Flyers Anniversary Special: Head Pats for the Habs in Series Clincher

Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers and Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers and Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Flyers clinched a series victory over the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal on this day in 2020.

The Flyers hit the COVID-19 pause in March 2020 in the midst one of their best hot streaks in years. They entered the Toronto bubble for the Eastern Conference postseason with confidence in regaining the momentum they had built four months prior.

It appeared as though they picked up where they left off. The Flyers emerged as the top seed in the East with round robin victories over the conference’s top three regular season teams. Although the three wins appear trivial in hindsight, they looked like strong statement wins for Philadelphia.

Flyers Face Canadiens

The Canadiens were lucky to qualify for the postseason. They finished with fewer regular season points than any team who played in either bubble. However, they legitimized their position with a qualifying round victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Flyers entered as heavy favorites. They secured their fourth straight victory in Game 1 by a score of 2-1 behind goals from Joel Farabee and Jakub Voracek.

Despite their team success, the Flyers had not gotten sufficient contributions from their top line scorers like Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, and Kevin Hayes. Their issues caught up to them in a forgettable Friday matinee. The Canadiens scored in the opening minute of Game 2 and rolled to a 5-0 victory.

Carter Hart Emerges

Goaltender Carter Hart flipped the momentum with his hero Carey Price at the other end of the ice. The 22-year-old posted consecutive shutouts in Games 3 and 4 to give the Flyers a commanding 3-1 series lead.

The Flyers didn’t drive play at the most effective level, but they were able to stifle the Montreal attack and hide the reality that their top scorers still weren’t gaining an ideal rhythm.

The Canadiens stayed alive with a 5-3 win on the back of a pesky effort by winger Brendan Gallagher. After a Montreal goal during the second period, center Nick Suzuki skated through Hart’s crease and tapped the young netminder on the head.

The Flyers took exception to Suzuki’s taunt and Montreal’s weak social media plea for a suspension of Matt Niskanen with a 3-2 series clincher in Game 6. Short-term Flyer Derek Grant gave Suzuki a taste of his own medicine as time expired.

What should fans remember about Flyers-Canadiens?

The victory over the Habs was the only playoff series the Flyers have won since 2012. It was hardly a calling card, though, especially considering the ensuing loss in the Eastern Conference Semifinal and the disaster of the 2020-21 season.

However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Flyers overmatched an inferior opponent without their best effort. The Canadiens threw everything they had, but they simply couldn’t take down the Orange and Black.

The Flyers had experienced the same feeling in their previous three playoff appearances. They lost to teams with considerably superior talent in 2014 (New York Rangers), 2016 (Washington Capitals), and 2018 (Pittsburgh Penguins).

The series was also important in establishing Hart as a legitimate playoff goaltender. He posted a .936 save percentage against the Canadiens, and he proved that he can carry the load as a series defining player. This coming-out party should still be considered a reason for confidence in Hart moving forward despite the failure of last season.