FFR2 Round 1, Game 2 - MTL 5, PHI 0 - Black and But
It's pronounced "bue", and it's French for goal.
And the team from French Canada said it a lot Friday afternoon. The Philadelphia Flyers lose, 5-0, to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. For the first time since March 10, the Flyers have lost a game, and boy did they lose this one bad.
After a solid performance in Game 1 that could be broken into a good 1st, awful 2nd, and solid 3rd, the Flyers came out sloppy and never cleaned themselves up. Just sixty-two seconds after puck drop, Tomas Tatar darted to the net-mouth uncovered and buried a rebound from Brendan Gallagher. The inverse almost resulted in another goal as well, as Hart robbed Gallagher with a sprawling save on a rebound.
Montreal dominated the entire first period, outshooting the Flyers 13-0 through sixteen minutes. Jesperi Kotkaniemi made sure Montreal wouldn't waste this shooting gallery by squeaking a rebound goal through Hart's five-hole around the halfway mark of the frame. The Flyers showed some life on a late power-play, with Price stopping a net-mouth scramble centered around Voracek and Ivan Provorov missing the net from the slot when the puck popped out.
Unfortunately, any momentum that could have come from that was immediately squandered. With just 10 seconds to go and an offensive zone face-off, the Flyers appeared to be in a high-reward, no-risk situation. Coots even won the draw, but Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere BOTH backed away from the puck like Phillies infielders on a routine pop-up. Max Domi took it the other for a breakaway, drawing a controversial holding penalty on Ghost with just seven seconds to go in the period.
That penalty would ultimately prove costly. Tomas Tatar's quick-strike powers returned for the second period, using Justin Braun as a screen to snipe on Carter Hart just eighty-five seconds into the frame. Again, the Flyers power-play had a chance to give them life, this time setting up a 5-on-3 for 1:38. The closest they came was a shot-pass by Voracek that appeared to hit the pipe (it may have been deflected by NAK).
Things went from bad to worse when a Hail Mary centering pass from Joel Armia called bank of Shayne Gostisbehere's skate, ending Carter Hart's night before the second period. The Canadiens let up a little bit offensively in the 3rd period, but were as tight as ever, holding the Flyers to nine shots. They even torched the Flyers penalty kill once again. Kotkaniemi took advantage of Scott Laughton going to the bench for a new stick, cutting to the slot and beating Elliott stick-side for his second-career two-goal game.
Mercifully, that was the last goal of the game, but before the final horn could sound, the Flyers took two more penalties, Nate Thompson (and Habs defenseman Xavier Ouellet) were kicked out for roughing plus a misconduct, and Travis Konecny may have broken his foot blocking a shot. He left the ice in severe pain and needed help from a trainer and Hart to go down the tunnel.
The final tally was a 5-0 win for the Canadiens, who outshot the Flyers at nearly a 2 to 1 ratio through two periods. Everything that is usually effective for the Flyers was completely silent. The forecheck struggled to retrieve pucks, the penalty kill was tentative and uninspired, passes were not crisp or on the tape, and I don't even know where to start with their defensive zone coverage. Carey Price put up a 30-save shutout, although the best save of the day was probably made by Shea Weber on a chaotic short-handed bid by Travis Sanheim.
This was a Murphy's law game for the Flyers - anything that could go wrong did. It's been a while since the Flyers looked bad; in fact, their last five-goal loss was on February 6 against the Devils (though at least in that game they outshot New Jersey 46-19). They followed that game with a 7-2 drubbing of Washington, the first of twelve wins in their final fifteen regular season games. The last time they lost by five goals in the playoffs (Game 4, 2018 vs. Pittsburgh) they responded with a gutsy 4-2 road victory thanks to first-line center Valtteri Filppula (not a typo) and late game heroics from Sean Couturier (who wasn't healthy) and Michal Neuvirth (who actually was). They've been here before.
But it would be a lie to say it's not concerning that through six periods against the #12 seed, the Flyers have been outplayed in four. Out West, the #1 seed Vegas Golden Knights have taken care of the Blackhawks with relative ease (Game 2 did go to OT, but Vegas outshot Chicago 39-24). The Canadiens are a legitimate, motivated, hard-working hockey team that have put the league, and now the Flyers, on notice that they are here to win.
I'll wrap this up with a reminder it is possible to beat a team too bad in the playoffs. There's no doubt the Flyers pride took a shot after this game, and that's often when teams respond the hardest. Look at some of the biggest playoff blowouts recently (2019: BOS 7, STL 2; 2018: PHI 0, PIT 7; SJ 0, VGK 7; 2017: ANA 1, EDM 7; OTT 0, PIT 7). All of the teams that won those laughers lost their next game. A Flyers win on Sunday night puts them right back in the driver's seat of this series. But for now, they've been relegated from their "hottest team in the league" pedestal. Hopefully they're as hungry to get back on it as we are.
First and foremost, thoughts and prayers to Montreal head coach Claude Julien. He was hospitalized with chest pain after Game 1 and had a stent in his coronary artery. He will likely be out the rest of the series, with assistant Kirk Muller (Carolina head coach from 2011-2014) taking over. You had to think the Canadiens were extra motivated to win this game for Julien.
Muller definitely did a good job today, but Alain Vigneault wasn't happy the Habs new coach sent out his top power-play unit in the final three minutes when they game was already in hand. It must have violated good sportsmanship in Vigneault's eyes.
Today was Carey Price's seventh career playoff shutout, and his second of 2019. It's first ever in the playoffs against the Flyers, the same team he recorded his first regular-season shutout against in 2008.
Oh, and speaking of goalies, happy 22nd birthday to Carter Hart! He celebrated with yesterday with ice cream and a song, according to Ghost.
Maybe the most concerning thing about this loss is how many slumping Canadiens got off the schneid. Max Domi (0 points in playoffs so far) had three assists, Tatar (0 points) had two goals, and Victor Mete (0 points) had two assists. Not to mention Alex Belzile and Jake Evans each recorded their first career playoff point with assists on the Armia goal.
If not that, then maybe it's the fact the Flyers top-line was absolutely caved in, with the Giroux-Couturier-Farabee line somehow putting up a ZERO% Expected Goals For at 5-on-5. I've literally never seen that, but it can't be too surprising considering their equally putrid 12.5% Corsi. Me thinks a line change is coming here.
Montreal only made one lineup change before this game, inserting Evans for Dale Weise. The Flyers kept theirs the same, though Michael Raffl did participate in the pre-game skate, a sign he could be close to returning. Considering he's been fourth-line left-wing in both games this series and already healthy scratched during the round robin, I wonder if JVR might come out for him in Game 3.
This was the first time Hart has been pulled since January 4 at Arizona, when he allowed three goals on twelve shots (he allowed four on twenty-six today).
1st - Tomas Tatar (MTL) - 2 Goals, 62.5% Corsi, 69.93% xGF
2nd - Jesperi Kotkaniemi (MTL) - 2 Goals, 57.14% Corsi, 75.8% xGF
3rd - Max Domi (MTL) - 3 Assists, 52.17% Corsi, 74.61% xGF
Game 3 - 8/16, 8 PM
*Advanced Stats via Naturalstattrick.com