The Flyers have hopped in the driver's seat of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series against the Canadiens.
And Carter Hart is driving.
The young franchise goalie delivered another shutout as the Flyers beat the Canadiens, 2-0, Tuesday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto to snare a 3-1 series lead.
Michael Raffl and Philippe Myers provided the goals in Game 4, while the Flyers have completely tightened up the ice to grab control.
• The Flyers, who entered allowing 1.50 goals per game, best in the playoffs, have been superb in their response to the 5-0 drubbing they took in Game 2.
If they keep playing the right way, which they have in Games 3 and 4, the goals will start to come.
The Flyers have allowed more than one goal only once through seven playoff games. They've needed only five goals in this series so far.
"At this time of the year, you have to play well, you have to play that 200-foot game, you have to be committed," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said postgame in a video interview. "And our players are right now."
• Hart has been the Flyers' backbone.
He has one shutout in 70 career regular-season starts.
He now has back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs. Pretty remarkable in how he has answered the challenge so far in his first taste of postseason hockey.
Hart converted 29 saves in the Game 4 victory and improved to 5-1-0 with 158 stops on 165 shots in the tournament (1.24 goals-against average). Per NHL stats and information, Hart is the second-youngest goalie in NHL history to put up back-to-back shutouts during the playoffs. Hart is only the third Flyers goalie to ever do so, joining Bernie Parent (1975) and Michael Leighton (2010).
Hart is also 14-3-0 with under a 1.80 goals-against average in his last 17 starts going back to the regular season.
The Canadiens have constantly tried to beat the 22-year-old high but have not had any luck with Hart in solid position and Montreal also misfiring. The Canadiens have also rung the post a lot.
Carey Price, who had allowed only three goals to the Flyers through the first three games of the series, finally surrendered a marker that he could have stopped. Myers flung a shot near the net during the second period and Price got a piece of it, but couldn't get all of it. The shot very well may have gone wide if Price didn't get a piece of it.
The veteran has been so good all playoffs, coming into Game 4 with a 1.40 goals-against average in seven starts. With Price likely knowing and feeling that he has to be close to perfect, the goal had to be deflating for the 33-year-old netminder. How will he respond in Game 5?
With Game 5 as the second half of a back-to-back set, it presents a challenge for both goalies.
• Raffl gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead with a nasty shot to beat Price. The role forward has been huge in three playoff games (two goals, one assist) and his return from injury has been timely.
"It’s just an extremely hard grind, they defend very well and hard," Raffl said. "You get a couple of bumps and bruises after every single game, but this is what it comes down to in the playoffs. It’s not just me, it’s the whole group that is committed. Everybody helps each other out there and it’s a very good feeling being on the Flyers right now."
The Flyers are 6-0-0 when they score first in the playoffs.
• The Flyers tried some different forward lines, possibly to spark things offensively and also make the Canadiens think even more early with their decisions on matchups.
Here's how the Flyers looked at forward (with more on the absences farther below):
Michael Raffl-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Joel Farabee-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny
Claude Giroux-Derek Grant-Scott Laughton
Connor Bunnaman-Nate Thompson-Tyler Pitlick
"I thought that would give us maybe a little better balance throughout our four lines," Vigneault said about the different spots for Raffl and Giroux. "It also gave us a couple good faceoff lines. In that aspect, I thought it would help us maybe a little. But at the end of the day, it’s a little more about the execution, the will and the compete. Both teams are doing a lot of that right now."
• In the third period, a Shea Weber shot got a piece of Robert Hagg up high. Everyone knows how scary that can be given Weber has the hardest shot in the NHL.
Hagg, a team-oriented guy who is always willing to block a shot, was fortunately OK. He was solid again in his second game of this series, blocking two shots and helping the Flyers pitch another shutout.
“He brings a lot to this team, plays the right way defensively and he’s there to block every shot he can," Hayes said in March. "We have a couple guys like that on our back end. It’s a stat that no one really cares about, but it goes a long way within this group. We know how important he is to this team. I mean, he’s a great guy, too, so it makes it that much better."
The Flyers blocked 13 shots overall after blocking 24 in Game 3.
• Nicolas Aube-Kubel and James van Riemsdyk were scratches as Farabee and Bunnaman entered the lineup.
It's possible Aube-Kubel was banged up after blocking two big shots in the team's 1-0 Game 3 win Sunday. If that's the case and van Riemsdyk was still a scratch with another lineup spot open, Vigneault must be adamantly unhappy with JVR's effort or game.
The 22-year-old Bunnaman getting the nod over the two-time 30-goal scorer speaks volumes about van Riemsdyk's status right now. In the tournament, the Flyers have played van Riemsdyk 11:31 minutes per game, the second fewest on the team. He has played primarily on the third or fourth line. His skill set is not best suited for the fourth line.
It's completely understandable if Vigneault wants more from van Riemsdyk, who has no points through five games. But he has nine shots in only 11:31 minutes per game and not a ton of power play time. Just how the Flyers try to accentuate Farabee's strengths, or the strengths of any player on the roster, they can help accentuate van Riemsdyk's more to help get him going.
During the regular season, the Flyers went 22-5-0 in games that van Riemsdyk recorded a point; he can help if the Flyers help him, too.
• The series continues Wednesday with Game 5 at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSP, the second contest of this back-to-back set.
For the full series schedule, click here.