No. 48 overall) there has been hope and anticipation that he could finally be the guy.

It is still very early in his career, but the early returns have been everything the Flyers could have realistically hope for, and probably more.

He’s been one of the league’s best goalies since the start of November

Since returning to the Flyers’ lineup on February 10 after missing a month due to injury, he has been one of the driving forces behind their improbable climb to the top of the Metropolitan Division.

He is 8-1-0 in his nine starts during that stretch with a .928 save percentage.

He has won 10 of his past 11 decisions overall, and has been mostly outstanding for the season once he got over a brutal start in October.

Since Nov. 1 he is in the top-10 among goalies (with at least 20 starts) in all-situations save percentage and even-strength save percentage.

Most goalies aren’t this good at this age

What is perhaps most important for the Flyers is that he is doing all of this at an age when most goalies are not being asked to take on this sort of role. Hart does not turn 22 until August and is already starting to establish himself as bonafide No. 1 goalie in the league. As of Friday, he has appeared in 72 games for his career and owns a more than respectable .914 overall save percentage. Just for some historical context, here are the only goalies in NHL history to appear in at least 40 games before turning 22 and also having a save percentage above .910:

  • Roberto Luongo (71 games played, .914 save percentage)
  • Hart (72 games played, .914 save percentage)
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy (40 games played, .913 save percentage)
  • Martin Brodeur (51 games played, .913 save percentage)
  • Carey Price (93 games played, .912 save percentage)
  • Felix Potvin (52 games played, .912 save percentage)

Pretty good list of goalies there.

His already strong play, as well as the way he has performed since returning from injury, could make the Flyers a potentially dangerous team come playoff time. They are already an above-average defensive team in pretty much every key defensive metric, while also possessing a deep, talented group of forwards that has made them one of the league’s highest scoring teams.

Now they might actually have the goalie to help bring everything all together.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Winter Classic Memories: Briere vs. Lundqvist

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    Every Tuesday in December we’ll be looking back at some Winter Classic memories as we approach the 2020 game on Jan. 1 between the Stars and Predators from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.

    The 46,967 fans inside Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia got to see a pretty entertaining Winter Classic in 2012. It was pretty heated on the ice between the Rangers and Flyers on that Jan. 2 afternoon. The longtime division rivals played an intense game that saw New York make a comeback and hold on to a lead with a dramatic finish. 

    Before the drama went down on the ice, there was some off of it when Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette made the decision to start Sergei Bobrovsky over Ilya Bryzgalov, he of the nine-year, $51 million contract signed that previous summer.

    Things started well for the the Flyers, who opened up a 2-0 lead in the second period with goals from Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux 1:55 apart. Mike Rupp then answered 30 seconds later for the Rangers and celebrated with a Jagr Salute after No. 68 exited the game with an injury.

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    Early in the third period the Rangers continued the comeback with Rupp adding a second and Brad Richards scoring the go-ahead goal with 14:39 to play.

    The game remained that way into the final minute of the third. With both teams serving penalties, the Flyers emptied their net to make it a 5-on-4 as time ran down. A scrambled in front of Henrik Lundqvist’s net was whistled after Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh was caught covering the puck in the crease. That meant a penalty shot for Philadelphia, much to the amazement of John Tortorella, who expressed his costly opinion of the call after the game.

    Danny Briere was chosen to take the penalty shot with 19.5 seconds left as Flyers fans in attendance prayed for an equalizer.

    “That’s a lot of pressure,” said Flyers forward Jakub Voracek afterward. “You’ve got 50,000 people depending on you to score a goal. Millions watching on TV.”

    Lundqvist played it very aggressively, coming out to almost in line with the faceoff dots. Briere was thinking five-hole. 

    “You go in and you try to get a read on where he is at,” Briere said. “He came really far out. All I was thinking was that the game was going to overtime, that I was going to score. I could see it going in.”

    “I couldn’t believe he called the penalty shot,” Lundqvist said. “But it was exciting. Obviously there’s a lot of pressure on me there. But it was exciting. The whole game was exciting. Pretty intense.”

