It was 10 years ago when Bobby Clarke and his Broad Street Bullies won their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
Now Clarke is the general manager and the Philadelphia Flyers are no longer known as bullies. Nonetheless, the Flyers are going after its third playoff championship with a young, talented team.
After closing out the season with a 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils Sunday night at East Rutherford, N.J., the Flyers will begin postseason action as the hottest of the 16 teams in quest of the cup that is emblematic of pro hockey supremacy.
The Flyers will open a best-of-five first-round series against the New York Rangers Wednesday night at Philadelphia after two months of phenomenal play in which they came from far back to post the best overall record.
On Feb. 8, the Flyers were nine points behind the Washington Capitals in the Patrick Division, 17 points behind the Edmonton Oilers in the overall standings and without much hope of finishing first in either category. But by winning 24 of their last 28 games, the Flyers easily won the division, compiled a club-record 53 wins and posted the league's best overall point total, 113, four more than the defending champion Oilers. The Flyers won 16 of their last 17 games.
What was supposed to be a rebuilding season under rookie Coach Mike Keenan has turned into a banner season. The Flyers are one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams to challenge for the championship in NHL history. Under Keenan, the Flyers have been the surprise of the season.
The Flyer defense, the key to the team's success, is spearheaded by third-year goaltender Pelle Lindbergh of Sweden. Although two or three goalies have better goals-against records, Lindbergh just wins. He won 40 games, more than any other goalie in the league. Only Buffalo and Washington gave up fewer goals during the regular season than the Flyers did.
Until Tim Kerr, a two-time 50-goal scorer, injured his knee in the middle of the late season-spurt and missed six games, he was considered the team's only sure scorer. However, while Kerr was out, Brian Propp, Dave Poulin and Ilkka Sinisalo proved that they, too, were adept at putting the puck in the net. The Flyers won all six games that their star center missed.
If, as expected, the championship series is between the Flyers and the Oilers, the Flyers figure to be in a strong position. The teams met three times this season, and the Flyers won all three games.
Washington 7, Pittsburgh 3--Bob Carpenter extended to 53 his record for most goals by an American-born player and Mike Gartner scored twice in this game at Landover, Md., to give the Capitals two 50-goal scorers for the season.
Although they improved eight victories and 15 points over last season in their first season under former King coach Bob Berry, the Penguins were one of five teams failing to qualify for the playoffs.
About their only solace was that Mario Lemieux, the No. 1 player chosen last spring in the amateur draft, became the third rookie to get 100 points when he scored his 43rd goal in the finale. The rangy 19-year-old center is the youngest to accomplish the feat.
Montreal 5, Buffalo 4--Rookie defenseman Petr Svoboda scored his fourth goal of the season and assisted on three others at Buffalo as the Canadiens knocked the Sabres out of second place in the Adams Division. Svoboda's goal came with eight minutes left and proved to be the game-winner.
Although the Sabres lost their No. 1 goaltender, Tom Barrasso, for the last three games because of an injury, they gave up fewer goals than any other team, and Barrasso, still a teen-ager, will win his second Vezina Trophy.
Quebec 5, Hartford 4--Michel Goulet scored his 55th goal in this game at Quebec, then assisted on Brad Maxwell's game-winner in the third period that assured the Nordiques of second place in the Adams Division.
Despite the loss, the last-place Whalers finished with 69 points, more than three of the teams that qualified for the playoffs.
St. Louis 6, Detroit 5--Joe Mullen's second goal of the game, at 1:35 of overtime at St. Louis, gave the Blues the victory and gave Mullen 40 goals this season. The game-winner came on the Blues' 52nd shot of the game.
Boston 5, Toronto 1--In the final tuneup for their record 18th consecutive playoff appearance, the Bruins handed hapless Toronto its fifth loss in a row in this game at Boston. The Bruins' 36-34-10 record was their worst since 1966-67. The Leafs had the worst record in the league, 20-52-8.
Calgary 4, Winnipeg 4--Steve Bozek's second goal of the game, with 3:06 left in regulation at Calgary, Canada, gave the Flames a tie in a fight-filled preview of their opening-round series in the playoffs.
The Jets beat the Flames only once in eight games during the regular season.