Flyers

Flyers get final head pat, eliminate Canadiens for 1st playoff series win since 2012

Flyers

The Flyers were able to shake the Canadiens and their postseason series drought with a 3-2 win Friday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, taking the best-of-seven first-round set in six games.

For the first time in eight years, the Flyers are headed to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Next up are the Islanders.

Ivan Provorov, Kevin Hayes and Michael Raffl scored goals as the Flyers never trailed in Game 6.

Their kid in net was pretty good, too, against his childhood idol.

Suffice it to say Philly is eager for a run; it has been a while.

• Provorov's goal was a massive tone-setter as it came 28 seconds into the game. Following such an emotional and hostile Game 5, relieving some early pressure all starts with an early goal and the Flyers got it, improving to 7-0-0 when they've scored first in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

• For a seven-season span, the Flyers had totally gotten away from playoff success. Inconsistent regular seasons resulted in bad matchups and early ousters. That stretch consisted of three postseason berths and no series victories.

It took some time (and ultimately some serious changes), but the Flyers are back in the business of legitimately contending. This marks their first playoff series victory since 2012, when the club beat the Penguins in six games before bowing out during the second round to the Devils in five games.

Chris Pronger was the captain of the Flyers, Claude Giroux was 24 years old, James van Riemsdyk turned 23 during the Devils series, Jakub Voracek was 22 and in his first season with the club and Sean Couturier was a 19-year-old rookie.

 

The core has grown up, has some kids and additions around it and now the Flyers are back on a viable postseason run.

• While the Flyers went through a phase of playoff irrelevancy, Alain Vigneault had taken the Rangers past the first round three times after arriving to New York in 2013-14. The 59-year-old bench boss now owns nine first-round series victories in his career and has won at least one series in Year 1 of all his four gigs — Montreal, Vancouver, New York and the Flyers.

The Flyers brought Vigneault on board to expedite their process to contention. His résumé of producing immediate results was attractive to the Flyers and they've gotten what they hired.

"My focus here is not just to win the first round, but it’s the first step obviously," Vigneault said in mid-July during the club's two-week training camp.

Was this first-round series victory a little more fulfilling considering the stoppage and circumstances?

For me, I think what’s got my attention the most is people in Philly, Flyer fans, and people in the province of Quebec, Montreal Canadien fans, got a chance to see hockey. We’re trying to do our part so that people can for a few hours a day think about something else than COVID, trying to get their lives back to normalcy. I hope people enjoyed the series, there were certainly some entertaining parts to it. And we’ll get ready for the next one.

Vigneault

• Carter Hart will always remember his first-ever series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 22-year-old faced the goalie he looked up to as a kid and was able to produce the all-important four wins, as well, highlighted by two shutouts.

Hart made 31 saves in Game 6 and 133 stops on 143 shots in the series.

Through the tournament, Hart has allowed two or fewer goals in six of his eight starts.

Carey Price, who turned 33 years old during the series, held the Flyers to five goals over the first four games. The Flyers were able to score six on him over the final two contests. He made things awfully tough on the top-seeded Flyers after eliminating the Penguins in the qualifying round.

For him to come over and congratulate you in the handshake line — he said hell of a series and that he’ll be watching. That’s pretty special and definitely something I won’t forget.

Hart

• Travis Sanheim made a great play on what turned out to be the Flyers' game-winning goal. Raffl scored it and has three goals in five tournament games. Important role player.

• With sheer playmaking, Montreal forwards Nick Suzuki and Jonathan Drouin gave the Flyers serious trouble in Games 5 and 6.

The 21-year-old Suzuki had another impressive game with two goals and Drouin recorded two assists. Suzuki, a nice young center, kept coming after the Flyers, finishing with three goals and four points in the final two games. Drouin put up six helpers in the series.

On Friday, those two stepped up as Brendan Gallagher was out because of a broken jaw, an injury that created a war of words leading into Game 6.

With Matt Niskanen suspended, Shayne Gostisbehere hopped into the lineup and showed the hop that Vigneault loves to see from the puck-moving defenseman.

To ignite the Flyers' second goal, Gostisbehere made a skillful rush up ice in which he deked a Canadien and allowed the Flyers to set up shop in the offensive zone.

 

Hayes, who has been brilliant through the playoffs (one goal, six assists, plus-7 rating), finished off the sequence with a goal. Including the regular season, the Flyers are now 20-0-1 when Hayes lights the lamp.

But back to Gostisbehere. He's been a good example of why depth is so vital on the back end. The Flyers were able to win a series clincher without a top-pair defenseman. If Gostisbehere is considered the Flyers' extra blueliner when everyone is healthy/available, he's the most talented seventh defenseman in the 24-team tournament.

He also delivered a good, clean hit in the second period on Suzuki, who had drawn himself some unnecessary attention with his Hart head pat in Game 5.

Gostisbehere was solid in Niskanen's stead but seems like the odd-man out to start the second round.

"Ghosty obviously wants to play every single night," Hayes said postgame in a video interview. "When he’s not in the lineup, he’s working his ass off."

• Voracek had a huge series with seven points (four goals, three assists). He will be just as important against the club's second-round opponent, which plays a similar style to the Flyers.

• For a third straight game, Nicolas Aube-Kubel was scratched. Although it has not been stated, he is clearly unfit to play. The 24-year-old winger became a key depth forward from mid-December on  and may have suffered some kind of injury when he blocked two big shots in the team's 1-0 Game 3 win last Sunday.

Van Riemsdyk entered the lineup for Connor Bunnaman after sitting out the last two games for unknown reasons.

• The second round of the playoffs starts Saturday. 

The Flyers will face the Islanders, who were the sixth seed during the first round and knocked off the third-seeded Capitals in five games.

In the regular season, Vigneault's club went 0-2-1 against Barry Trotz's Islanders and were outscored 13-9. The Flyers lost to New York, 5-3, on Oct. 27, coughed up a 3-0 third-period lead for a 4-3 shootout defeat on Nov. 16 and lost a wild one, 5-3, on Feb. 11.

Here is the Flyers-Islanders second-round series schedule.