    The win kept the Rangers atop the Eastern Conference and sent the Flyers to their third loss of the season to their rivals in New York and fifth straight against them. The comeback also marked the first time the Flyers had lost in regulation that season after leading through two periods.

    “It’s frustrating,” Briere said. “It’s disappointing. But I can’t change anything about it now. I got a good shot off, he made a good save.”

    NBC will air the 2020 NHL Winter Classic between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Texas, at 1 p.m. ET on New Year’s Day.

    PREVIOUSLY:
    The snow storm at The Big House
    • Syvret’s first NHL goal comes at Fenway Park
    Late winner has extra special meaning for Brouwer

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    PHT Time Machine: When RFA offer sheets actually happened

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    Throughout the offseason we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back at the history of restricted free agent offer sheets and some of the wild signings and situations that have unfolded because of them.

    There is probably no greater time-waster in the NHL offseason than discussing the possibility of a restricted free agent offer sheet. Every year we look at the names that are out there, and every year we discuss the possibility of a young player signing a massive contract and wondering whether it will be matched, and every year nothing ever comes of it.

    There are a number of theories as to why it never happens, ranging from the more nefarious ones like GM’s wanting to keep the cost of young players down or having some sort of “unwritten agreement” among them to not poach other team’s players, to a far more reasonable one: It’s really difficult to find a perfect match where such a signing can actually happen.

    Not only does a team need to have the salary cap space and the appropriate draft pick assets, but the player in question has to actually WANT to sign with the team offering the contract, and the team owning that player’s rights has to be unwilling (or unable) to match it.

    That is tough to find.

    We do not know how many offers actually get made, but we do know in the history of restricted free agency there have only been 35 offer sheets actually signed, and only eight in the salary cap era.

    Only 13 of those offer sheets were not matched and saw a player actually change teams.

    We have not seen an offer sheet signed since the Calgary Flames tried to get Ryan O'Reilly away from the Colorado Avalanche during the 2012-13 season (it was ultimately matched by the Avalanche).

    This offseason, of course, is no different when it comes to the speculation, and the player that is getting the most attention is Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner due to the team’s salary cap crunch and Marner’s reported contract demands.

    Will it actually happen? History says no, but a lot of the circumstances are in place for it to at least be on the table. Speaking of history, let’s take a look back at some of the more noteworthy offer sheets in NHL history.

    Hurricanes sign Sergei Fedorov

    This might be the wildest offer sheet situation the league has ever seen.

    During the 1997-98 season the Carolina Hurricanes were in their first year of existence after relocating from Hartford. They were losing money after the move, they were in last place in their division, and the organization had missed the playoffs in each of its final five seasons as the Whalers.

    Fedorov, still fairly close to the height of his powers as an NHL superstar, was involved in an ugly contract dispute with the Detroit Red Wings and by mid-February had still not signed a contract. During the Olympic break that season (the first year NHL players participated in the Olympics) the Hurricanes, led by now Hall of Fame general manager Jim Rutherford, decided to pounce and signed Fedorov to a massive six year, $38 million contract that included a $14 million signing bonus for him to play in the final 25 games of the season, and more than $12 million in bonuses over the next four years.

    It would have made him one of the highest paid players in the league.

    An excerpt from a Feb. 21, 1998 Associated Press story on the signing.

    Rutherford later added in the story, “This is a player in a special situation who rolled the dice, he held out, he’s a world-class player and probably one of the top-five players in the world right now. He deserves to make more money. This is part of the building blocks to being in a new market … and having a franchise player.”

    The Red Wings ultimately matched the offer and Fedorov not only ended up making a ton of money to play in only a quarter of the season, he played a massive part in the team winning its second straight Stanley Cup.

    But it wasn’t just the fact that a last place team in a new market made the bold move to sign a superstar to a massive offer sheet that made this so intriguing. The underlying storyline here was also the fact the owners of the teams (Peter Karmanos with the Hurricanes and Mike Ilitch with the Red Wings) had a long history of being rivals in pretty much every walk of life.

