PLAAY Games

Sports Simulation Board Games

Community Spotlight: 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers HOCKEY BLAST Season

Glenn Guzzo has had a high profile in the sports board game world for many years, as a gamer, card creator, contributor and writer. He's a highly respected member of the community, and we're so pleased to present this recap of Glenn's HOCKEY BLAST project with the '79-80 Flyers, in his own words...

I didn't expect my Hockey Blast version of the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers to replicate that real Flyers season. For one thing, no game can be expected to reproduce the most extreme performances in sport—in fact, for almost 40 years, no team in professional team sports has come anywhere near those Flyers' 35 consecutive games without a loss.

For another, the scores of those 35 games reveal 10 ties and five one-goal games. Nearly half the streak involved games that could go either way. About those ties—the Flyers ended up with 20 of them in 80 games, the most for that season. Since then, no team has had more ties in a season. So, 20 ties seemed unrealistic as well. I was betting that the replay Flyers would win more and lose more than the real Flyers. The key question was: Would most of those lost ties be wins or losses?

The real Flyers were 48-12-20. The 35-game unbeaten streak began in the third game of the schedule that I would replay exactly, with the actual starting goaltenders for both teams. Those Flyers did not lose for the fifth time until No. 57. They did not suffer their eighth loss until No. 69. Good luck duplicating that.

But I did expect a team that would rival the best in the league. I expected the Flyers' highest scorers (Reggie Leach for goals and Ken Linseman for points) and best goaltender (Pete Peeters) to be my leaders, too. Most of all, I expected fun with a team that had brains (Bobby Clarke) and brawn (such 6-rated fighters such as Paul Holmgren, Behn Wilson and Bob "Hound Dog" Kelly). Eleven of the 17 regulars have fight ratings and 10 of them have fight ratings of 3 or higher.

GAMES 1-10

The replay Flyers won their first four games, one point better than actual. Then came a 6-1 humbling at Detroit. Four Red Wing goals came while Wilson was serving a major penalty. Two games later, the Flyers suffered their first defeat on home ice, to the hated Rangers, 3-1. Bill Barber gave Philadelphia its only goal with two minutes left in the game.

No problem. The Flyers got stellar goaltending from Phil Myre and Peeters and three goals from Rick MacLeish to win a pair of one-goal games at home against Detroit (2-1) and St. Louis (3-2). Then five different Flyers scored in a 5-2 win at Montreal, a very tough place to win (the real Flyers won that game, 5-3). At the close of the first 10-game segment, the Flyers were 8-2 (vs. 8-1-1 actual).

GAMES 11-20

The second 10 games demonstrated how difficult it would be to keep pace with the real Flyers. Though the replay group twice scored nine goals in wins against Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers, these Flyers lost at home to tough Buffalo, at tough St. Louis and—ouch—at Vancouver, 2-1, when the Canucks scored twice on third-period power plays. A disappointing tie at Quebec left the replay team with a 6-3-1 mark for this segment and a 14-5-1 mark (vs. 16-1-3 actual). The first line could not have performed more brightly, scoring 19 goals in these 10 games: Leach scored 10 times with two hat tricks (giving him 14 goals in 20 games), Clarke had 14 assists and Barber had 19 points (six goals, 13 assists). Holmgren also had a hat trick. Brian Propp also had a hat trick. Still, the replay Flyers already were six points behind the real-life pace.

GAMES 21-30

In the third segment, the replay Flyers were 7-1-2. Peeters' 5-0 shutout against potent Minnesota and Myre's 2-0 shutout of dangerous Boston were high points, as was the thorough revenge against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, 8-2 (another Leach hat trick and a five-point game for Barber). While rising to the occasion against the toughest foes (a win over Buffalo as well), the Flyers played down to the level of lesser teams. Myre faltered in a 6-6 tie at Maple League Gardens (the actual Flyers tied this game, too) and Peeters took flak from the Kings' Triple Crown line (four goals by Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor in a 5-5 home tie with LA). The bruiser came in Game 30, a 4-3 loss to seemingly unimpressive Pittsburgh when the Penguins scored two power-play goals in the final 10 minutes.

