The Philadelphia Flyers are officially on to the second round of the 2020 NHL playoffs after a narrow series win over the Montreal Canadiens.
As a team, the Flyers struggled in their six games with the Canadiens, at times making fans worry that an upset might be in order. They never had an explosive scoring night in any of the six games, and the Canadiens did what they do best in taking away the Flyers’ space through the neutral and offensive zones while sending sporadic waves of offense at their defense.
Over the course of those six games, and especially after the abysmal result of Game 2, the Flyers did a tremendous job at adapting to the Canadiens’ style of play and finding ways to exploit it. Their Round 1 series win, the franchise’s first since 2012, came down to a couple of key performances. No one really led in the offensive end by any significant margin, but they saw everyone from their youngest stars to their seasoned veterans step up to get the job done.
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Although there are some names like Claude Giroux, Travis Sanheim, and Michael Raffl who deserve recognition for their performances throughout the first round, there were three players who clearly stood above the rest, helping the Flyers earn a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinal.
There was no way of knowing what we might see out of Flyers’ veteran forward Jakub Voracek after the 31-year-old mustered just one point in two round-robin games.
However, Voracek led the way in the Flyers’ first-round win over the Canadiens. He led the team with four goals and seven points and was largely responsible for the small successful flashes of the Flyers’ power play.
Averaging 17:10 minutes of ice time throughout the six-game series, Voracek occupied the wing of the Flyers’ first line the whole time.
His goals were instrumental in their Game 1 and Game 3 wins, and despite a loss in Game 5, Voracek shined with two goals and an assist on the power play. He added 16 penalty minutes in that chaotic fifth game as well to go along with his 18 total in the series.
When he’s providing offensively and still playing a responsible defensive game, Voracek can be one of the Flyers’ biggest difference makers. He showed that against the Canadiens and they’ll need him to provide it again, especially on the struggling man-up unit, in their second-round meeting with the New York Islanders.
On a nightly basis, there are very few Flyers as crucial to the lineup as Ivan Provorov. The
Throughout the series with the Canadiens, things didn’t change in terms of Provorov’s nightly responsibilities. He led the team in ice time, averaging 25:16 across six games with his highest total being a remarkable 26:44 in Game 3.
Provorov’s contributions stretch far beyond just eating up ice time. He racked up nine shots throughout the series, adding assists in Games 1 and 5, and a critical opening goal in Game 6.
He was also clinical on the back end through the series. Things seem to shut down for the opposing offense when Provorov is on the ice, as he closes gaps well with an effective and active stick and makes opponents pay for even the smallest offensive mistake. He’s also good for the occasional blocked shot, including an impressive six blocks in the Game 2 blowout.
It’s safe to say that Provorov is one of many young, emerging defensive stars in the league. His role with the Flyers is so incredibly important and for a 23-year-old he handles it like a true veteran. Just as he was against the Canadiens, Provorov is going to be key for the Flyers to succeed against the Islanders.
Surprised? Probably not. There was really no Flyer that could’ve earned the first-star honors for the first-round series other than goaltender Carter Hart.
Game after game, the
The highlight of Hart’s series obviously came in the form of back-to-back shutouts in Games 3 and 4. Those 23 and 29-save efforts, along with a shutdown, 31-save Game 6, were ultimately what earned the Flyers a series win.
What was most impressive about those back-to-back clean sheets was that they came after a brutal Game 2, in which Hart gave up 4 goals on 26 shots. That ability to bounce back after an uncharacteristic performance is exactly what the Flyers needed out of Hart, and he proved he was up to the task.
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Through the first-round series, and as will probably be the case for the remainder of their postseason, Hart is the most important player on the ice for the Flyers. Against a fast-paced, dangerous, offensive team like the Islanders, they’ll need Hart at the top of his game once again for a chance at success.
The Flyers struggled against the Islanders throughout the regular season, but the two teams have yet to meet since entering the bubble. In order to succeed against the red-hot Islanders, the Flyers are going to have to see more incredible series-long performances out of guys like Hart, Provorov, and Voracek, along with many others.
As a lifelong hockey player and diehard Philadelphia Flyers fanatic, I’ve always dreamed of covering the team I grew up watching. In my work, I try to combine my knowledge of the sport’s intricate and statistical details with my perspective as a passionate fan. Bringing my love for Flyers hockey to The Hockey Writers one article at a time.