    Karmanos initially tried to move the Whalers to suburban Detroit after purchasing the team in 1994 (they would have played at The Palace Of Auburn Hills) something that obviously did not sit well with the Red Wings, while the two men had extensive business operations in the Detroit area (Ilitch with Little Caesars; Karmonas with a computer software company).

    They were also active players in Detroit’s amateur hockey scene that resulted in Ilitch evicting Karmanos’ major junior team out of Joe Louis arena.

    So … yeah. These two guys had major beef for a long time, and adding a restricted free agent offer sheet for one of the league’s best players certainly didn’t calm things down.

    At least they never tried to fight in a barn, something that nearly happened in our next situation.

    The Oilers’ wild summer of 2007

    Knowing what we know now about how slow the RFA market typically is, it is completely absurd to look back now and remember that the Edmonton Oilers, under the direction of Kevin Lowe, signed two offer sheets in the same summer.

    It all began on July 6, 2007, when he attempted to sign Thomas Vanek to a seven-year, $50 million contract in an effort to pry him away from the Buffalo Sabres. At the time Vanek was one of the league’s best young goal-scorers and was coming off of a 43-goal season. Even though he had played just two years in the league, he had already scored 68 goals and was an emerging star.

    The Sabres immediately matched the offer.

    So Lowe set his sights elsewhere and three weeks later targeted the reigning Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, signing Dustin Penner to five-year, $21.5 million offer sheet.

    Prior to the signing then-Ducks general manager Brian Burke had said he would match any offer sheet that Penner was signed to, but he probably was not anticipating that sort of offer. Even though Penner was coming off of a 29-goal season for the Ducks, he had still only played 101 games in the NHL and had just 33 total goals (less than half of what Vanek had scored at the same point in their careers).

    The offer infuriated Burke and resulted in him publicly blasting Lowe in the media the next day.

    Along with calling the contract “gutless,” Burke also added that “Edmonton has offered a mostly inflated salary for a player, and I think it’s an act of desperation for a general manager who is fighting to keep his job.”

    The feud between the two executives reached a point to where Burke wanted to rent a barn in Lake Placid so they could physically fight.

    The Ducks refused to match the offer and in return received the Oilers’ first, second, and third round draft picks the following year.

    From there, a lot of things happened.

    • The first-round pick Anaheim received ended up being the No. 12 pick in the draft. Anaheim then traded that pick for the No. 17 and 28 picks in 2008. They then used the No. 17 pick to select Jake Gardiner, who would eventually be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs (along with Joffrey Lupul) in exchange for Francois Beauchemin.  The No. 28 pick was traded for two second-round picks.
    • The second-round pick Anaheim received from Edmonton was used to select Justin Schultz, who ended up never signing with the Ducks and once he became a free agent signed with … the Edmonton Oilers.

    Penner was mostly okay with the Oilers, but probably wasn’t worth the assets they gave up to get him.

    Flyers go all in for Shea Weber

    Ah, yes, the Paul Holmgren era Philadelphia Flyers.

    If there was a blockbuster to be made this team was going to do it. One year after overhauling his entire roster by trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter so he could throw a bank vault at Ilya Bryzgalov, Paul Holmgren made what was perhaps his boldest move yet when he signed defenseman Shea Weber to a massive 14-year offer sheet that was worth $110 million.

    [Related: Paul Holmgren’s year of crazy Flyers blockbusters]

    The Predators were pretty vulnerable at the time because this was the same summer they had lost Ryan Suter in free agency to the Minnesota Wild, which came just a couple of years after losing Dan Hamhuis. The team was built around its defense and two of its three most important players were already gone. Losing Weber at that time would have been absolutely crushing.

    The Predators decided to pass at the opportunity to collect four first-round draft picks from the Flyers and matched the offer.

    They eventually traded Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban, and then traded Subban this summer to the Devils for … well … a lot of salary cap space.

