There are a handful of things that you never forget. Your first kiss, your first apartment on your own, even the first goal or basket you scored, or homerun you hit. If you’re a Flyers fan, The Shift and The Shift V2 are two occurrences that will always be remembered. Two shifts by two Flyers that epitomize the spirit of every Flyer that came before them. The grit, the determination, the all out skill. These two totally different shifts are incredible instances in their own right, but also are mentioned together more often than naught.
Why do these two shifts get lumped together? In reality, they are completely and utterly different. Aside from them being an absolute gem of a highlight, they deserve to be mentioned in separate conversations. Honestly, they deserve their own conversations. So that is what is going to happen. Let’s take a look, compare, and figure out which shift was the better of the two.
It’s May 24, 2010 and the Flyers are facing off against the Montreal Canadiens in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Marc-Andre Bergeron is gathering the puck at the blue line of the Flyers zone when all of a sudden a canon ball in the form of Mike Richards absolutely bowls him over. Claude Giroux gathers the puck and crosses center ice and feeds the puck to Mike Richards as they enter the offensive zone. Richards drops a pass to the trailing Braydon Coburn as he one times it only to have Jaroslav Halak make a great save and pass it out to put Montreal on the rush. Montreal crosses center ice just as, you guessed it, Mike Richards is hot on Bergeron’s tail, lifting his stick and knocking the puck loose just as Coburn lays a hit on Bergeron. Matt Carle goes into the boards looking to take control of the puck, and Giroux joins him, gathers, and goes to clear. As Giroux lifts the puck out of the zone, Richards takes off against defenseman Roman Hamrlik. Halak leaves his crease to pursue the puck. Hamrlik and Halak collide as Richards tries to poke the puck loose. The puck trickles past both Canadiens as Richards is sliding towards the red line, he gathers, and backhands the puck into the back of the net to tie the game up shorthanded.
The Flyers are taking on their bitter rivals across state in the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals, and it’s a pivotal game 6. April 22, 2012 is the date, and Claude Giroux is the subject. G takes on Crosby in the game’s opening faceoff. G wins the faceoff, Jagr tries to take the pass at the blue line, misses, and Crosby lunges at the puck. Just as he swats at it, he is met with a solid open ice hit by the captain himself. The puck is gathered by Pascal Dupuis, who wrists one at the notorious Ilya “Humangous Big” Bryzgalov, who snares it with ease. Faceoff to the left of Bryz, Crosby wins it and the puck is batted around for awhile in the Flyers zone. After awhile, Jagr is fed another pass at the blueline, only to mishandle it again. Steve Sullivan grabs it, tries to get it out of reach from Jaromir Jagr. After hitting the puck away, Giroux is right there to pick it up. Sullivan pursues, G dekes back to the right and wrists one off the left post and past Mar-Andre Fleury 32 seconds into the game to give the Flyers the 1-0 lead.
In comparing these two shifts, you notice they both end the same way. They both start the same way as well. Someone gets bowled over, someone tries to swat the puck away, fails, and a Flyer puts it in the back of the net. So how are we supposed to compare these two shifts and figure out which one is better. Let’s take a look at a few things that factor into the decision
The crowd plays a large part in a hockey game. It can sway momentum one way or another, and you know just how loud it gets in the Wells Fargo Center. During the Richards shift, the crowd popped when Richards laid the hit on Marc-Andre Bergeron. After Halak makes the save on Coburn, the crowd lets out a loud collective “aww.” On the other end of the ice, Richards lifts the stick of Bergeron and Coburn lays him out, to which the crowd responds accordingly with a loud cheer. Giroux lifts the puck to try and clear it, and the race between Richards and Hamrlik begins. The crowd noise grows the further down the ice the two skaters get. Halak leaves his crease and the crowd gets even louder. Hamrlik and Halak collide and the puck trickles past them as Richards stands up and the crowd reaches a fever pitch. Captain Mike backhands the puck home and the crowd loses it.
