1975 Flyers vs. 2010 Flyers - who would win?

May 28, 1975: Bobby Clarke (right) and Bernie Parent take possession of the Cup again after the Flyers' win in Buffalo.
May 28, 1975: Bobby Clarke (right) and Bernie Parent take possession of the Cup again after the Flyers' win in Buffalo.
Posted: May 28, 2010

The Flyers, fueled by an epic comeback in which they overcame a 3-0 series deficit against the Boston Bruins in the conference semifinals, are trying to win the franchise's third Stanley Cup - and their first since 1975.

That 1975 team was a powerhouse. It went 51-18-11 for 113 points in the regular season and intimidated teams with its brawling, physical style. But it also had three future Hall of Famers - goalie Bernie Parent, center Bobby Clarke, and left winger Bill Barber - as its core group. Oh, and it had two others who were among the game's best forwards: Rick MacLeish and Reggie Leach.

The 1975 champs allowed a league-low 181 goals, and "Only the Lord Saves More Than Bernie Parent" bumper stickers were the rage.

The 2010 Flyers (236 goals) don't have the offensive firepower to compare with the Broad Street Bullies (293 goals), but they get the job done with balanced scoring and a defense that has pitched five shutouts in the last 13 playoff games.

"The biggest difference in the teams is that we had a Hart Trophy winner in Bobby Clarke and a Vezina Trophy guy in Bernie Parent," said Bill Clement, who scored 21 goals for the Flyers that season. He was referring to trophies awarded to the league's MVP and top goalie, respectively.

"The game is more skilled now than when we played," said Joe Watson, a sturdy defenseman on the Flyers' 1974 and 1975 Cup winners. "When we played, it was more brawn. Now it's more speed and finesse."

Another difference, Clement said, is that the 1975 Flyers were expected to repeat as Cup champions. These Flyers, seeded seventh in the East, were supposed to get knocked off in Round 1 by the second-seeded New Jersey Devils.

And they were underdogs in Round 2 against the Bruins and in Round 3 against the Montreal Canadiens.

"There were no expectations for this team when the playoffs started," said Clement, now a Comcast hockey analyst. "And I honestly believe that people around here are having more fun with this team. They're like a lottery ticket that you never expect to cash in . . . and you hit it."

With Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, and Ian Laperriere recently back from injuries, and Ville Leino blossoming into a top-six forward, the Flyers have a healthy four-line setup that has never looked better this season.

A strong defense, however, has been their calling card. Anchored by future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen, the Flyers have allowed a league-low 2.12 goals per game during the playoffs.

"Their defense is much more mobile than ours was," said Jimmy Watson, Joe's brother and one of the top defensemen on the 1975 Flyers. "We didn't have anyone [on defense] who could jump into a play and do anything. And we didn't have anyone like Pronger, either."

The 2009-10 Flyers went just 41-35-6 (88 points) during an inconsistent, injury-plagued regular season. But they have gotten most of their injured players back, have developed a chemistry, and have played their best hockey of the year in the postseason. They have won eight of their last nine playoff games, and the Bullies of 1975 - winners of seven straight at the start of the playoffs that year - are the only team in franchise history with a better postseason streak.

The 1975 team went 12-5 in the playoffs, including a six-game series victory against the Buffalo Sabres in the Finals, to win their second straight Cup. Back then, a team had to win three series - one fewer than the current setup - to capture the title.

Interestingly, these Flyers are also 12-5 after three playoff rounds. And though they didn't have a regular season that can compare with their famous predecessors', they are peaking at the right time.

"No one gave them a chance, but they're so tenacious," Clement said, "and the forwards on this team are like the forwards on our team. They're committed to defense. Team defense is not about your defensemen. It's about five guys working in conjunction with the goalie."

Fred Shero, the coach of the 1975 champs, "used to always say, 'You have to control six areas [to be successful] - the four corners and the two net areas," Joe Watson said.

Asked which team would win if the 1975 Flyers faced this year's team, Clement and Joe Watson said it would be a hard-fought series that would go seven games.

"We were a very tough, physical team, but you can't play that way today," said Joe Watson, mindful of the rules changes caused by the Broad Street Bullies. "I think it would go seven games, and the last goal would win it."

"I'll beg off by saying it would depend on which team had the home ice," Clement said.

Clement said this season's team "has hockey guardian angels surrounding them" because of the injuries and deficits it has had overcome.

He smiled.

"We didn't have that," he said. "We had people trying to lock us up."

Here is a look at the 1975 and 2010 Flyers:

LINE 1

2010: Simon Gagne (17 goals), Mike Richards (31), and Jeff Carter (33).

1975: Bill Barber (34), Bobby Clarke (27) and Reggie Leach (45).

