Claude Giroux guaranteed it on Oct. 21, when the Flyers were 1-7-0.
Most of the rest of the NHL snickered.
Now, on April 3rd, the Flyers have a chance to more or less seal their playoff fate with a six point lead with six games to play by virtue of a win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
“It’s a big game,” coach Craig Berube said on Tuesday night in St. Louis. “But not any bigger than (Tuesday) or any other.”
In six trips, the Blue Jackets (0-5-1) have only ever earned one point in Philadelphia. It is the only city in the NHL the 14-year-old franchise has never produced a win - after snapping a similar spell in New Jersey in December.
They earned a tie in their first trip (Oct. 6, 2001) with Ron Tugnutt in net.
“I don’t think any of us knew that we’ve never won there,” Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin told the Columbus Dispatch. “So it’s not in our head. We just know that we need this game. We know the importance of it.”
(Strangely: Flyers have lost 4 straight in Columbus and are just 2-4-2 at Nationwide Arena all-time.)
As big an opportunity as it is for the Flyers, it is an ever bigger matchup for Columbus. The Blue Jackets can slide within two points of the Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan division, inching ever closer to just the second playoff berth in franchise history.
Columbus’ last visit - and their first as a division opponent - is easily the most memorable. The Flyers trailed, 3-0, at the start of the third period before a furious 5-goal period produced a 5-4 win... in regulation. Giroux’s perfectly placed, spin-a-rama backhand goal may be been the nicest of his NHL career.
Even with their dubious history, the Blue Jackets had never blown a three-goal lead after two periods.
“Every guy’s focus is on understanding that we need this one more than anything,” Nick Foligno told the Dispatch. “They build off the energy in that arena, where the fans are crazy loud. That team plays differently at home. They play with more fearlessness and they are tougher there.
“That’s tough to deal with, when a team like that is coming at you at 100 mph.”
THE SERIES IN PHILADELPHIA
Oct. 6, 2001 - 3-3 tie - Kim Johnsson (2 goals), Justin Williams (1 G, 1A), Eric Weinrich (2 assists), Simon Gagne (2 assists)
April 1, 2003 - 4-0 Flyers win - Kim Johnsson (GWG)
Nov. 24, 2006 - 3-2 Flyers win - Peter Forsberg (1G, 1A), Freddy Meyer (1G, 1A)
Jan. 19, 2010 - 5-3 Flyers win - Jeff Carter (GWG, 2 A). Ray Emery vs. Steve Mason
Nov. 5, 2011 - 9-2 Flyers win - 5 goals in first period, goals from 8 different players, including Jaromir Jagr, Matt Carle, James van Riemsdyk and Max Talbot.
Dec. 19, 2013 - 5-4 Flyers win - Claude Giroux scores on beautiful backhand goal with 1:38 to play to cap off 5-goal third period and comeback.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers