Flyers

Flyers' 1st home win doesn't cover up this underlying problem

Flyers' 1st home win doesn't cover up this underlying problem

BOX SCORE

When the Flyers walked out of the Wells Fargo Center for the final time last season, it came on the heels of an absolute epic meltdown.

Poised to force a Game 7 in their first-round series against the Penguins, the Flyers grabbed a 4-2 lead when Scott Laughton scored with 7:46 remaining in the second period.

Before the Flyers could make hotel reservations for Pittsburgh, the Pens proceeded to score five unanswered goals as they motored out of Philly with an 8-5 victory, winning the series in six games.

On Tuesday, the Flyers collectively fell off the wagon yet again, proving they still have a long way to go to break the bad habit of losing leads. After Claude Giroux scored on a gift of a giveaway from Aaron Ekblad, the Flyers owned a 5-2 advantage with 2:57 remaining in the second period. 

It took just 28 seconds for the Panthers to score a power-play goal and put South Broad on high alert once again.

Not only did Dave Hakstol reinforce the importance of protecting a third-period lead during the second intermission, but the event crew that blares music through the speaker system fittingly chose Volbeat’s “Seal the Deal” just before they dropped the puck. 

Unfortunately, the Flyers couldn’t seal a leaky faucet at that point.

“We didn’t play the right way in the first 10 minutes of the third period,” Hakstol said after the Flyers' 6-5 shootout win Tuesday (see observations). “We gave up two breakaways and one Grade-A chance from the slot. That’s all it takes.”

The winless Panthers needed just 10:36 to wipe out the Flyers' three-goal lead, and you can’t blame Andrew MacDonald for this collapse. MacDonald was benched in favor of Christian Folin. You can’t point the finger at Folin, who finished with a rather impressive plus-4 rating, including a key blocked shot on Nick Bjugstad with 4:45 remaining.  

Interestingly for a coach who rarely singles out one particular player or an ineffective line, Hakstol mentioned his top defensive pairing that was victimized for those two third-period goals.

“That’s our top two guys on the back end,” Hakstol said. “Not being necessarily critical of them, but that tells me the line of thinking at that point in time is not the right way.”

And if a team is not thinking the right way, then they’re certainly not geared toward playing the right way or even winning the right way. 

You can forgive the Flyers' top defense pairing for falling apart against the Penguins in the playoffs. After all, Ivan Provorov’s arm was on the verge of falling off.

Tuesday night, Hakstol was so desperate to keep the wheels from falling off, he elected to pull his No. 1 goalie with a 5-4 lead in favor of a backup who had made just two NHL starts in the previous 365 days.

Somehow it all came together as the Flyers found a way to earn a much-needed win in a shootout. 

But it sure would be nice to stop the bleeding before it turns into a bloody mess.

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Ice cream and a memory vs. Carey Price remind us Carter Hart is just a kid ... but ready for the moment

Ice cream and a memory vs. Carey Price remind us Carter Hart is just a kid ... but ready for the moment

When Carey Price was at his most dominant, winning the Vezina Trophy (top goalie) and Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) in 2014-15, Carter Hart was just 16 years old. 

The precocious but innocent kid had just begun molding his game at the junior hockey level with the WHL's Silvertips in Everett, Washington.

Price was at the sport's pinnacle.

"He was my favorite goalie growing up," Hart said.

On Wednesday, the night before his 22nd birthday, Hart found himself stretching next to Price at the center-ice line in front of the scorekeepers' bench.

There was Hart, on the same NHL stage as his idol, facing him in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The NHL postseason is serious business, requiring the utmost competitiveness and focus. Hart, whose youthfulness often belies his maturity, fully understands the beast that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the postseason makes for special moments and memories. NHL players all looked up to someone at some point. For Hart, he allowed himself to appreciate the storyline ahead.

"Definitely really cool," Hart said last Sunday about the upcoming best-of-seven first-round matchup with Price's Canadiens. "Just had the chance to actually meet him the other week and talk with him for the first time, so that was something pretty cool. For your first playoff series, playing against Carey Price will definitely be a lot of fun; I look forward to it."

Price, who turns 33 years old on Sunday, was unable to spoil the youngster's birthday. By midnight, Hart and the top-seeded Flyers had a 1-0 series lead after earning a hard-fought 2-1 victory over eighth-seeded Montreal. Hart is 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .966 save percentage through three games in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

On the ice, the Flyers were able to celebrate around Hart after he turned away 27 of 28 shots, with 16 of those saves coming in the second period when the Flyers really needed him.

Off the ice, they made sure to celebrate Hart's birthday a little early, making the best of the circumstances in the Eastern Conference's Toronto bubble.

“I think some guys got him some ice cream yesterday after the game and just sang him happy birthday," Shayne Gostisbehere said Thursday with a smile. "He’s been pretty good.”

“Let him do his thing,” Scott Laughton chimed in about Hart.

“Yeah, let him do his thing," Gostisbehere echoed.

After a short and sweet exchange with Price, Hart did his thing in Game 1.

“Just said hello quickly in warmups, good luck and it was just time to go play," Hart said.

If Hart continues to play the way he has this season and to start the tournament, he could remember the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs for much more than a memorable matchup with Price.

But there's a kid in everyone. Then again, Hart is only 22 years old.

"He’s a special kid," Derek Grant said last week. "He’s so calm. He puts his mask on, you don’t know how old he is."

With his mask off, Hart hopefully enjoyed a little ice cream and soaked in the moment.

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Canadiens head coach Claude Julien hospitalized with chest pain

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien hospitalized with chest pain

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien has been hospitalized because of chest pain, the team announced Thursday.

Julien is not expected to return to the bench for the Canadiens' best-of-seven first-round playoff series against the Flyers. Assistant coach Kirk Muller will take over head coaching duties in the interim.

Julien was behind the bench leading Montreal in Game 1 Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The Flyers beat the Canadiens, 2-1, while the series continues Friday with Game 2 at 3 p.m. ET.

Here is a statement from Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, via the team's official website:

Good afternoon. I'm here to inform you of the reason Claude Julien was not here this morning at practice. Claude experienced chest pain during the night. We immediately consulted our doctors and it was agreed to transfer him to the hospital by ambulance. He's presently there and he's undergoing tests to determine the exact nature of his condition. This has nothing to do with COVID.

We don't expect him to be back during this series against the Flyers. Kirk, Dominique [Ducharme] and Luke [Richardson] will share the responsibility, however, Kirk is the associate head coach and he will assume the responsibility of head coach until Claude's return.  

We understand that Kirk does not speak French, but these are exceptional circumstances and we're asking you for your understanding. Out of respect for Claude and his family, I will not answer any further questions about his medical condition.

The veteran coach led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011. The 60-year-old began his NHL head coaching career in Montreal and has been with the club for parts of seven seasons.

"There’s no doubt that there’s a deep bond and a deep respect because we know the jobs that we’re doing," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said about Julien before the series.

Vigneault, 59, also began his NHL head coaching career in Montreal. From 1981-83, Vigneault and Julien were teammates on the Central Hockey League's Salt Lake Golden Eagles.

"I didn't see him after the game," Vigneault said Thursday afternoon in a video interview following practice. "I've known Claude since I was 20, so we go way back, good friends. I'm going to reach out with him; I just found out the news, I want to say 20 minutes ago, just before jumping on the bus. I'm not aware of exactly what happened."

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