Comment: Dan Carcillo (12) also saw time on this line and was often a big factor. The recent return of Gagne and Carter from injuries has energized the Flyers during their remarkable run and has given Richards, who has been called "a young Bobby Clarke" because of his relentless style, two high-scoring wingers for the first time in eons.

That said, it's pretty difficult to be ranked ahead of the best line in Flyers history, a unit that had two Hall of Famers and another player, Leach, who once scored 61 goals in a season.

Edge: 1975 Flyers.

LINE 2

2010: Scott Hartnell (14), Danny Briere (26), and Ville Leino (6).

1975: Ross Lonsberry (24), Rick MacLeish (38), and Gary Dornhoefer (17).

Comment: Leino's regular-season numbers are deceiving because he has blossomed in the playoffs, making this the Flyers' best unit in several games. Briere has become "Mr. May" with nine goals in his last 14 playoff games, including four game-winners. Can he become "Mr. June"?

Despite the line's emergence, it can't compare to the productivity of the line led by MacLeish, who scored 11 playoff goals that season.

Edge: 1975 Flyers.

LINE 3

2010: James van Riemsdyk (15), Claude Giroux (16), and Arron Asham (10).

1975: Dave Schultz (9), Orest Kindrachuk (10), and Don Saleski (10).

Comment: Giroux, whose shoot-out score on the last day of the regular season enabled the Flyers to qualify for the playoffs, is emerging as a star. He has been terrific in the postseason and has been a vital part of the special teams.

The 1975 third line had more grit and caused a lot more commotion on the ice, but it can't compare to this year's unit.

Edge: 2010 Flyers.

LINE 4

2010: Darroll Powe (9), Blair Betts (8), and Ian Laperriere (3).

1975: Bob Kelly (11), Terry Crisp (8), and Bill Clement (21).

Comment: The 2010 Flyers' fourth-liners have been ultra-productive in the playoffs. They are also excellent penalty killers, and Laperriere has become the face of the team with his heroic comeback from injury. This line brings intangibles that don't show up on the stat sheet.

The 1975 team's fourth line had more scoring than this year's unit, and it also had some solid penalty-killers. In their own ways, both of these lines were ultra-valuable to their teams.

Edge: Even.

DEFENSE, FIRST PAIRING

2010: Chris Pronger (10) and Matt Carle (6).

1975: Ed Van Impe (1) and Jimmy Watson (7).

Comment: Both units are skilled defensively, but the 2010 pairing, led by Pronger's 55 points, provides much more offense.

Edge: 2010 Flyers.

DEFENSE, SECOND PAIRING

2010: Kimmo Timonen (6) and Braydon Coburn (5).

1975: Joe Watson (6) and Andre "Moose" Dupont (11).

Comment: Watson was extremely steady, but Timonen is the best all-around player of the four-player group. Coburn has raised his game in the playoffs to become as valuable as Dupont.

Edge: 2010 Flyers.

DEFENSE, THIRD PAIRING

2010: Lukas Krajicek (1) and Ryan Parent (1).

1975: Ted Harris (1) and Tom Bladon (9).

Comment: Harris provided size (6-2, 180) that was considered big for that era, and Bladon gave the Flyers a big shot on the power play. Parent and Krajicek have been used sparingly.

Edge: 1975 Flyers.

GOALIES

2010: Michael Leighton (2.48 goals-against average, .918 save percentage with the Flyers).

1975: Bernie Parent (2.03 GAA, .918).

Comment: Parent had a 51-18-11 record and took another step toward the Hall of Fame that season. Leighton rescued the Flyers by going 16-5-2 and helping them get a playoff berth.

Edge: 1975 Flyers.

COACHES

2010: Peter Laviolette.

1975: Fred Shero.

Comment: Shero was known for his quirkiness, Laviolette for his intensity. Shero might be on the verge of getting into the Hall of Fame. Laviolette could get there one day if the Flyers win this series and he becomes just the third coach in NHL history to capture Cups with two different franchises.

Both coaches earned deep respect from their players.

Edge: Even.

OVERALL

These Flyers are playing with the same relentlessness as the 1975 champs. Triggered by the four straight wins that overcame the 3-0 series hole against Boston, they have a swagger and belief that no one can beat them. They are united in their mission, but they are facing a Chicago team that has many of the same qualities - and that should make for a long, intriguing series.

Both the 1975 and 2010 teams relied heavily on their defense and opportunistic scoring. Pronger gives the 2010 Flyers a defensive presence that its predecessors didn't have. But Parent would be even a bigger difference-maker.

Pick: Based on Parent, we'd say the 1975 Flyers outlast the 2010 team in seven games.

Let the debates begin.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.

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