Carter Hart will enjoy his birthday.
The young netminder delivered a big performance Wednesday night to help the Flyers earn a 2-1 win over the Canadiens in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
So far, so good (in fact, really good) for Hart in his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Jakub Voracek and Joel Farabee scored goals for the top-seeded Flyers, who are off to a 4-0-0 start in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament and have yet to trail once.
Over their last 14 games (10 in the regular season, four in tournament), the Flyers are 13-1-0 and have outscored the opposition 52-23 (plus-29 goal differential). The lone loss was to the Bruins, who finished the regular season with an NHL-best 100 points.
Wednesday was far from a picture-perfect performance but the Flyers did enough to grind it out, which they'll have to do at times against eighth-seeded Montreal.
One down. pic.twitter.com/EZJISrb9yv— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 13, 2020
The @NHLFlyers won each of their first 4+ games in a postseason for the sixth time in franchise history. The other instances:— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) August 13, 2020
1985 (6-0)#NHLStats #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/TLjmJMp69H
• In the first chapter of the Hart-Carey Price showdown, the youngster got the better of the veteran.
Hart, who turned 22 years old at midnight, has been so steady early in games. He had to make only five saves in the opening frame but he hasn't allowed a first-period goal in his last seven games.
He was a life saver with 16 second-period saves and finished with 27 stops on 28 shots.
Through three games in the tournament, Hart is 3-0-0 with 84 saves on 87 shots. Can't ask for a better start from him. A major positive.
Price made a save on Scott Laughton that you'll see all over ESPN's SportsCenter and denied 29 shots. The Flyers know he'll be a tough out.
• After playing well following his jump to the first line in the round-robin finale with Voracek (undisclosed issue) out, Farabee stayed with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier in Game 1.
The 20-year-old rookie winger continued his productive response to the opportunity, scoring a massive goal 16 seconds after Shea Weber tied the game at 1-1 in the second period.
Farabee went to the net, deflected Travis Sanheim's shot and then pounded home the rebound — so timely given Montreal had totally swung the momentum in its favor, putting the Flyers on their heels.
Farabee should stay on that line until he gives the Flyers a reason to not keep him there. He has three points (two goals, one assist) over three games in the 24-team tournament.
He’s been great for us," Ivan Provorov said postgame in a video interview. "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 really well.
THAT 👏 WAS 👏 FAST 👏— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 13, 2020
Joel Farabee gets one back, Flyers lead 2-1. pic.twitter.com/dQoNPUNoZ9
• The Flyers delivered a pair of early positive signs:
The power play struck on its first opportunity after going 0 for 11 through the three-game round robin. Provorov, who led all NHL defensemen in man advantage goals during the regular season with seven, blasted a shot from the point and Voracek must have just gotten a piece of it to hand the Flyers a 1-0 advantage.
The other positive was the ingredients to the goal. The Flyers went with a double screen on Price. Impeding the Montreal netminder's vision will be critical and the Flyers hammered home that point with Couturier and Voracek disrupting.
Not only is it an effective approach but it can also frustrate Price, who does not like being bumped or obstructed.
The power play finished 1 for 3 and missed out on a chance to provide insurance in the third period. It didn't cost the Flyers.
Carey Price was not happy about this. pic.twitter.com/bhNYS8nIem— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 13, 2020
• The second period was troubling for the Flyers. They got a taste of their own medicine. Typically, the Flyers are a team that wants to wear down the opposition with its effort and north-south style. The Flyers are not the fastest team, but the way in which they play makes them tough to play against, which was a huge initiative entering their turnaround season.
Montreal completely took it to them in the middle stanza. At one point, the Flyers were pinned in their own end and had three failed attempts to clear the puck.
Leading up to the series opener, Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault warned that Montreal seldom slows down in its pace or energy, which can sneak up on teams if you let it.
"That’s a team with real good team speed, there’s no doubt that they work extremely hard," Vigneault said in a video interview before the game. "Those two areas, watching the four games in that Pittsburgh series, caught everybody’s attention. They were extremely quick and extremely hard-working."
Fortunately for the Flyers, Hart was strong and Farabee made his heads up play, allowing the Flyers to leave the second period with a 2-1 edge.
• Vigneault gave the Game 1 nod to Shayne Gostisbehere over Robert Hagg, who was the extra defenseman. Gostisbehere truly won his spot in the lineup with impressive work during camp, the exhibition game and one round-robin game.
He wasn't as impactful against the Canadiens as he was in the 4-1 round-robin win over the Lightning and looked a little shaky in the second period, but so did the Flyers as a whole. Gostisbehere didn't play a ton later in the third period as the Flyers shortened things up.
Not sure that's enough to sit him in Game 2 but the battle for the lineup will truly be a game-to-game situation. The playoffs are a game-to-game business.
• James van Riemsdyk was on the fourth line and played 11:40.
Nate Thompson, the former Canadien who centers the fourth line, missed a wide-open net late in the third period.
Overall, the Flyers didn't receive the depth efforts they got throughout the round robin, but the club's role players weren't awful, either.
The Flyers had a so-so game in general.
• The series continues Friday with Game 2 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSP.
For the full series schedule, click here.
The Flyers practice Thursday at 1 p.m. ET at the Ford Performance Centre.
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