Chicago’s Stanley Cup Still Haunts Flyers

5 Jan

VOORHEES, N.J. — Danny Briere still can’t bear to watch. When it comes on television, he closes his eyes, looks away or changes the channel.

On June 9, 2010, Patrick Kane found himself with the puck along the left wing of the Flyers’ zone in overtime of a 3-3 Game 6 where the Blackhawks were up 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Final.

He deked and beat Kimmo Timonen outside. He stayed outside and just before crossing the goalline, he fired on net. The puck went through the legs of Michael Leighton and into the far side of the net, where it got stuck under the padding. No one but Kane knew where it was.

While the other 20,000 people in Wells Fargo Center were clueless, Kane threw off his gloves and skated toward Antti Niemi in celebration.

“I remember the next day waking up and there’s no meeting, there’s no media scrums, there’s no fans, there’s nobody waiting for you anywhere,” said Briere. “It was a very, very empty feeling. When I woke up, that’s when I started realizing what was going on. I don’t even remember after the game when I did.”

On Thursday, both teams will be on the ice in Philadelphia for the first time since that goal was scored. That said, few remain from that game for either team. Only seven active Flyers and nine Blackhawks are still with their respective teams since the 2010 Stanley Cup Final ended.

The Flyers played the Blackhawks last season, a 4-1 win at the United Center. But this is the first game in Philadelphia since Chicago won the Cup and don’t think for a second that the Flyers forgot.

“I’m sure it’ll cross everyone’s mind that was on our team that year,” said Scott Hartnell. “It was obviously a disappointing end to that season. It was a great run, everything like that. But coming up short always leaves bad memories in the back of your head. But there won’t be much motivation needed. We’ve got to get back to our winning ways. Our home record has been quite poor all season, and we’ve got to change that.”

The Flyers have lost two consecutive home games and need to right the ship at Wells Fargo Center. Between the HBO cameras and all the hoopla surrounding the Winter Classic, the Flyers are used to potential distractions. But this memory is one they firmly believe will help motivate them for a win.

“Anytime you think of Chicago, you’re going to think of them stealing the Stanley Cup from us,” said Claude Giroux. “Obviously it’s motivation for us to win every game. I remember last year, it was a big game for us. We won that game, but we’ve got to make sure we do the same thing here.”

The Flyers have been slipping in the standings. After the Winter Classic, they are now four points behind the New York Rangers and Western Conference-leading Blackhawks.

“We gotta get back on track here,” said Peter Laviolette. “We’re home for a couple games, back at the Wells Fargo building. We gotta take care of those games and pay attention to our home games.

“The home record is not where it needs to be. We have an opportunity [Thursday] and it’s a good hockey team, so we have to be ready to play.”

Only four teams in the league have fewer home wins than the Flyers who have eight. Ten of the Flyers’ 13 games in December came on the road, but this is a new year, a new month and the Flyers have seven home games in January. It’s time to turn the page on not only the calendar, but a new attitude at home.

“We look at it as we gave up two points to the Rangers the other night, a team we’re trailing,” said Braydon Coburn, “so it’s a game that we need.”

The two points up for grabs Thursday are very valuable for the Flyers who need them to keep from slipping too far. That will be the focus when the puck drops, but when the teams first see each other, there may still be one last bit of demon that needs to be exercised.

“I’ve never seen the puck go in,” said Briere, “and I don’t think I’m ready to see it yet.”

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