The NHL has a stat that teams winning Game 1 of a seven-game series go on to win about 69% of the time. But Wednesday night’s Flyers win in their opener over Montreal might mean even more.
Let’s put those round-robin games aside for a minute, and call this series the start of the playoffs. Just about everybody who played in the round-robin agrees those games were more like the regular season in terms of intensity.
So on Wednesday night, the Flyers were carried by a goaltender making his first playoff start and a rookie comfortable enough on the top line that he just happened to score the game-winning goal. We know the historic numbers, but it’s impossible to quantify what the win will mean for the confidence of those youngsters going forward.
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The unfortunate injury to Michael Raffl in the first round-robin game opened the door for Joel Farabee to get himself back in the lineup.
With the way Farabee has grabbed this opportunity, the only way he will ever be scratched again is if he roughhouses with a cat.
Farabee, 20, scored the game-winning goal Wednesday night, as the Flyers won Game 1 of a series for the first time since 2012. He first deflected a shot from Travis Sanheim, then rammed home the rebound. It came 16 seconds after the Canadiens tied he score at 1-1.
It was the second straight game the rookie has scored a goal.
“It’s his first playoff, but it doesn’t look like it,” said Ivan Provorov, 23, playing in his 10th playoff game. “He has poise. He’s been making plays. He’s been scoring and helping us big-time.”
The injury to Raffl opened one door for Farabee. Jake Voracek’s unavailability for the third round-robin game created another chance. Coach Alain Vigneault wanted to see whether the kid could handle skating on the top line with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux.
“I think he deserves to play on that line,” Provorov said. “He contributes a lot. I think he complements Coots and G really well.
Voracek returned Wednesday and was credited with deflecting Provorov’s shot for the Flyers’ first goal. Mostly, though, Voracek played on a line with Derek Grant and Nic Aube-Kubel.
Farabee didn’t make the team out of training camp, so he made the trip to the Czech Republic but didn’t play (ed. note: corrected). He got suspended for three games (which was two games too many) for a hit in mid-December. He missed three more games and lost noticeable weight with a stomach virus. And he was sent down to the minors when the Flyers acquired Grant and Nate Thompson at the trade deadline.
Sure can’t question the kid’s perseverance.
“I just do everything I can to help the team, whatever my role is given that night,” said Farabee, a first-round pick in 2018 (14th overall). “Obviously playing with Coots and G, they’re two world-class players, and it’s a lot of fun playing with them. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum rolling and keep getting better and better over this series.”
Wednesday, Aug. 12: Game 1, Flyers beat Montreal, 2-1
Friday: Game 2, vs. Montreal, 3 p.m. (NBCSP, NBCSN)
Sunday: Game 3, vs. Montreal, 8 p.m. (NBC10)
Tuesday: Game 4, vs. Montreal, 3 p.m. (NBCSP, NBCSN)
*Wednesday: Game 5, vs. Montreal, TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Game 6, vs. Montreal, TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Game 7, vs. Montreal, TBD
*-If necessary. ... Games in Toronto. ... The Flyers are the designated home team in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7.
As the Columbus-Tampa Bay dragged on and on the other night, NBC analyst and Philadelphia frenemy Mike Milbury suggested the NHL needed to do something to prevent games from going five overtimes.
As the hours and overtimes dragged on, with neither team able to break through for a goal, it got borderline ridiculous. Because the Eastern Conference is all bubbled up in Toronto, the Boston-Carolina game had to be moved to the next morning.
So does Milbury, who’s been in hockey just about all his life, have a point? Should the NHL consider alternatives that would keep players healthy and fans interested?
“No,” said Flyers coach Alain Vigneault, who was the Canucks coach in 2007 when Vancouver won a four-overtime game over Dallas. He said the hotel in Toronto where the Flyers are headquartered was stoked.
“Everybody here, everybody was glued to the TV. It was exciting. It was demanding. I much prefer that than seeing it won in a shootout. I gotta tell ya, just going by the people around here, everybody was real excited.”
Brian Boucher, Milbury’s fellow analyst and the winning goalie when the Flyers beat the Penguins in five overtimes in 2000, agreed by saying the Stanley Cup is the most grueling trophy in sports to win for a reason.
It was wonderfully ironic that the game that was pushed back was won by Boston, where Milbury played for 12 seasons and coached two more. The Bruins won in double overtime.
We’ll let Jo Ann Burke, who tweeted us about the topic from @jpbflyers201, take it home.
“Why mess with what works and has worked for so long?” she wrote. “Anything other than playing until someone wins by playing the game as is, is the only thing that makes sense.”