    Scott Stevens had an extensive — and important — history with offer sheets

    One of the first significant offer sheets came when the St. Louis Blues signed Scott Stevens to a four-year, $5.1 million contract to pry him away from the Washington Capitals on July 16, 1990.

    The Capitals declined to match the offer and ultimately received five first-round draft picks in return, with two of them turning into Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt, two players that would go on to be long-time staples on the Capitals’ blue line.

    Stevens would only play one season with the Blues before he was on the move again in the summer of 1991 in one of the more controversial rulings in league history.

    It was then that the Blues signed restricted free agent Brendan Shanahan away from the New Jersey Devils. Because the Blues were sending all of their first-round picks to the Capitals for signing Stevens, they had to agree to other compensation to get Shanahan. There was a disagreement on what that compensation should be.

    The Blues offered goalie Curtis Joseph, forward Rod Brind’Amour, and two draft picks.

    The Devils wanted Stevens.

    An arbitrator decided that Stevens was the appropriate compensation and awarded him to the Devils in a decision that infuriated the Blues and other high-profile players around the league, including The Great One.

    Blues superstar Brett Hull was not as calm or measured in his statements.

    And more…

    Wild times.

    This was during a CBA fight between the players and league with the players trying to get greater free agent rights. So it is not hard to understand why the Blues (and other players around the league) were so angry about it.

    Stevens initially refused to report to Devils camp. He eventually did and would go on to become one of the most important players in franchise history and was the backbone of three Stanley Cup winning teams.

    But his RFA saga would not end with this.

    In the summer of 1994 the Blues had attempted to re-acquire Stevens, again a restricted free agent, and signed him to a four-year, $17 million offer sheet.

    The Devils would ultimately match it, but were convinced the Blues had tampered with Stevens and spoke to him before his Devils contract expired. The league then launched an investigation and NEARLY FIVE YEARS finally reached a settlement that would see the Blues send $1.4 million and a first-round draft pick to the Devils as compensation for tampering.

    Then-Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello was not satisfied with that resulted and wanted more.

    Via the New York Times:

    ”I don’t look at something of this nature as a triumph,” Lamoriello said yesterday in a conference call after Commissioner Gary Bettman handed down his decision. ”It’s a detriment to the N.H.L. I don’t think the compensation could be severe enough. My request was five first-round picks, plus damages.”

    And…

    ”In a process of negotiations, when they are ongoing and you are speaking, you can usually sense when there is something else involved,” Lamoriello said. ”I sensed that I was talking to myself. I just felt as though there was something funny in the way things transpired, the way things went. I was the sole person that could be negotiating, but I felt very strongly reading some of the articles that did come out of St. Louis and things I was hearing, that something happened. Where there was some smoke, I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any fire.”

    Rangers try for Joe Sakic

    In the summer of 1997 the New York Rangers were coming off of a conference Finals loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and had just lost their captain, Mark Messier, in free agency to the Vancouver Canucks.

    Their response: To sign Joe Sakic, at the time one of the league’s best players, to a three-year, $21 million contract that had as much as $15 million in signing bonuses up front. The compensation would have been five first-round draft picks.

    The Avalanche refused to let their cornerstone player get away and matched the offer. They would go on to remain one of the league’s powers and would win another Stanley Cup with Sakic in 2001. The Rangers, meanwhile, stumbled through a seven-year run of mediocrity where they attempted to acquire every aging superstar in the league. Nothing worked and the team was consistently an expensive flop until finally returning to the playoffs during the 2005-06 season.

    For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    Bobrovsky’s playoff revival leading Blue Jackets

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    When Jarmo Kekkalainen decided to push all of his chips to the center of the table by acquiring Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel at the trade deadline, it was one of the boldest plays of any general manager in recent NHL history.

    The potential for the entire thing to blow up in his face and leave him completely empty-handed was a very real one.

