Take a moment to feel the shake. Though they are in Toronto, Canada, the fans in Philadelphia are buzzing. An overwhelming amount of experts did not think the Philadelphia Flyers would be a top-two seed in the Eastern Conference. When I gave my predictions, I felt the top seed in the Eastern Conference would come down to the Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. After a 4-1 victory, Philadelphia can say they are the best team in the Eastern Conference as they enter the Stanley Cup playoffs.
If you are a Philadelphia Flyers fan, you live for nights like Saturday night. All of “Negadelphia” is taking a back seat. Shayne Gostisbehere and James van Riemsdyk entering the lineup did not result in a loss. The Flyers role players stepped up. Nicolas Aube-Kubel jump-started the goal-scoring, Joel Farabee made himself at home on the first line, and Carter Hart looked as good as he did against the Boston Bruins.
Against each of the Eastern Conference round-robin opponents, the Philadelphia Flyers only allowed one goal. The Flyers’ defense has been incredible against formidable teams. Though they have put up the least amount of points, Philadelphia’s first line has contributed to these victories through the finer details. Goaltending and roster depth has been the trick up Alain Vigneault’s sleeve when constructing a lineup. Next up for the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals against the Montreal Canadiens.
After a handful of minutes pass, the Philadelphia Flyers struck first. Shayne Gostisbehere found his way into the stat book for the first time as his shot turned into an assist on a Nicolas Aube-Kubel deflection goal. A few minutes later, Tyler Pitlick shook Victor Hedman to the ground with his shiftiness. With six minutes remaining in the first period, Sean Couturier fed the one-time assist to give Aube-Kubel his second goal of the game. At the end of one, the Flyers led by two.
Carter Hart was electric throughout the entire game. His reaction to a Tampa Bay Lightning team that thrives on speed was vital to the Philadelphia Flyers’ success. However, Tyler Johnson was the first player to crack the armor of the Flyers penalty kill in the round-robin. It seemed that the Lightning was about to take back momentum, but Joel Farabee made sure Philadelphia kept their energy. Another assist from Shayne Gostisbehere keeps the Flyers ahead after two periods by two goals.
Give credit to the Tampa Bay Lightning. That team did not make the third period easy for Carter Hart. Hart was a stone wall for a lot of that period, especially in the final five minutes. What put the game on ice was an empty-net goal from Tyler Pitlick. The final score featured a three-goal lead by the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-1.
Ghost of Gostisbehere’s Past
One plane I am not afraid of piloting is the one where Shayne Gostisbehere has a career renaissance under Alain Vigneault. 2017-2018 seems like so long ago because Gostisbehere has definite potential to be a solid two-way defenseman in the NHL. After his surgery, Gostisbehere went on record to say that this is the best he has felt since his last breakout season. If anyone knows best, it is him and Alain Vigneault. Since the return-to-play began for the 2020 postseason, Gostisbehere has cashed in on his opportunities.
Silent, But Deadly
Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jake Voracek have mostly underperformed since the beginning of the round-robin. If you are only paying attention to goals, assists, and points, reconsider that stance. The Philadelphia Flyers’ first line has been incredible in the grittier aspects of hockey. In three round-robin games, no goals were surrendered by the opposing team’s first line. Joel Farabee and Couturier improved on the Flyers first-line fortunes Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Hart of Stone
Carter Hart did not choke after his first bite of the NHL postseason. He has only allowed a goals against average of 1.00. In two games, his save percentage is 96.7%. Those stats are against two of the three best teams the Eastern Conference has to offer. Remember, the Boston Bruins were the top seed in the Eastern Conference before the round-robin, and the Philadelphia Flyers had yet to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning since 2017 before tonight.
Mandatory Credit – © John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports