The Flyers entered Game 1 against the Canadiens on Wednesday night in a position they hadn’t been in since the NHL resumed play: the favorites. After dismantling the Boston Bruins, picking apart the Washington Capitals, and laying waste to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the stage was set for the Flyers to eviscerate the Montreal Canadiens.
Not so fast.
It would be disingenuous to make it sound as though this was a particularly tough task for a Flyers team that’s spent the past few weeks proving the nine-game winning streak prior to the NHL pausing play due to the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a fluke. At the same time, it wasn’t the kind of game that makes one glow with unbridled enthusiasm shouting, “HOW GREAT WAS THAT?! LET’S GOOOOOOOO FLYERRRSSSSSSSS!!!” If you dig down a bit, however, there’s plenty of good to take away from this one, as the Flyers arguably took Montreal’s best punch and still walked away relatively unscathed.
Ivan Provorov Is Back
What do you mean, “back”? He’s been great all season.
Yes, internal audience voice, Ivan Provorov has, in fact, been really good throughout the 2019-20 season. Wednesday night was some next-level stuff, though. The Flyers’ off-season acquisition of Matt Niskanen from the Capitals in exchange for Radko Gudas was lauded by few and questioned by many, with the Flyers taking on 30% of Gudas’ salary in the final year of his contract. Niskanen has been a Godsend for Provorov, providing the calming, steady presence of a veteran defenseman who happens to be the only player on the team to have hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup.
That leads us back to the man for whom this section is titled. On a night when Niskanen was plagued by some uncharacteristic errors, sloppy passes, and moments that Capitals fans would have you believe were the norm a season ago, Provorov stepped up in a big way. Ho hum, another day, another game for Ivan Provorov to lead the team in time on ice, playing in all situations, shutting down the opposition at every opportunity, and helping the time finally break through on the power play:
— Russ Joy (@JoyOnBroad) August 13, 2020
Sure, after the game had concluded, the NHL ruled the puck hit Jake Voracek, who was in a new net-front position on the Power Play, crediting him with the goal. Still, it was Provorov’s shot that got to a dangerous position -through the expertly-executed double-screen of Sean Couturier and Voracek- and into the back of the net.
It’s a shame that a dude with a heat map said this nearly a year ago:
Ivan Provorov (6×6.75m extension in Philadelphia) is a weak 5v5 second-pair defender who hurts his team's power-play substantially. pic.twitter.com/XC8fj2tvag
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) September 13, 2019
I guess AV never got the memo.
Weathering the Second Period Storm
The Flyers ended the first period with a 1-0 lead while occupying plenty of space in the heads of Carey Price and his teammates. If Price had been uncomfortable with the amount of bodies in his face throughout the first 18 minutes of the period, this moment with Derek Grant put him over the edge:
Carey Price was not happy about this. pic.twitter.com/bhNYS8nIem
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 13, 2020
Real tough guy, there.
Things were getting chippy and it felt like if the Flyers could net a second goal to start the second period, they could put this one away. That didn’t happen.
The second period saw Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge bombard the Flyers with a barrage of shots that would have sparked Jean Valjean into a revolution.
The Canadiens racked up nine high-danger chances to just three for the Flyers, outshot the Flyers 17-7, dominated the Corsi battle 35-13, and peppering a 22-year-old netminder who was unflappable in this one. While Carter Hart was exceptional in this one, making big save after big save, Montreal was able to break through:
Un 3e but en 5 matchs pour le capitaine. 💪
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) August 13, 2020
That’s former future Flyer Shea Weber putting the biscuit in the basket. While my dear co-host Anthony SanFilippo would implore you to ignore the “C” on his chest – because your captain and highest-paid players alike don’t need to score for you to win a Stanley Cup – Weber has been sensational since the NHL resumed play.
Joel Farabee Keeps Scoring
After finding himself out of the lineup in the Flyers’ first game of the Round Robin, Joel Farabee kept his head up and garnered the opportunity to get into the top line with Sean Couturier and captain Claude Giroux in the team’s final Round Robin game against the Lightning, one in which he tallied two points (1G/1A). With James van Riemsdyk in the lineup once again, as well as the return of Jake Voracek, many assumed “Beezer” would end up in the bottom six, but that didn’t happen.
Alain Vigneault trusted in the 20-year-old’s ability to perform best in a top line role and was his decision was rewarded with what ended up being the game-winning goal:
— Russ Joy (@JoyOnBroad) August 13, 2020
Save of the Decade?
Whether you think 2020 is the end of one decade or the beginning of another, this save from Carey Price was nothing short of mind-blowing:
Carey Price with the blade of his stick kept this out of the net.
— #StanleyCup Playoffs on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) August 13, 2020
Was it luck? Reflexes? Skill? All of the above? Doesn’t matter. It was sheer insanity and it nearly cost defenseman Nick Suzuki his head:
The Carey Price save everyone will be talking about tomorrow came this 🤏 close to nailing Nick Suzuki's helmet pic.twitter.com/Uomv96oGwY
— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) August 13, 2020
I imagine that Alain Vigneault and his staff will make the necessary adjustments to come up with a more resounding victory in Game 2, but no matter how stressful stretches some stretches were on Wednesday night, the Flyers got the win and that’s all that matters.
Oh, also, there’s this:
— MoneyPuck.com (@MoneyPuckdotcom) August 13, 2020
Forget what I said before. LET’S GOOOOOOOOO FLYERRRRRSSSSSSSS!!!
For more Flyers coverage, follow Snow The Goalie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony SanFilippo and Russ Joy provide pregame and intermission coverage of every Flyers home game from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page, YouTube Live, and Twitter, and their Twitter accounts Follow @SnowTheGoalie Follow @AntSanPhilly Follow @JoyOnBroad