A trend had been established: The Flyers were taking a lot more penalties than their foes, too many of them majors without retaliation. Multiple power-play goals were responsible for each of three losses in the 21-6-3 record (vs. 20-1-9 actual). This was going to prove to be a season-long trend: The Broad Street Bullies would have 70 rights (20 involving Kelly), but also take 37 more majors when their opponents’ were not penalized at all. (NOTE: I did not calculate shots and penalty minutes for the Lull minutes.)

Still, the 7-1-2 mark in the third segment included 21 more goals from the big line, with Leach getting 10 more (24 so far), Clarke adding 16 assists and Barber adding 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists). Don't overlook the second line: Through 30 games, Propp had 18 goals, Holmgren 11 and Linseman seven (with 35 assists).

GAMES 31-40

The Flyers benefited from eight home games in the third segment, but would have just two home games in the following segment, with ominous road trips to Boston, New York, Buffalo, Minnesota and Montreal. Their penalty-prone playing style would hurt badly this time. For games 31-40, opponents had 19 power plays; the Flyers two. Result: a 5-4-1 record. The Flyers beat up on lackluster Hartford, Winnipeg and Colorado for all five wins, but managed only a tie with Buffalo against tougher competition. The losses were one-sided: 6-1 at Boston, 5-2 at New York, 5-1 at Minnesota and, finally in Game 40, the most crushing of all, 9-1 at Montreal, when Steve Shutt notched a hat trick.

Now the replay Flyers were 26-10-4—a fine record under most circumstances, but not compared to the real-life mark of 27-3-10. Eight points off the pace.

GAMES 41-50

The real-life Flyers were 8-0-2 in games 41-50, so making up ground was nearly impossible with six road games. So, the replay Flyers were already in a must-win situation for the three home games that opened the segment. They got them: 7-3 against St. Louis on Linseman's hat trick; 6-4 against Washington on Barber's two goals and 4-2 against Chicago on a pair of third-period goals by Propp and Wilson. Philadelphia kept winning, three more times against the same teams, all on the road. But then, playing their third road game in four days, the Flyers were grounded at lowly Winnipeg, giving up two power-play goals early and two more even-strength goals late in a 4-2 loss. Philadelphia recovered with wins at Edmonton and home against Minnesota, but then those nasty Penguins bit Philly again, this time at the Igloos, 5-1, that included a penalty-shot goal.

After an 8-2 segment, the replay Flyers had lost more ground to history! Now 34-12-4 vs. 35-3-12 actual, 10 points off the pace. Meanwhile, Leach was up to 38 goals, Barber had 32 and Propp 25. Linseman (22, including a team-best nine in this segment), Holmgren (21) and MacLeish (21) were well ahead of their actual pace, too.

GAMES 51-60

The sixth segment put Philadelphia at home for five of the first six games before a five-game road trip (that last one in segment seven). Down 3-1 at home vs. Boston in the first game, MacLeish's goal brought the Flyers close with six minutes to play, then Leach scored in the final minute after Myre had been pulled. The 3-3 final equaled the actual result of that game. That dramatic tie seemed a turning point, as the Flyers went on a murderous, vengeful run: 7-4 over Vancouver (Leach hat trick), 10-1 at Detroit (MacLeish hat trick), 6-5 over LA (goals in the last three minutes by Holmgren, then Leach), 5-1 over Winnipeg (two goals by Al Hill), 11-5 over Pittsburgh (four goals by Leach), 7-2 at Colorado (Linseman with two goals and two assists) and 5-3 at Vancouver, when the Flyers exploded for four goals in the final minutes (two, including the game-winner, by Leach).

Leach had scored 14 goals in this segment, now up to 52 (he had 50 for the whole real season) and Linseman had an astonishing 23 assists.

Yet, the miracle at Vancouver—the third dramatic Flyers comeback of the segment—drained the tank. Philly suffered a 7-5 loss at LA and a 3-1 loss at Buffalo. Still, the 8-2 run gave the replay Flyers a record of 41-14-5 (vs. 41-5-14 actual). Now nine points off the pace, but notice that all the extra ties had become losses.

If the replay team was going to make up ground, now was the time. The real-life Flyers had the best record in the NHL (116 points compared to 110 for Buffalo, 107 for Montreal and 105 for Boston), but were 7-7-6 in their final 20 games, including 4-3-3 in the seventh 10-game segment.

