In the first meaningful game since the middle of March, the Philadelphia Flyers continued where they left off on their hot streak. They defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1 in the first match of their three-game round-robin tournament to determine seeding for the rest of the postseason. The Flyers’ tallies were by Michael Raffl, Nate Thompson, Philippe Myers, and Scott Laughton.
Many Flyers had an impressive game, but two guys stood out that helped the Orange and Black skate away victorious:
The fourth line as a whole stepped up to the plate against Boston, but winger Michael Raffl specifically stole the limelight in this contest. He has been a part of the Flyers organization since first debuting in the 2013-14 season for the club. He came into the league as an undrafted free agent. Philadelphia landed him despite Raffl being sought after by other franchises.
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Raffl has always been a solid depth forward for the Orange and Black. He has had pretty good offensive production during his career, but has also provided exactly what the team has needed for a bottom-six forward. His regular-season stats during his time in Philadelphia are below:
- 2013-14: 9 goals and 13 assists for 22 points in 68 games
- 2014-15: 21 goals and 7 assists for 28 points in 67 games
- 2015-16: 13 goals and 18 assists for 31 points in 82 games
- 2016-17: 8 goals and 3 assists for 11 points in 52 games
- 2017-18: 13 goals and 9 assists for 22 points in 76 games
- 2018-19: 6 goals and 12 assists for 18 points in 67 games
- 2019-20: 8 goals and 12 assists for 20 points in 58 games
After posting 20 points in 58 contests in the regular season, Raffl made a statement in the first round-robin game. In the second period with the game still scoreless, Philadelphia defenseman Travis Sanheim kept the puck from getting out of Boston’s zone. Sanheim showed his vision by finding Raffl, who crept in front of goalie Jaroslav Halak, and Sanheim dished him the puck. Raffl switched to his backhand and shoveled it in the net to open the scoring.
Raffl was not done there. On the second Flyers goal, he maneuvered his way on the ice against B’s forward Charlie Coyle to give a nice set-up pass to foward Nate Thompson, who was acquired back in late February as part of the trade deadline. Thompson shot it past Halak to double the lead to 2-0.
When other names like Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny cannot find a way to get on the board, it is a nice luxury having a breakout game from other players on the roster stepping up. Raffl left the game early, and we will see if he is going to be ready to go for the next game.
Looking at Carter Hart’s play in net for the Flyers against the B’s, you wouldn’t know he was suiting up for his first NHL postseason game. The 21-year old, whose birthday is later in the month, stayed calm and held his own in between the pipes against the team who led the entire NHL with 100 points in the regular season.
Dangerous talents on Boston like David Pastrnak (the co-Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy winner with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin), Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron were stumped for the most part. Only B’s forward Chris Wagner got a puck past Hart very late in the second period.
It was a question of who Flyers’ head coach Alain Vigneault would turn to between Hart and veteran Brian Elliott to start in the qualifying round. Vigneault went with Hart, showing the confidence he has in him. Hart did not disappoint, stopping 34 shots out of 35.
The young Flyers defense did a solid job as well, cleaning things up around Hart. Part of his success needs to be credited to them as well. Both Hart and the defense deserve a ton of credit, especially during the dying minutes with the Bruins searching for answers and having Halak pulled. Hart stayed on top of his game the whole time, and he did what he had to do. If he was nervous at all, it did not show in his play.
The Flyers next take on Ovechkin and the Capitals. It will be another test for Hart and the rest of Philadelphia’s team, but they could not have had a better first game back than they did against the Bruins. It is all thanks to what players like Raffl and Hart were able to accomplish.