All the Montreal Canadiens technically needed was one goal. They got two instead. Even if those goals came in defeat, as they lost their first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers in a 3-2 Game 6, the Canadiens proved quite the point.
Canadiens Bounce Back After Bad Start
After opening up Game 6 in horrific fashion, down 2-0 10 minutes in on two self-deflections into Carey Price’s net, the Canadiens needed just one to settle themselves down. To get themselves on track in a must-win game. To prove to themselves goalie Carter Hart, who had already shut them out twice a few games beforehand, wasn’t in their heads. At least you got that sense. They got that goal mere seconds into the second half of that first period.
It did the trick. And, while you can argue the Habs may not have deserved a better fate in the series overall as a result of those two shutouts, it would be hard to make that same case regarding Game 6. Effectively doubling up the Flyers in terms of shot attempts, the Habs outshot them by that same factor 33-17. The Habs drove the play and put in the required effort to win, likely doing both the injured Brendan Gallagher and head coach Claude Julien proud in the process.
All in all, the Habs have nothing about which to be ashamed. They easily could have folded once it became apparent the bounces weren’t going to go their way. It’s one thing to come back from an at-one-time 3-1 series deficit if almost everything goes your way and you have a lead with which to work. You need both hard work and luck to accomplish the feat. If the other team has got luck in their corner, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Flyers vs. Rangers
Needless to say, for the Canadiens, who hadn’t won a single game after giving up the first goal in either of the series they played, it was going to be an uphill battle all night long. They didn’t go gently into it and that’s worth something. Not a lot, in the grand scheme of things, but, compared to their last playoff series in 2017, it’s a step in the right direction.
In that series, against the New York Rangers, the Canadiens also lost in six games. The elimination game was one in which they also at one time trailed 3-1. They managed to get the lead in that one, only to give it up… seemingly give up in general once they lost it.
In that sense, this latest Game 6 elimination defeat was better. In a lot of other ways too, in all honesty. The Habs were the underdog against the Flyers instead of the favorites they were versus the Rangers. They nevertheless outplayed their opposition over much of the series, even if at times it looked like they would only be able to score on Price (and even then, if Price was looking the wrong way).
So, regarding the matter of those two goals: Against the Rangers, the Habs managed just 11 in the series. They had scored that much on the Flyers heading into Game 6. Again, they just needed one. And they got two, both from Nick Suzuki in the first instance of a Canadiens rookie scoring twice in a playoff game since 1992 (Gilbert Dionne).
Suzuki One Positive of Many
The positives, like Suzuki proving he’s got what it takes to be a difference-maker or Carey Price proving he still has it (provided he’s well-rested) vastly outweigh the negatives. Yes, the Habs lost in the first round and haven’t reached the second since 2015. However, even if the Canadiens season as a whole was officially a success only by the slimmest of margins, the way the Habs showed up against the Flyers is reason enough to believe 2020-21 will be better.
Granted, considering everything that’s gone on in the world, that’s a pretty low bar, but, for the Canadiens specifically, they set it relatively high against the Flyers, even if it was just a single round. One should no longer be the goal moving forward. The Habs have proven they have the talent and will to strive for two. At least.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.