Nothing coming into this series suggested it would be easy. Between the way the Flyers struggled against Montreal during the season and the way the Canadiens handled the Penguins, this had the feel of a long series.
The Flyers just better hope it ends Friday. There are scarier things than facing Carey Price in a Game 7, though one isn’t coming immediately to mind.
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Alain Vigneault had said there was no question Carter Hart would start Wednesday night, the second game on back-to-back days. Hart hadn’t started consecutive games all year, but it was hard to blame the coach after the kid pitched a pair of shutouts.
But what was odd was what happened during the game — after the Canadiens seemed to have scored their fourth goal. It was a Nick Suzuki bleeder that tipped off Ivan Provorov’s stick. It should have been stopped, and Vigneault was going to pull his netminder.
But hold on a second. Someone on the Flyers’bench, perhaps video coach Adam Patterson, spotted that the Canadiens were offsides before Suzuki’s goal. The goal was overturned, and so was Vigneault’s decision to take Hart out.
“I looked at AV and he looked at me, and he said, ‘Are you ready?’ ” Hart said. “‘I said ‘yeah.’ ”
Not sure I’d ever seen that before. Brian Elliott went back to his seat away from the bench, socially distanced from the rest of the club. Hart went back in the net.
Hart went on to stop the next 11 shots before Suzuki got his revenge after a sloppy turnover by Nate Thompson left the goaltender hung out to dry. Thompson has been terrific in the series, but not on this play midway through the third period.
Hart acknowledged he needed to be better, but I can’t help but wonder what dividends Vigneault’s decision to leave Hart in might pay. It was a glimpse into the human side of coaching. Sometimes you have to go with your gut.
You can quickly see the exchange around the 1:10 mark of this video.
“I was going to make a change, but I got a chance to look into Carter’s eyes and he was fine,” Vigneault said. “So I decided to keep him in there. At the end of the day, we made a mistake on the [actual] fourth goal that we don’t usually make.”
Kevin Hayes has been effective throughout this series, leading rushes, killing penalties, drawing penalties.
One thing he hasn’t done is score on Price. While many Flyers can say the same thing, Hayes’ frustration probably runs deeper. He has NEVER scored on Carey Price. Not while he was with the Rangers. Not in the regular season. Not up in Toronto.
Hayes has scored against the Canadiens, but that was on backups Antti Niemi and Keith Kinkaid. In 25 games against Price, he has no goals, seven assists and 53 shots on goal. The four other top Flyers goal scorers who have not hit the back of the net in this series have all beaten Price in their careers.
After Jake Voracek, Hayes was the Flyers’ best forward Wednesday. He had seven shots on goal and two breakaways, and drew the penalty that led to the game’s briefly being tied in the third period.
Hart the other day became the second-youngest goalie ever to record back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs.
Harry Lumley was an 18-year-old prodigy when he performed the feat, leading his Red Wings to wins over Toronto in the 1945 Stanley Cup Final. Detroit had been down, 3-0, in the series. Lumley’s shutouts came in Games 5 and 6. Detroit lost Game 7 when Toronto scored a power-play goal with six minutes left.
Here are a few things about our boy.
Wednesday, Aug. 12: Game 1, Flyers beat Montreal, 2-1
Friday, Aug. 14: Game 2, Montreal ‘embarrasses’ Flyers, 5-0
Sunday, Aug. 16: Game 3, Flyers make early goal hold up, 1-0
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Game 4, Carter Hart does it again, Flyers win, 2-0
Last night: Game 5, Desperation fuels Habs in 5-3 win
Friday: Game 6, vs. Montreal, 7 p.m. (NBC10, NBCSN)
*Sunday: Game 7, vs. Montreal, TBD
*-If necessary. … Games in Toronto. … The Flyers are the designated home team in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7.
Question: It would be great to see Oskar Lindblom return for us at some point in the playoffs, but I’m wondering where he would slot in. Would you break up the top line, or try to fit him in on the 2nd or 3rd line somewhere? — Steve (@3w0kaw0ka) via Twitter
Answer: Yep. I’d put him right back with Sean Couturier and Voracek. Drop Michael Raffl down with Thompson and Tyler Pitlick. But this is Aug. 20 and many of the Flyers’ top guns have not scored. Who knows what things will look like if Lindblom should return. Would be the story of the year, though.