Flyers 5: Takeaways from Game 1 of Flyers-Canadiens
As the top seed, expectations start to get high. Even if the Flyers came in with the fourth-best points percentage in the conference, they sure didn’t look like it in the Round Robin.
As expected in the first game of a first-round series, there was a new level of intensity. There were new challenges now that the games count for something different. It was unlike any game the Flyers have played yet since arriving in Toronto.
But one thing remained a constant. Carter Hart was excellent again. That is the main reason the Flyers find themselves with a 1-0 series lead following a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1.
Here are 5 takeaways from the Game 1 win.
1. Happy Birthday, Carter Hart
Chances are by the time you are reading this, it will be Carter Hart’s 22nd birthday. How did he celebrate? How about making 27 saves and out-dueling your boyhood idol in Game 1 of a playoff series.
From the beginning, you saw that Hart was locked in and ready to go. He didn’t face a lot of pressure early in the game, but in a period where the Flyers didn’t have their best, Hart gave the Flyers a chance. Hart faced 17 shots in the middle period and the only he let enter the net was a rebound that he had no chance to stop.
Otherwise, Hart played with the same poise we saw against the top competition in the Round Robin. He plays beyond his years. He’s modest about it too. It’s just another game to him. To the rest of Philadelphia, it’s not. It’s the type of performance they have longed to get on a regular basis for some time.
2. Goalie Duel
Hart wasn’t the only one to impress in the net. The Flyers certainly had their chances and Carey Price was as advertised. This was very similar to the effort that helped the Canadiens win Game 1 in overtime against the Penguins in their qualifying round series. Price kept the game competitive through the first period. As Montreal started to play their game in the second and become heavy on the forecheck and attack with speed, Price was the only reason it was still a game.
Look no further than his save on Scott Laughton. Price was down and out. It should have been an easy goal. Laughton even wound up and let go a slap shot. Price got the blade of his stick on the shot to deflect it over the net.
Between Price and Hart, there is a goalie duel on our hands with this series. As much as the series isn’t going to be about one player against another, there were times where one goalie would make an excellent save and the one at the other end of the ice would find a way to top it.
In just a day and a half, these two goalies will be back on the ice for Round 2 of the duel between them and their teams.
3. Power Play Finally Connects
If there was one area of the Flyers game that didn’t have an impact in the Round Robin, it was the power play. The Flyers entered Game 1 0-for-11 on the man advantage.
In the first period, they finally got one as Ivan Provorov’s shot deflected off a Canadiens’ stick and then Jake Voracek and got through a screened Price.
The Flyers did let two more chances get away in the game, both of which came in the third period and really could have iced the game, but the puck movement remained solid for most of the power play and there was opportunity to generate chances.
It’s fair to wonder if getting one goal could help the Flyers get the power play really going. We’ll have to see in Game 2, but it had to be rewarding for the Flyers to finally get one that helped put them in the driver’s seat of Game 1.
4. Sloppy Start to Second
Game 1 of this playoff series was the Flyers fifth since arriving in Toronto and fourth that really counted for something. It was easily the worst the Flyers had played collectively since arriving.
Against the other top teams in the conference, there was more crispness to the game. The passing was on point. The forecheck was relentless. The Flyers dictated everything - the speed, the physicality, the chances going the other way. They essentially had the neutral zone on lockdown.
That was not the case in this game. In the last few minutes of the first period and for a majority of the second period, the Flyers were on their heels. Hart was their savior. Breakouts weren’t smooth. There were plenty of turnovers.
It kept the Canadiens coming in waves. In Game 1, Hart had the answers and kept the Canadiens off the board. But that can’t be expected in every game if you are going to allow that many quality opportunities and that much zone time.
If nothing else, it was a reminder of why Montreal made it this far. This team is not a pushover. They can hang around in a game. And in the early part of the first, when the Flyers looked like the team that was completely dictating everything when it came to the play on the ice, that was when the Canadiens looked in over their heads.
But when the Flyers are not clicking on all cylinders and not controlling the pace of the game and playing to their strengths, Montreal can hang around in this series. They did in Game 1 and the Flyers need to realize that and improve it for next game.
5. Farabee Showing He Belongs
For the second straight game in the playoffs, Joel Farabee scored a goal. It was a type of goal Flyers fans should be used to seeing by now, not from Farabee himself, but for the team.
Shea Weber had scored on the power play to tie the game, and given that the Flyers were on their heels for most of the period to that point, it felt like only a matter of time. That made it a new game...for all of 16 seconds.
That’s all it took for Farabee and the Flyers to respond. It was a really nice play by the rookie forward as well.
First, his pressure on the forecheck forced the Canadiens into a failed clear at the blue line. Travis Sanheim held the puck in to regain control and floated a shot toward the net. Farabee knocked it down and deflected it into Price, then put home the rebound.
In his young career, Farabee has 10 career goals and now two of them are against Price - he also scored against Price in January. Perhaps more than anything, this is the second straight game Farabee has scored since moving to the top line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Farabee has shown that he belongs in that group of players. He has the skill set and the talent to be there and is showing signs of what his potential can be.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.