    The Columbus Blue Jackets’ two best and most notable players — Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky — remained unsigned beyond this season, and Kekalainen added two more pending free agents to that mix while giving up several assets, and even more outrageous than all of that was the fact his team still wasn’t a lock to actually make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    It was not only a situation where most GMs would play it safe by not adding anyone, it was a situation where many GMs might have sold off their biggest assets and punted on the season (and we saw that very situation play out in Minnesota this year and in St. Louis a year ago). But this was an organization that has given its fanbase nothing but disappointment in its nearly two decades of existence and had never experienced life outside of Round 1 in the playoffs on the rare occasion that it did make the playoffs.

    So instead of giving the fans more reason to question the team and doubt the commitment, they went in. All in.

    With Duchene and Dzingel, the Blue Jackets had what looked to be a pretty strong team on paper and one that might be capable of making some noise should it actually, you know, make the playoffs.

    There was just one big question floating around the team.

    Could they count on Bobrovsky in net? That may sound like a harsh question but his career in Columbus has been a tale of two extremes and makes it a completely fair question to ask.

    His regular season performance? As good as you could possibly hope for from a starting NHL goalie. Between the 2012-13 and 2017-18 seasons there was not a single goalie in the NHL that had a better save percentage than his .923 mark. He also won Two Vezina Trophies, something that only 22 goalies in league history can claim, and was a top-five finisher in Hart Trophy voting twice. He wasn’t just good, he was great. That regular season performance is on the fringes of a Hall of Fame career if for no other reason than the Vezinas, as 18 of the 22 goalies that have won multiple Vezinas are in the Hall of Fame.

    [NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    The problem has always been that once the regular season ends and the playoffs begin, something has happened to Bobrovsky’s performance, and it hasn’t been pretty.

    I hate basing narratives around a player based on the small sample sizes of data the playoffs produce because there are so many variables that go into what happens during those games, and sometimes a player can simply go through a cold streak in the spring without it being a defining moment for their season or career. But with Bobrovsky it happened so consistently and so regularly (and so badly) that it has been impossible to ignore.

    Before this season his career postseason save percentage was a horrific .899. Of the 29 goalies that appeared in at least 20 playoff games since the start of the 2010-11 season (when Bobrovsky entered the NHL) only one of them (Ilya Bryzgalov) had a worse number, while only three others (Brian Elliott, Devan Dubnyk, and Antti Niemi) had a number lower than even .910.

    He wasn’t just the worst performing postseason goalie in the NHL, he was the worst performing postseason goalie by a significant margin. It was a jarring difference in performance and it made it easy to have doubts about what the Blue Jackets could do this postseason if he didn’t improve on it dramatically, especially with a first-round matchup against the best offensive team of this era.

    It wasn’t a stretch to say that all of the pressure the Blue Jackets were facing after their trades was on the shoulders of their starting goalie, because a repeat performance of postseasons past would have completely sunk them no matter what Panarin, Duchene, Dzingel, or any of their other top players were able to do.

    One thing you might be able to say about his postseason performance was that almost all of those games came against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, two teams that are loaded with offensive superstars, and two of which went on to win the Stanley Cup after defeating Bobrovsky. A lot of great goalies have looked bad at times against those teams, and Bobrovsky had the unfortunate bad luck of having to run into them in the first round in three consecutive playoff appearances.

    Still, the performance is what it is and you can’t hide from the numbers. The Bobrovsky question was a very real one.

    Just six games into the 2019 playoffs, he’s done his part to erase any of the doubts that may have existed due to his past postseason performances because he has been outstanding from the start of the very first game.

    In Round 1, he helped shut down the high-powered Tampa offense and out-dueled a back-to-back Vezina finalist in Andrei Vasileskiy.

    Even though the Blue Jackets dropped Game 1 against the Boston Bruins in Round 2, it wasn’t necessarily due to anything Bobrovsky did or did not do, while he was probably the single biggest reason they had a chance to even the series in Game 2, especially due to his play in overtime where he made highlight reel save after highlight reel save.

    His .930 save percentage is third behind only Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop among all goalies for the playoffs that have been a redemption tour of sorts for him.

