Philadelphia (1) vs Montreal (8): That’s Pandemic Hockey
What started out as a sleeper for the Canadiens ended in a wild, tight-checking, low scoring finish. In the opening game of their first-round series, Montreal proved they belong in these playoffs, but didn’t bring enough to earn the win.
The first period of this game was one to forget for the Canadiens; they started out very slow and timid, allowing a confident Flyers team to play the game they envisioned. Philly came out hard and fast on their way to a penalty against Jonathan Drouin. After failing to score on the powerplay in the round-robin, Philadelphia wasted no time in the opening round of the playoffs. Ivan Provorov’s shot tipped off of Paul Byron and right through Price's arm; this seeing eyeshot for Philly opened the scoring for the Flyers.
That seemed to awaken the Montreal Canadiens. After starting the game being out shot 7-1, Montreal ended the period 11-5, as they started to gain their footing. This was thanks to a few shifts from the Danault and Kotkaniemi lines providing the energy. After the pause in the intermission, Suzuki looked to step up his play with some dazzling almost slow-motion moves through the Philly defence. Carter Hart proved to be up to the challenge Montreal mounted and kept them scoreless.
Just over halfway through the period and the score locked at 1-0, the Flyers broke into the Montreal zone. Konecny made a pass for Kevin Hayes, which had Price sliding to his right with a two-pad stack. Hayes, after having to reach for the pass, made a heads up play and found Laughton, the 3rd forward trailing in behind. With Price seemingly out of position, Nick Suzuki fearlessly threw himself in the middle of the net; lucky for him, Price reached out in desperation, tipping the shot up high and over the net. Once again, Price continues to prove that he is locked in and has returned to old form.
This provided the Canadiens an extra boost with the waves of attack finally resulting in a power-play. The guilty Drouin had drawn a penalty trying to atone for his earlier miscue. Montreal decided to join the party and score their first powerplay goal since the return to play. The celebration lasted all of 16 seconds as the Flyers answered with a quick goal off a rebound at Price's feat. Still, Montreal pushed to the end of the period and finished with a 17-7 shot advantage for the period while still trailing after two periods of play.
The third period brought a tight checking, timid game out of both teams. Each looking to avoid a game-ending mistake, as opposed to looking for the game-winning play. As the game rolled along, Montreal started to pick up their play but were slowly running out of time. After a penalty in the final minutes of play and a Suzuki crossbar; the game ended with a final score of 2-1.
Montreal’s play early in the game ended up being their undoing. Although they lost the game and were unable to steal “home-ice advantage”, they proved they belong. This Flyers team came in rolling, having beat the 3 top teams in the East to earn the privilege of playing that 8th seed. That 8th seed proved to be a young, up-and-coming team that is healthy for the first time since starting the season 11-5-2; with Carey Price looking like the first ballot hall of famer he is, there is no need to panic.
Keep Calm and Carey On.