The Flyers played their worst game in the bubble, and overall had one of their worst on ice showings in months. The good news is that they still managed to come away with a 2-1 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Sure the Flyers had some bright spots, such as Carter Hart being very impressive in his *official* playoff debut. Joel Farabee scored, and the Flyers converted on a power-play opportunity. Other than that, there wasn’t much to enjoy when it came to the Flyers play.
From the start of the game, the play looked and felt sloppy. The 3rd game of the day after the Tuesday 5OT contest from Tampa and Columbus bumped that Carolina vs Boston became an 11AM game. Naturally, that game needed overtime as well. Then the Capitals and Islanders tore up the ice a bit more with a full game. Your home rink can handle these on an average weekend, but three straight games from pros in August will really leave the ice torn and gashed.
This makes special teams opportunities that much more valuable when conditions on the ice are far from ideal. It was that unit that broke through first for the Flyers. Despite the woes recently, the Flyers were able to establish themselves in the Canadiens zone, and with two screens in front, Ivan Provorov ripped a one-timer from the point. A slight tip off of the outstretched stick of Paul Byron was enough to help it squeeze under the arm of Carey Price and let Jake Voracek get out of the way. Or so it seemed, as the goal was ultimately given to Jake, with Provorov and Giroux getting the assists.
The 2nd period proved to be a difficult slog for the Flyers. The ice tilted in Montreal’s favor, and so did the power play opportunities. After getting hemmed into their own zone Nic Abe Kubel took a holding penalty and the Flyers were down a man. We didn’t see the usual impressive puck protection and neutral zone breakups we’re used to from the Flyers penalty kill. Instead a Shea Weber slapshot was too hot to handle for Carter Hart, and created a mad scramble in front. The puck bounced out of pile right to a charging Weber who made no mistake with the open cage, tieing the game at one goal apiece and netting Jonathan Druin and Brendan Gallagher assists. As noted in our “Who To Watch For”Weber paid dividends early with offense, and with an impressive flattening of JVR earlier in the game.
It was naught for long though, as just 16 seconds later Joel Farabee broke through with a goal. A quick chase from him lead to a puck hastly thrown up the boards. Travis Sanheim fired a quick shot to the net, which Farabee deflected. Carey Price made that save, but was thrown off by the puck’s change of direction again. Farabee slammed home the rebound and the Flyers were back on top 2-1.
There seemed to be a moment when the Flyers were about to break the game open. The line of Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton once again created some chaos and after TK slide a pass over to Hayes, who pulled Price into a double pad stack and out of the crease. He threw the puck into the middle where Laughton drilled a one timer at a Nick Suzuki, who is not a goalie and wasn’t likely to stop the shot. In desperation Price reached out with his stick, and nicked the puck enough to send it shooting into the glass instead of the unguarded net. Both teams would finish the rest of the period unscathed.
The third finally saw the Flyers redouble their efforts on defense, as they dealt with wave after wave of the Canadiens attack. The Flyers again missed a golden opportunity, when a pass in front got to Nate Thompson, who was behind Carey Price. His redirect went just wide, and he was unable to put a marker on the board against his former club. The were able to hold off the Habs for the duration of the period, (and as seemed to be the theme of the night, couldn’t hit the empty net) but were able to complete the game ahead.
Overall it was not a great hockey game from the Flyers. The offense came through when needed, and in theory should’ve put more points up but faced some bad puck luck. The defense looked scattered. Phil Myers made some pretty good plays, and flattened Gallagher as he tried to jam at Hart, but everyone made mistakes. Matt Niskanen looked like he was skating uphill most of the game, and slowly. Shayne Gostisbehere and Justin Braun seemed pinned in their own zone often, and Gostibehere made two glaring turnovers in the 2nd period. He though was perhaps more noticeable considering how much time he’d missed.
A bit of history was made as well this game. Carter Hart became the youngest goalie to record three wins in his first three playoff starts, at 21 years and 364 days old. He’ll spend the day in between games turning 22.
Friday August 14th at 3pm the teams will meet again for Game 2, with the Flyers being the defacto home team again thanks to their seeding. Hopefully with fresher ice the play will be smoother and the Flyers will play a bit closer to what we’re used to seeing from them.