    This also couldn’t have happened at a better time for Bobrovsky as he prepares to enter unrestricted free agency this July. Whether he changes his mind and re-signs in Columbus or goes elsewhere there is nothing that is going to boost his value as much as a dominant postseason run, and perhaps one that takes the Blue Jackets deep in the postseason.

    With the talent the Blue Jackets now have at forward with Panarin, Duchene, Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and on defense, where Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are a powerhouse duo at the top of their blue line, the fate of their postseason success was always going to be tied to what they could get out of Bobrovsky. With him playing the way he has so far the sky is the limit for this team.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    PHT Time Machine: Four of the wildest moments in Penguins-Flyers history

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    Throughout the season we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back at a few wild moments in the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins-Philadelphia Flyers rivalry as they meet in the 2019 Stadium Series game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

    1. The 42-game winless streak

    There was an extended period of time — 15 years, to be exact — where the Pittsburgh Penguins probably would have preferred playing outside when they traveled to Philadelphia because they could not win a game in the old Spectrum. Literally, could not win a game. Between Feb. 7, 1974 and Feb. 2, 1989 the Penguins went 42 games without winning a game in the city of Philadelphia, posting an almost impossibly bad record of 0-39-3 in the Spectrum.

    It was, uh, kind of a big deal in Pittsburgh when it finally ended with a 5-3 win.

    2. Ron Hextall chases Rob Brown

    While the Penguins finally snapped the Spectrum Jinx that season, it would not do them much luck in the playoffs. The 1988-89 season was the most productive season of Mario Lemieux’s career and resulted in his first ever playoff appearance. After easily dispatching the New York Rangers in the first round in a clean four-game sweep, the Penguins had to face their arch-nemesis in the second round and ultimately lost to them in seven games, blowing what had been a 3-2 series lead. They took that 3-2 lead with a wild 10-7 win in Game 5 that featured the highlight of the series and one of the signature moments of the Penguins-Flyers rivalry — Penguins forward Rob Brown scoring the team’s ninth goal mid-way through the second period, and then getting chased around the ice by an angry Ron Hextall.

    3. The Five Overtime Game

    The Penguins and Flyers played one of the NHL’s classic playoff games on May 5, 2000, when they needed five overtimes to settle Game 4 of their second-round Eastern Conference series. The Penguins had jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the series by taking the first two games in Philadelphia. But when the series shift back to Pittsburgh, the momentum swung back toward Philadelphia with a pair of overtime wins. In Game 3, Andy Delmore was the unlikely Flyers hero by scoring a pair of goals, including the game-winner. In Game 4, it was Keith Primeau that came up big with this absolutely perfect shot to win the game at some ungodly hour in the morning.

    Penguins goalie Ron Tugnutt stopped 70 shots that night, and it still was not enough.

    The Flyers would go on to win the next two games by a combined score of 8-4 to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals.

    4. Jagr Watch and the 2011-12 season

    Prior to the 2011-12 season it was made known that Jaromir Jagr was going to be returning to the NHL after spending a few years playing in the KHL and the Pittsburgh Penguins were interested in a reunion with one of their greatest all-time players. The free agency saga involving Jagr was long, drawn out, chaotic, and ultimately ended with him not signing with the Penguins, but their fiercest long-time rival … the Flyers.

    This came in the same year that then-Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was overhauling his roster by signing players to long-term contracts and then trading them, so the addition of Jagr was just another blockbuster on top of many other blockbusters.

    Naturally, the two teams ended up meeting in the first-round of the playoffs and it was absolute mayhem. This was the series that seemed to officially break Ilya Bryzgalov as a legitimate NHL starting goalie, and for as bad as he was he was still the better of the two goalies and on the winning side. The series featured no defense, no goaltending, a missed offside call in Game 1 to spark a Flyers rally from a 3-0 deficit, on-ice violence and chaos, and a handful of suspensions.

    Honestly, we should have seen all of that coming based on what happened in the final regular season meeting between the two teams when all hell broke loose on the ice and between the benches.

    For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.