There was a lot going on Friday night to cause pain for Philly sports fans — from the Sixers blowing their best chance to beat the Celtics, to Aaron Nola struggling against the Braves, to Guy Fieri visiting Philly restaurants on Diners, Drive in’s and Dives.
Thank god for the Flyers.
In a game that was a little sloppy and unconventional, the offense did just enough to close out the feisty, bottom-seeded Canadiens in a 3-2 win in Game 6.
Philadelphia was overwhelmingly out-shot (33-17) and perhaps out-skated — but their three goals were enough to allow them advance, thanks in large part to yet another impressive outing from 22-year-old goalie Carter Hart.
The Flyers will now face the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference semifinals in the Toronto bubble. And leading up to the series, there will be time to ponder how far the No. 1 seed in the east (which still hasn’t gotten its goal-scorers going) will go, and if they can prevail this summer.
But first, lets take a few minutes to look at three reasons why the Flyers held strong and won Game 6:
The Flyers had a winning formula in their first three wins (or six wins, if you include their round-robin victories) of playing with a lead. We’ve discussed it in this space plenty, but the Flyers are nearly unbeatable when scoring first, and have not pulled off nearly as many wins when playing from behind.
Scoring first has meant a ‘W’ in each of the games in the bubble for Philadelphia.
1st goal has not lied in this series
— Chris Therien (@ctherien6) August 21, 2020
Philly couldn’t have drawn it up any better, as a minute into Game 6 Ivan Provorov fired a shot off a face-off win by Kevin Hayes which appeared to bounce off Shea Webber — it was originally credited to Travis Konecny for a phantom tip — and ultimately past Carey Price.
Just after an expired power play, Hayes decided he wanted one of his own. The former Ranger — who has proven to be one of the best Philly free agent acquisitions in recent years — was able to take advantage of chaos in front of the Habs’ net, slithering the puck just underneath Price to put the Flyers ahead comfortable 2-0 not less than halfway through the opening stanza.
Almost as important as the 2-0 lead was the rocky ground Philly put desperate Montreal on early. With their ace goalie looking shaky, setting the pace of play and controlling the puck for the 50 minutes to follow suddenly seemed like a pretty feasible strategy.
During the regular season, no NHL team had more goals scored by defenseman than the Flyers. Two of their three goals Friday came from young defenders — Provorov and Travis Sanheim — which definitely makes things harder for opposing goalies and defensive unit.
Their third goal in particular highlighted how much Philadelphia relies on its defense for offense. The Flyers forced a turnover in their own end and Sanheim gunned a snap shot off the post and then off the back leg of Price, a bad piece of luck for Montreal to put them ahead 3-1 early in the second.
Hart had — as he is oft to do — a pretty quiet but extremely productive night saving 30 shots and buckling down during the final onslaught from the desperate Canadiens. Though he did have two “stinkers,” Hart has built the foundation of legend in Flyers lore, willing the team to victory in multiple touch-and-go games.
He started all six games in this series and will get a well-deserved break before the Islanders series.
Two steps up and one step back
The Flyers let Montreal back in it during a short-handed chance midway through the second. With action in front of him, Carter Hart was unable to stop a Nick Suzuki shovel to the net to get the Habs on the board, 2-1.
After Sanheim’s second period goal, the Flyers squandered a two-goal cushion for a second time as Suzuki got Goal No. 2 in the game. Both of Montreal’s goals came seemingly immediately after Philly struck, an unfortunate piece of timing that had a role in squandering some momentum.
Interestingly, the Flyers scored three times on their first seven shots, which is all they had mustered through 34 minutes of gametime (they were outshot by double digits for most of the game).
One of the main takeaways from this series is the Flyers ability to adapt, play physically and take advantage of opponent missteps and lucky bounces. Every time there was an open net, a Habs player whipped out. Every time there was a scoring chance that could have bit Philly in the butt, the puck went wide or hit a Flyers’ skater.
Despite their mistakes, the Canadiens just didn’t have enough talent to match Philadelphia’s, and the Flyers were able to hang on — by the skin of their teeth — to win their first playoff series since 2012.
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