By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
From humble beginnings of bringing hockey to the city of Philadelphia in 1967 to educating fans on the excitement and passion that the sport evokes, the Flyers were certainly forming quite the following when the spring of 1974 arrived. The team was in their seventh season in the NHL, and had started to emerge as one of the strongest contenders from the expansion class of 1967. That said, there were plenty of Original Six powerhouses in their way of achieving the ultimate goal.
After sweeping the Atlanta Flames in the quarterfinals, the Flyers outlasted the New York Rangers in the semi-finals in a seven-game series that went back and forth between the two teams with the Flyers barely getting the Game 7 win in a 4-3 final.
That set up a matchup against Bobby Orr and the Big Bad Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins had won the Stanley Cup in 1970 and again in 1972 and were going to be a mighty task for the Flyers, especially given the Flyers lack of success in Boston, where the series opened.
But the Flyers finally got the monkey off their back in Boston in Game 2 and took care of business in the Spectrum to claim their first Stanley Cup in franchise history and become the first expansion team to hoist the Cup.
Here is a look back at the 1974 Stanley Cup Final between the Flyers and Bruins.
Game 1: Bruins 3, Flyers 2
Both the Flyers and Bruins killed off early power-play attempts, but Boston’s second power play of the game helped get them off and running. Wayne Cashman opened the scoring at 12:05 and just 56 seconds later, Gregg Sheppard got on the board to make it 2-0.
The Flyers rallied back, first getting on the board at 7:47 of the second period with a goal by Orest Kindrachuk. At 5:32 of the third, they finished off the two-goal comeback with Bobby Clarke scoring.
But late in the period, the greatest player the Bruins had made sure that Boston Garden remained a House of Horrors for the Flyers. Orr scored with just 22 seconds remaining in the third to give the Bruins the lead and claim Game 1 of the series, despite a 28-save performance from Bernie Parent.
Game 2: Flyers 3, Bruins 2 (F/OT)
Game 2 started an awful lot like Game 1 for the Flyers. While it wasn’t a power-play goal that got the Bruins started, they were able to grab the lead with a couple of quick goals.
Cashman scored at 14:24 of the first and Phil Esposito added another goal at 17:42 to put the Flyers in a 2-0 hole again.
Just like in Game 1, the Flyers got back into the game with a second-period goal with Clarke scoring at 1:08 of the period to cut the lead back to one.
For most of the rest of regulation, the Flyers held off the charge from the Bruins, who finished the game with 39 shots, and finally managed to tie the game up at two with a goal by Andre Dupont with 52 seconds remaining.
That forced overtime and with just under eight minutes to go, the Flyers finally found a way to win in Boston. Dave Schultz got the puck to Bill Flett, who slid it down low to Clarke in the slot. Clarke’s initial shot was stopped by Gillies Gilbert, but he was able to put home the rebound to give the Flyers a 3-2 win in overtime.
In their previous 20 games in Boston, including Game 1 of the series, the Flyers had lost 18 and tied in the other two. This was their first win against the Bruins on the road since their first year in the league, and what a time for it, evening the series and shifting momentum to their side as the series returned to Philadelphia.
Game 3: Flyers 4, Bruins 1
While the Flyers gained some momentum by winning in Boston for the first time and bringing the series back to Philadelphia even at one, it didn’t stop the Bruins from getting off to another quick start in Game 3. Just 1:03 into the game, Johnny Bucyk scored to give the Bruins the early lead.
But that’s where the Flyers started to take control of the game. At 10:27 of the first, they tied things up with a power-play goal from Tom Bladon. At 15:43 of the period, they grabbed the lead with a goal by Terry Crisp.
Following a scoreless second period, the Flyers were able to put the game away in the third. First, Kindrachuk scored at 7:53 of the period to make it 3-1 and Ross Lonsberry capped the scoring with a goal at 14:19 to seal the 4-1 win for the Flyers and give them the series lead.
Game 4: Flyers 4, Bruins 2
For the first time in the series, the Flyers got the first goal in Game 4. Rick MacLeish scored on the power play at 4:40 to open the scoring and Schultz added a goal 50 seconds later to make it 2-0.
But the Big Bad Bruins responded with a pair of goals before the period ended. Esposito scored on the power play at 7:12 and Andre Savard tied the game at 11:24 to make it 2-2 through one.
