Rising Star Hart Gets Better of Idol Price in Flyers Series Win
There are moments when a playoff series ends and the handshakes commence that you wait for. Everyone wanted to see the moment when Carey Price and Carter Hart came together.
For the fourth time in the series, the young Flyers' netminder had outdueled the Canadiens' veteran. In Game 6, Price only faced 17 shots and stopped 14. Hart faced 33 and made a series-high 31 saves.
Both Hart and Price celebrated birthdays during the series, for Hart his 22nd and for Price his 33rd. Much was made about the comparisons. Hart has resembled Price before, and it’s no surprise considering Price was Hart’s favorite goalie growing up.
In their first meeting in the playoffs, it was the 22-year-old rising star in net that outdueled his boyhood idol. In the first three Flyers wins in the series, Hart was the first star of the game. In Game 6, Hart was the second star. For the series, he posted a 1.95 GAA and .935 save percentage.
The even-keeled Hart downplayed the comparisons and significance of facing his boyhood idol in his first playoff series. But even he couldn’t hide the significance of meeting at center ice to shake hands with Price after winning the series.
“Definitely a really special moment,” Hart said. “Obviously I look up to him. 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.”
In a lot of ways, the Flyers only got as far as their goaltender. When Hart was on his game - like in Game 1 when he made 27 saves and allowed one goal, in his back-to-back shutout wins in Games 3 and 4 or in the clinching Game 6 - the Flyers seemed to come out victorious. Hart wasn’t so on his game in Game 2, when the Flyers left him completely out to dry in a 5-0 rout, or in Game 5, when he allowed four goals.
On the other nights when the Flyers did pull in wins, they won by playing a very tight defensive style. In the entire series, Montreal actually outscored the Flyers, 13-11.
“I think our best periods have been in the third. I found sort of a blueprint to do a good job of shutting teams down,” Alain Vigneault said. “It paid off for us tonight. It was a hard fought series. Montreal is a hard-working team, a quick team. They had their D’s way more involved in our series than in what we had seen against Pittsburgh. Their goaltender gave them a chance every game and it was real tough at forechecking because of his puck handling. It was a tough series. Found a way to win. That’s what the game’s about.”
This was the Flyers first taste of victory in a playoff series, not just for Hart, but for a number of teammates, including Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov.
“It’s pretty special,” Gostisbehere said. “I know Provy and I have been in the playoffs before and didn’t get too far. It’s pretty fun to get a series win. Obviously we’re not done. Just a feather in our hat right now and we’re going to keep going. Keep this train rolling.”
“It’s great to get the first one out of the way, but we’re not done,” Provorov said. “We’re going to continue to get better, continue to play our game and go as far as we can.”
The Flyers do need to find a higher gear if they want to go deeper into the playoffs. The New York Islanders await, and they are a team that made pretty quick work of the Washington Capitals, defeating them in five games. The important thing for the Flyers is to move on from this series and continue to focus on being better and growing.
“This was a tough series in the sense that everyone predicted we were the favorites, weren’t giving Montreal a lot of credit, so we had to play through things mentally,” Vigneault said. “To be able to play through them, you learn how to win. You learn how to play. That’s what we’re doing as a group.
“If you look at our defense tonight, other than [Justin Braun] back there because [Matt Niskanen] wasn’t there tonight, a lot of those guys it was their first kick at the can as far as playoff hockey. You got to learn. You got to grow. Carter Hart’s got to learn. He’s got to grow. He was up against his idol growing up and he handled it like we expected. Like we expect our team to handle the playoffs.”
So it’s on to the next series for the Flyers, and Vigneault hopes to continue to be a positive distraction for fans of the Flyers and fans of hockey during unprecedented times.
“We’re trying to do our part, so people can for a few hours think about something else than COVID and trying to get their lives back to normal,” Vigneault said. “I hope that people enjoyed the series. There were certainly some entertaining parts to it. We’ll get ready for the next one.”
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.