The Philadelphia Flyers were the NHL’s hottest team when the 2019-20 season was paused in March. They were riding high with a record of 9-1-0 in their last 10 games.
The Flyers picked up right where they left off in their postseason round robin. They outscored the three top teams in the Eastern Conference by a combined total of 11-3 and wrapped up the top seed with a perfect 3-0 record. The Flyers will now play the Montreal Canadiens, who upset the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the official first round of the playoffs.
The Flyers’ depth has been impressive during this warm-up round. Scott Laughton led the charge offensively with three goals, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel chipped in with a pair in the Flyers’ 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Rookie Joel Farabee also picked up his first goal of the postseason on Saturday, after he slotted into the Flyers’ top line due to the absence of Jakub Voracek.
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Big Guns Laying Low
Injury information is almost impossible to come by in the playoffs. But there doesn’t seem to be too much concern about Voracek’s long-term availability, or the fact that he had just one assist in Philadelphia’s first two games. The balanced scoring so far has also muted any concerns that top Flyers Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, and Kevin Hayes all have yet to light the lamp in the postseason.
On the back end, Shayne Gostisbehere showed on Saturday that he deserves to be an option, in his first appearance of the postseason. Limited to just 42 games this season and healthy scratched at times, ‘Ghost’ seems to have finally put the knee issues that have plagued him in the rearview mirror.
Big, big showing for Shayne Gostisbehere tonight. Hell of a play on the 3-1 goal, has been smart all game with the puck, and the results are there: Flyers outshooting the Lightning 10-6 with him on the ice at 5-on-5 so far. Going to be hard to sit him.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) August 9, 2020
If Gostisbehere stays in the lineup, that could also help boost the Flyers’ power play, which ranked 14th overall during the regular season but went 0-for-11 in the round robin.
Despite his team coming out in the win column in all three games and moving up the maximum three spots in the Eastern Conference seeding, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault was non-committal about the pros and cons of the round-robin format as a warmup for the series against the Canadiens.
“I think the NHL did an amazing job, in a short amount of time, to put all this together, giving players and coaches and fans the opportunity to watch some hockey and see some hockey,” he said. “The format is what it is. It was laid out in a in a difficult time for the for the world. And we’re trying to play hockey. We’re lucky we get to go out there and do what we love to do.”
Hart vs. Price
Hart is especially excited about the opportunity to square off against his idol, Carey Price.
“Definitely really cool,” said Hart, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday next week. “Obviously, he was my favorite goalie growing up.
“I just had the chance, actually, to meet him the other week — talk with him for the first time. So that was something pretty cool.
“For my first playoff series, playing against Carey Price will definitely be a lot of fun. I look forward to it. We know that he’s obviously a really good goalie and they’ve got some good players on their team. So we’ll just prepare and be ready.”