Flyers-Canadiens: Postgame Review
When you get into the position the Flyers were in entering Tuesday night, every game becomes a must-win, but this was especially true against the Montreal Canadiens, a team the Flyers were trailing in the standings.
When it came down to it, the Flyers ran out of gas. Montreal was the hungrier team early, opened up the lead and let their goaltender do the rest. The regulation loss pushed the Flyers further back in the chase for the playoffs, and likely closed the book on an unlikely comeback.
The Canadiens really controlled the play early, getting the better chances and getting much more traffic to the net. Shots were limited early, but the Canadiens were able to strike first on a goal by Brendan Gallagher, who has become a noted Flyers killer of late.
When Shea Weber padded the lead early in the second, the Flyers were back in an uphill climb, the story of their season.
A game like this holds less meaning if the Flyers had not carved out such a massive hole early in the year. The playoff conversation was fun and it made the second half of the season entertaining. There is a lot of promise around the Flyers, notably in net. But it doesn't erase what a mess this team was in the first 41 games.
Ultimately, when you hinge so much on a few games down the stretch, and each one is needed to get you into the postseason, there is no room for error. The Flyers didn't play an overly poor game on Tuesday, they got outplayed by a team with more realistic playoff chances that needed this game as badly as the home team did. Sometimes, that's what wins.
It helps that Carey Price is rock solid in net, though he was seldom tested in the win. Carter Hart, who considers Price his idol growing up, fared much better than his last outing against the Canadiens. That game was his second straight allowing three goals on nine shots. In this game, Hart looked composed and stopped 33 of 35 shots faced. The only two goals were the result of screens. Hart had no chance on either.
Unfortunately, with no room for error, you can't get stymied by the opposition like the Flyers did. Montreal threw up that neutral zone wall that the Flyers just couldn't seem to penetrate. When they did get controlled entries or chances to carry the puck in the attacking zone, they would make that extra pass that either didn't make it through or didn't sit right on the stick and cost them precious time in surprising an all-world goaltender.
It was as close to perfect a road game as you can get for Montreal, and at this stage of the season, when goals haven't been easy to come by -- and that was the case again with only two into a tended net -- it shows Montreal is more cut out to make the postseason than the Flyers are.
Maybe the Flyers emptied the tanks with all of the close wins and late-game comebacks in February. Maybe they had their run and the reality is that play like that is just not sustainable for three full months. Whatever it is, it certainly feels like this unlikely run is over and the Flyers will play out the final nine games of the season trying to spoil other teams chances or seeding in the playoffs.