Again, the second period went scoreless and the 2-2 tie carried into the late stages of the third. With just 5:35 to play, Bill Barber gave the Flyers the lead and Dupont scored with 3:20 remaining to seal the deal, giving the Flyers a 4-2 win in Game 4 and putting them one win away from their first Stanley Cup.
Game 5: Bruins 5, Flyers 1
The Flyers had the chance to win their first Cup in Game 5, but it also meant a return to Boston, and just because they finally solved the Bruins at the Garden in Game 2 didn’t mean they would stop them again.
Boston got the first goal of the game at 8:14 of the first period on a shorthanded goal for Sheppard. The Flyers responded at 6:04 of the second with a goal by Bill Clement.
For half the game, the Flyers and Bruins had been locked in a battle, but Boston finally emerged and imposed their will for the rest of the game in the second half. Orr struck for two goals before the second period ended at 12:06 and 16:55.
Just 39 seconds into the third, Ken Hodge scored on the power play and Don Marcotte capped the scoring with 1:01 to play in the 5-1 decision for Boston. The Bruins peppered the Flyers goal with 17 shots in the opening period and 12 more in the final period, taking 38 shots overall. That sent the series back to Philadelphia for Game 6 where the Flyers had another chance to claim their first Cup.
Game 6: Flyers 1, Bruins 0
May 19, 1974. It was going to be the final game of the season at the Spectrum no matter the result and for the Flyers, there was knowledge that if they were going to win their first Stanley Cup, it had to happen right here.
A live performance of “God Bless America” from Kate Smith set the tone for the afternoon, as the Flyers and Bruins faced off in what could be the deciding game in the Stanley Cup Final. The Flyers had to kill off two penalties early in the game, but then got a power play of their own when Terry O’Reilly went to the box for hooking at 13:58. On the power play, MacLeish deflected a shot from Dupont that beat Gilbert and gave the Flyers the 1-0 lead at 14:48.
And that was the only goal the Flyers would get that afternoon. It was also the only one they needed. The Bruins took 16 shots in the opening period and then the Flyers started to shut down Boston collectively, with Parent leading the way. Parent finished with 30 saves in the game as the Flyers finished off the series with a shutout, claiming their first Stanley Cup in franchise history in front of the Spectrum crowd.
There have been many great playoff series and many great games in Flyers history, but for so many, this series and the clinching Game 6 are the ones that everyone comes back to and remember with such fondness. You simply don’t forget the first one.
A lot about this series is how the Flyers got to Game 6 and the clinching scenario to begin with.
For one, the Flyers nearly took Game 1 in Boston before Orr’s heroics late in the third. Then came the historic first win in Boston that evened the series and changed the entire dynamic. To win the series, the Flyers would need to win a game in Boston.
With that in mind, Game 2 could be considered the most significant game of the series, even if it is not the greatest or most memorable. Without Dupont’s late goal in regulation and Clarke’s game-winner in overtime, there is simply no Stanley Cup.
This is especially considering the way Game 5 went and what would have likely happened if the Bruins had managed to get the series back to Boston for Game 7. Everybody on both sides of this matchup seemed to know going into Game 6 that it was do or die for the Flyers. If they were going to win, they needed to win it right there, because there was no way they would be able to take a Game 7 back in Boston.
If the two greatest players in Flyers history are Clarke and Parent, you could make the case that both players had their finest moment in this series. Clarke’s overtime goal in Game 2 is still shown several times to this day. Parent’s season overall is one for the record books — he had a 47-13-12 record with a 1.89 GAA and .932 save percentage and 12 shutouts that season — but he took it to another level in the playoffs. In 17 games, Parent had a 12-5 record with a 2.02 GAA and .933 save percentage, along with two shutouts. The second of those shutouts is a performance that lives on in Flyers lore.
It was only fitting, then, that those were the two players that hoisted the Cup together and carried it around the Spectrum ice. The image still lives on to this day and the two legends are immortalized as Hockey Hall of Famers with their numbers hanging in the rafters.
It's also only fitting that as we close out the Series in Review, that the clinching game of the 1974 Stanley Cup Final will be televised on Tuesday night on NBCSN at 7 p.m.