Game three was an anxiety peaking affair. Though the Philadelphia Flyers are leading the series, 2-1, the Montreal Canadiens could have easily won that game. The only goal scored was a contribution from the Flyers’ first line. Claude Giroux’s shot deflected off the leg of Jakub Voracek for the lone goal. Aside from that, a minimum of five shots on goal by the Canadiens clanked off the goal post.
Neither team could convert a single powerplay. That has been a concern for the Philadelphia Flyers throughout the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Alain Vigneault substituted Shayne Gostisbehere out of the lineup for Robert Hagg, which paid off. With Gostisbehere removed, Vigneault will address a personnel change on the powerplay. Ivan Provorov has been the defenseman on the first powerplay unit with Gostisbehere gone, but that leaves a void in the second powerplay unit.
In just a few hours, the puck will drop for game four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens. The Flyers must convert a powerplay opportunity today. Defensively, Alain Vigneault made the right call to promote physicality with Robert Hagg. Carter Hart is buzzing after becoming the youngest goaltender in franchise history to record a postseason shutout. This game comes down to Philadelphia’s forwards ability to keep pace with the Canadiens.
Game 4 Storylines
Even though the Philadelphia Flyers lead the series, 2-1, they are being outscored by the Montreal Canadiens, 6-3. When Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek make up the first line for the Flyers, they have clamped down on their competition. That specific line has yet to allow the first group on the opposition to register a point. Voracek has two goals in the last three games, which has paid dividends in this series. Not only did he score the game-winner in game three, but he accounts for the only powerplay goal from Philadelphia this postseason.
Production is not just about goals and assists. That specific Philadelphia Flyers first line has served as a lifeline. Sometimes, eliminating the other team’s top goalscorers is as good as scoring. The Montreal Canadiens have dictated the series as far as the style of play is concerned. Alain Vigneault and his roster have made the right adjustments to defeat the Canadiens at their own game.
Forechecking and creating offense from defense is the prototype for the Montreal Canadiens. In two of three games played so far, the Philadelphia Flyers did it better. Carey Price is a hallmark of the Canadiens. Carter Hart, who idolized Price, has two postseason wins against him this series. This gameplan is part of the reason why Alain Vigneault became a Jack Adams Award finalist in 2019-2020.
Flyers to Watch
My due diligence is to provide the key Philadelphia Flyers players who will likely contribute towards a win today. Part of what makes that a challenge is Alain Vigneault holding his cards tight to his chest. In saying that, I begin with the mastermind. Vigneault’s mental approach this series has prepared the Flyers for the best their opponents have to offer. His most noticeable update this game will concern the powerplay unit.
Between the two powerplay units, I expect Alain Vigneault will keep formations relatively the same. That means there will be one unit featuring four forwards and one defenseman, while the other will feature three forwards and two defensemen. In terms of the defensemen on the powerplay, my educated guess says that Ivan Provorov, Matt Niskanen, and Travis Sanheim could be involved. Base this on Shayne Gostisbehere not being in the lineup, keeping Robert Hagg on the third pairing with Justin Braun. If Gostisbehere is in, it makes sense for him to substitute for Sanheim on the powerplay, which could make Braun the odd man out of the third pairing.
Keep focused on the Philadelphia Flyers’ first line. A presence from Jakub Voracek in front of Carey Price proved to be important in this series. Travis Konecny and Nicolas Aube-Kubel have been able to get under the skin of the Montreal Canadiens. Last game, Konecny had a few shots that rang off the iron against Price. Lastly, the Flyers will need another brilliant performance from Carter Hart across the ice from Price.
These games are tougher to predict as the series continues. James van Riemsdyk will be out of the lineup tonight. Expect a tightly contested game. My prediction will stay with the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2. Too many shots last game were saved by crossbars and posts to expect this game to be another low scoring exchange.