The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1, in Game One of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series. Here are some observations.
- The goalie match-up is as advertised. Not often you watch two goaltenders but on a technical display as proficient as what Carter Hart and Carey Price displayed. If there was any concern that Hart (who turns 22 today) was going to be intimidated going up against the man he modeled his game after, he was the singular reason why the Flyers were able to win this, with a 27 save performance that included a number of major scoring chances that he was able to wipe out by tracking exceptionally well, economy of movement, and strongly holding his post. In short, the Flyers might not have won Game One without his performance.
“I’ve gotten to know Carter,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “I’ve got to know how he sees the game and handles a situation. He’s been through big games before and he’s played well. He’s just going out there and doing what he’s supposed to do, giving us a chance to win games.
- The Flyers first period performance was akin to wading into a pool of water to test the temperature. In fairness, so were the Canadiens. Initially, they applied their north-south fore-checking pressure and caused their opponents some frustration. But as the period wore on, the Habs began to break up the Flyers rhythm by relentlessly attacking puck carriers, as evidenced by a Matt Niskanen turnover that ended up right on Arturri Lehkonen’s stick, who managed to get an in-tight scoring opportunity that Hart denied. It was a harbinger of things to come in the middle period.
- Shea Weber was ever-present in this contest, queueing up the physicality as only he can. Weber can still bring it with his slap shot, as it helped lead to Montreal’s tying goal in the second period. Jeff Petry also lined up some big hits in the game, most notably a third period neutral blast on Flyers rookie Joel Farabee. The Canadiens served notice that this will be an exceptionally physical series, outhitting Philadelphia.
- Speaking of Farabee, it came as a mild surprise pre-game that he would start on the top line again opposite Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux after Jake Voracek was activated for the game after not playing the Flyers final Round Robin game. He did not look out of place and scored his second goal in as many games. On the scoring play, Farabee was able to forecheck and interfere with a Montreal clearing attempt that went straight to defenseman Travis Sanheim who quickly whipped it on goal as the 20-year-old rookie positioned himself near the net. He deflected Sanheim’s shot that Price stopped, but he tucked home the rebound.
“He’s been great for us,” Ivan Provorov said. “It’s his first playoffs, but it doesn’t look like it. He has poise. He’s been making plays. He’s been scoring and helping us big time. I think he deserves to play on that line and he contributes a lot. He’s been going. I think he complements Coots and G very well.”
- Voracek played 3rd line RW with Derek Grant and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, while James van Riemsdyk played fourth line left wing with Nate Thompson and Tyler Pitlick. He set a double screen in front of Price with Sean Couturier and deflected home Ivan Provorov’s point shot to put Philadelphia ahead and end their postseason power-play futility (0 for 11 at that point).
- Carey Price’s amazing diving stick stop on Scott Laughton at point-blank range not only saved a goal but saved Canadiens center Nick Suzuki from potential injury. Suzuki would nearly tie the game late with a shot off the crossbar behind Hart.
- If the Flyers first period effort could be described as sporadic, their second period was full-on “This Is Fine” Fire Meme awful. The first ten to 12 minutes commenced with a relentless Montreal forecheck at four on four (following the end of first period concurrent minors) and saw the Canadiens completely sow chaos and break down Philadelphia’s structured attack, much like they did to the Pittsburgh Penguins during their Qualifier Series. The Flyers had difficulty mustering a clean breakout and the Habs hounded them at every turn.
“I think they gained momentum,” Couturier said. “That’s playoff hockey. Momentum is going to change sides here and there. The important thing is just to respond and get it back as quick as possible. I thought we came out stronger in the third and played better. You have got to give them credit. They’re a good team. It’s not always going to be in our favor. We just have to battle through it.”
- The only constant for Philadelphia? Hart remained calm and collected as the rest of the house was burning around him, as the Habs mounted a 17-7 shot advantage, but trailed 2-1 heading into the final period. It served as a warning to Philadelphia that simplification of their game is going to be a must as the Canadiens will narrow the talent gap in this series through dogged persistence.
- Defenseman Phil Myers had an exceptionally strong game as he nullified a Max Domi offensive chance by using going down and using his frame to impede his passing lane, plus helping to support the Flyers forechecking pressure by diagnosing the right time to pinch in the third period. It was the kind of game that the Flyers had envisioned from him since they signed him as an undrafted prospect in 2015, using all of his physical gifts, his ranginess, and straight line speed to close on opponents.
- At the same time, the performance of the Flyers top pairing of Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen was more of a mixed bag as both were guilty of turnovers that led to major Canadiens scoring chances in the first and second periods. Both were better in the final period and in many ways were emblematic of Philadelphia settling down their game and executing better.
Travis Konecny photo by Drew King
Carter Hart by Sportsology
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