Flyers

Habs' head taps for Hart subtle but not missed or forgotten as animosity bubbles

Flyers

Sixty-seven penalty minutes were doled out Wednesday night as the Flyers-Canadiens best-of-seven first-round series ostensibly heated up.

An incident that didn't appear on the score sheet was not missed or forgotten within the madness of the Flyers' 5-3 Game 5 loss to Montreal at Scotiabank Arena.

"Everyone sees everything out there," Kevin Hayes said last Friday.

Especially in the playoffs, when everything is magnified and everyone is watching.

So when Nick Suzuki quickly bonked Carter Hart on the head after the Canadiens tied Game 5, 2-2, via Joel Armia's goal in the second period, it was noticed. And it was probably noticed again in any film sessions leading up to Game 6 of the series in which the Flyers hold a 3-2 lead.

"That’s just immaturity," Hayes said Thursday in a video interview when asked about Suzuki's reaction to the goal. "Not really sure what he was thinking; it's his decision. You should probably, if you get a chance, ask him."

Suzuki, a talented 21-year-old center, was in fact asked about it postgame Wednesday.

"Not really any intention, I was just skating by and I wasn't really thinking, I was just excited for the goal," Suzuki said. "Nothing personal, just a reaction by me. I saw it in the replays, I was just thinking I probably shouldn't do that, but it happened. I wasn't trying to be unsportsmanlike, he's a real good goalie."

 

Jonathan Drouin added to the Hart head-tapping trend when he patted the netminder following a Suzuki goal that was overturned because Drouin was deemed offside after Alain Vigneault's coach's challenge.

Would the head bops have happened if the Canadiens were playing someone with the stature of their own goalie Carey Price? What if Henrik Lundqvist or Tuukka Rask was the opposing netminder? Hart, in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs, is a soft-spoken, 22-year-old kid who wouldn't hurt a fly away from the ice.

"It’s just uncalled for," Hayes said. "Spur of the moment type of thing, [Suzuki] made his decision. He can say what he wants, it's whatever he thinks."

Whether the Canadiens felt it was innocuous or not, the Flyers saw it. They protect Hart. And in a series that has turned feisty and contentious, any extra ounce of motivation can be a difference.

"I don’t think we need any more fire, honestly," Hayes said.

They likely don't. But now, on the Flyers' side, there's a little more fuel to a series that has suddenly gone from warm to hot.