GAMES 61-70

Alas, the replay Flyers stumbled in this segment, too, beginning with a 5-3 loss at Toronto. Home wins over Montreal and Colorado followed, but then an 8-2 home loss to the New York Islanders and a 5-1 loss at Minnesota. A home win over Edmonton and wins at Pittsburgh and Chicago helped, but then came tough-to-swallow losses at Atlanta (3-2) and at home to Colorado (4-3) with the game-deciding goals coming on power plays. Clarke's 15 points (all assists) led the Flyers for this segment.

The replay Flyers now had more wins than actual, but the 46-19-5 replay record vs. 45-8-17 actual was 10 points off the pace with 10 games to play. With home-ice advantage assured, the real Flyers limped into the playoffs with a 3-4-3 mark for the final 10 games. The replay Flyers had no such incentive to rest regulars, and in fact had to go 9-0-1 to tie the real Flyers' 116 points.

At this point, the replay Flyers had scored 24 more goals than actual and had surrendered 10 more. With 10 more games to play, Leach (56), Propp (44), Linseman (31), MacLeish (34) and defenseman Wilson (19) already were above their full-season goals, while Barber (40) and Holmgren (30) were tied. Some milestones were in sight.

GAMES 71-80

The stretch drive was time for a change—moving the oft-penalized Kelly from the third line to the fourth in exchange for Dennis Ververgaert, who was trailing his actual goal total. It worked on both counts and for the team.

Toronto was no match for the Flyers in Philly, a 9-3 Flyers win with Barber scoring twice. Before the Leafs got the first of their three power-play goals, the Flyers were ahead 5-0. A 5-4 Flyers win at Hartford was decided on MacLeish's short-handed goal in the final three minutes.

But then a 5-1 loss at Boston ended the replay team's chance at 116 points. Still, the boys already had the 48 wins the real Flyers managed, with seven games to play.

Late goals by Propp (his second of the game) and Leach gave Philly a 4-3 win in a tough place to do so: On Islanders' ice. Then Peeters recorded his second shutout of the season, 4-0 over Quebec. Leach and Propp each scored twice in an 8-5 home win against Washington, giving Leach 60 goals for the season and Propp 50.

Now with 51 wins and four games to play, the Flyers were flying, indeed: a 7-2 win over Atlanta (Leach and Propp two more goals apiece) and a 7-1 win at Quebec (Barber hat trick). Early third-period rebound goals by Leach and Holmgren gave Philly a 5-4 win against Washington, then the Flyers closed out the season with three third-period goals—the finale by Leach in the final seconds—to win on home-ice against the rival Rangers, 4-3.

WRAPUP

The furious, season-ending seven-game winning streak (nine wins out of the last 10 games) gave the replay Flyers a 55-20-5 mark (115 points) vs. 48-12-20 actual (116 points). Their dominance in the last segment meant that the replay Flyers scored 47 more goals than actual (+23 in the final 10 games) while yielding one more than actual (-9 in the final 10 games)

The defensive performance was about perfect: 252 goals allowed (including two empty-net goals) vs. 251 actual. Peeters had a 2.75 goals-against average vs. 2.73 actual. Myre was 3.54 vs. 3.57 actual.

Flyers scoring was high, probably 15-25 of the 47-goal surplus could be attributed to overuse of defensemen Wilson (20-46-66) and Bob Dailey (8-58-66), who played the full schedule instead of 61 games each. They combined for just six more goals than actual, but added much playmaking, more than doubling their combined assists.

Shooting stars: Leach (66-31-97); Propp (54-57-111); Barber (47-80-127); MacLeish (39-18-57); Holmgren (36-59-95); Linseman (34-110-144); Clarke (13-102-115); Hill (12-2-14); Bridgeman (11-47-58); Kelly (11-16-27); Ververgaert (9-18-27); Andre “Moose” Dupont (6-4-10); Jimmie Watson (5-6-11); Norm Barnes (2-11-13); Jack McIlhargey (1-0-1); Mike Busniuk (0-5-5).

Fighters: Kelly 20 (team-high 152 PIM, not counting lull penalties); Wilson 11 ; Holmgren 9; Clarke 7; Busniuk 7; Bridgeman 4; McIlhargey 4 (in 26 games before he was traded); Dailey 3; Watson 3; Linseman 2.