Another ugly game, but the Flyers got it done.
This was a game they needed to have. You could see that the Montreal Canadiens’ desperation remained high and that there were players picking up steam, getting hotter by the second. When you have a second chance to put a team away before reaching a pivotal Game 7, you need to take advantage.
For the team that hadn’t lost back-to-back games since early January, that streak continued. The Flyers went back to the style of play that helped them secure the first three wins and it earned them the all-important fourth one to move on.
A date with the Islanders is next for the Flyers, but first, here are 5 takeaways from Game 6 against the Canadiens.
1. The Drought is Over
It’s been a long eight years for Flyers fans. In 2014, the team made the playoffs and lost in seven games. In 2016, the team was a heavy underdog to the Washington Capitals and lost in six games. In 2018, the team was again a heavy underdog in a series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, had a 4-2 lead in Game 6, and ultimately lost the series right there instead of forcing a Game 7.
Finally, the Flyers not only entered a series as favorites, but they completed the task.
For the players, this is not the end goal by any stretch, but you know this thought is still on the minds of the organization. It had been eight years since a playoff series win. For a team that takes pride in making long runs in the postseason, that wasn’t good enough. After the season they endured a year ago, this is certainly rewarding.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Flyers can say they are one of eight teams remaining in the playoffs. They have at least four more games remaining, and they can certainly make this run interesting in the next round if they start to experience some success.
That is all to be determined, and for now, there is no sense putting immediate focus on the upcoming second-round series - at least until we know when the series begins.
2. Lock-Down Defense Again
From the middle of the second period, it was evident what the Flyers were trying to do. The second period felt more like Games 1 and 2, a period where Montreal’s desperation was coming through and they were pressing for that tying goal.
In the third period, the Flyers started to play that style that had won them the other three games in the series. They went into lock-down mode again.
Montreal did get 13 shots on goal in the period, more than the first and second, but a lot of their chances came late as the desperation was turned up. For most of the period, though, the Flyers did what they had to do. They blocked shots. They got in the passing lanes. They limited space. They kept possession to the outside. They put together a few good forechecking shifts to waste time.
It was an especially impressive effort without Matt Niskanen, out on his one-game suspension. Phil Myers played a lot, not just on his usual pairing, but up with Ivan Provorov. Shayne Gostisbehere had an outstanding game, really stepping up when it mattered most. Travis Sanheim did lose a puck battle that led to Montreal's second goal, but again, played significant minutes and had a key role in the Flyers scoring a goal as well.
Of course, there was Carter Hart as well, who once again played a solid game and did his part to lock down the result as well. His 31 saves were the most he had in any game in the series.
Again, it’s a boring brand of hockey, and it can keep you on the edge, but it is how playoff hockey typically goes. And believe me, the Flyers are going to get a heavy dose of this style of play again in the next series.
It’s definitely a positive that they went through this series first, because there is a team waiting that does all of the things Montreal was doing better and harder and that has much more depth to do it. It will take that kind of shut-down, lock-it-up effort to continue to advance.
3. Fast Start
Remember the last time the Flyers clinched a series win? Back in April 2012, it took Claude Giroux just 32 seconds to announce the Flyers presence in a game. In Friday night’s Game 6 win, it took Ivan Provorov 28 seconds to do it, the fourth fastest goal to start a game in a potential clinching scenario.
Provorov’s goal did not spark the Flyers to some big blowout like in 2012, but it did set an early tone. It’s no coincidence that the team that scored first in every game of the series won. Playing with the lead was crucial to dictating the style.
You knew Provorov was going to be a beast on the blue line and in the defensive zone, but to get that early strike on a shot from the outside was huge for the Flyers, especially after Montreal had seized momentum early in Game 5 with a shorthanded goal.
There is no question that Provorov is the catalyst of the defense, and he played with rotating partners throughout the night. It hardly mattered.
4. Dirty But Good
To beat Carey Price, you have to be willing to take shots from anywhere and get traffic to the net. Provorov’s opening goal was a great example of this. And then you get the quick strike from Kevin Hayes and Michael Raffl’s goal, created by going hard to the net.
The Flyers only took 17 shots in the clinching game, not nearly enough for their liking. But they also had to play the game that was in front of them. To their credit, they made those shots count, got three goals, went ahead by two twice in the game and never really looked back.
The win and the goals may not have been pretty, but in the playoffs, you will take those greasy goals and the gritty wins because that’s how good teams get it done. It will likely take that kind of showing again in the second round.
5. Not to Their Capabilities
As mentioned, this was an ugly series, no doubt about it. The Flyers had to grind it out for every inch, work incredibly hard for every goal and it took six games to get it done, much longer than many expected. There was no convincing win in this series, and the Flyers may have needed it to be that way.
The good news out of this is that the Flyers can look at this series and feel they managed four wins without playing their best hockey. This certainly didn’t resemble the hockey they played in the Round Robin. If this was the best they could give in this series, and it wasn’t close to their highest level of play, and they still got four wins, it speaks volumes to the team’s depth, ability to adjust to the opposition and their will to win.
There were moments in the series when those things were waning. There were times they didn’t get the depth they had throughout the season. There were times where they struggled to make adjustments. There were times where they didn’t match the will of the Canadiens. But in the end, they are the team heading to the next round.
That says a lot about how far this team has come, even if it was a grind to get it.