Now, this is where the two shifts differ. The crowd during the Giroux shift is already rowdy as the opening faceoff takes place. It stays loud for about ten seconds until Giroux knocks Crosby out of his skates. The crowd then reaches a level that is reserved for only special moments, and watching Crosby get obliterated by Giroux is definitely one of those special moments. The crowd doesn’t even fizzle out after Dupuis wrister was snagged by Bryz. They continue to cheer as they line up for the next faceoff. Crosby wins it, which quiets the crowd. The puck is passed around, never really being possessed by one team or another, and the crowd dips into a lull. When Jagr obtains the puck and goes to enter the zone, the crowd noise picks up, but dies when Steve Sullivan knocks the puck away. However, Sullivan knocks the puck right onto the tape of Giroux’s stick, the crowd gets loud, Giroux dekes to the right around Sullivan, and wrists one past Fleury, off the post and into the back of the net. Ladies and gentlemen, I was present when G hit the overtime winner in game three of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010. The Wells Fargo Center was louder after G’s goal against the Penguins than it was when G won game 3, I kid you not.
What also needs to be taken into account is the fact that the Giroux shift was against the Penguins. Any game against the Penguins, the crowd is going to be loud. They’re the bitter rivals. A game against the Canadiens isn’t going to match a game against the Pens in terms of how feisty the crowd gets.
This one here is a no-brainer. Philadelphia has nothing against Marc-Andre Bergeron. If anything, Bergeron should have it out for the Flyers considering the hit he took from Richards, and the other hit he took from Coburn during that shift. Regardless, it’s one thing to dish out a hit on some regular Joe. It’s a completely different thing to absolutely derail the golden boy of the NHL at the time, Sidney Crosby. When anybody hits Crosby, it’s a big deal because it doesn’t happen very often. For some odd reason, people seem to be scared to lay a hit on Crosby. Why? Is it because he is who he is? What makes him essentially untouchable to the opposition? I don’t know these answers, but I’ll tell you this: From what I have watched, the Flyers aren’t scared of him, or his goons, as evidenced by the hit Giroux laid on him back in 2012.
Let’s get this out of the way. Both of those goals were pretty goals. Very pretty goals. Mike Richards showed some incredible determination in sticking with the play and putting that puck in the net. Mike Richards literally made that play happen from start to finish. He laid out Bergeron, lifted his stick to knock the puck loose, chased the clearing attempt down and survived a collision with Hamrlik and Halak and still finished the play.
Giroux set the tone from the moment the puck dropped, and when he laid out Crosby, he put both teams on notice and clearly stated his intentions through his actions. The goal itself was a beaut. Any time you hear the clank of the post or crossbar and see the puck pass that line, it’s pretty. Giroux, like Richards, set the tone from the beginning of the play to the end.
However, aesthetically, I have to give this one to Richards based on the fact that he literally did everything during that shift. They were on the penalty kill, he cleared the puck, laid a hit, knocked it loose, chased it down, and scored a shortie. That is no way a sleight to Giroux’s shift, but Richards just made that entire play, and hot damn, it was a beautiful shift.
WHO WINS THE BATTLE OF THE SHIFT?
If you put a gun to my head, and told me I need to pick one of these shifts to go down in Philadelphia Flyers history as the best shift a Flyer has ever had, I would choose Mike Richards. From top to bottom, Mike Richards did more to contribute to the play than Giroux did to his. Giroux had Jagr to set him up for the goal. Richards chased down a puck and beat one defender and a goalie out of his crease to bury the puck. All in all, Richards did more to make his shift happen. Not that Giroux didn’t, but Richards was everywhere on that shift. He laid a hit, set up a scoring attempt, knocked a puck loose, chased it down, finished the play.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing more I’d rather see than Crosby laying on the ice staring up at the lights after getting laid out by a Flyer. It just warms my heart. These two shifts were an incredible display of effort, skill, and overall grit. It epitomized what Flyers hockey is about. That determination is what the Flyers have really been lacking lately. I would love to write another article after this year comparing someone else’s shift to these two. Time will tell. Until then, Mike Richards is the sole owner of “The Shift.” Sorry Claude, at least you still have the opportunity to overturn this decision!
Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports