The Habs were looking to fight off elimination for the second straight game in match number six on Friday night. There were plenty of storylines heading into the game after a nasty Game 5. Of course, the biggest story was Brendan Gallagher out for the series after a vicious cross-check broke his jaw. Matt Niskanen was suspended one game for his actions, so he was out for the Flyers. The Habs had three terrible bounces go against them and into the back of their net in this game, and it was too much to overcome as they fell 3-2 and are eliminated from the playoff bubble.
The absence of Gallagher brought about some drastic changes to the forward lines for Montreal. Artturi Lehkonen moved up to the top with Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault. The second line featured Jonathan Drouin, Nick Suzuki, and Joel Armia. This left a third line of Max Domi, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Paul Byron with a fourth trio of Charles Hudon, Jake Evans, and Alex Belzile. The defencemen and goalie remained unchanged for the Canadiens.
The game got off to a disastrous start as just 28 seconds in, the Habs were already down. Off a faceoff in the Montreal zone, Ivan Provorov took a shot from the point that hit Shea Weber and found its way over Price’s shoulder.
Shortly after, just as a Philadelphia power play, expired a Kevin Hayes centring pass went off Lehkonen and through the legs of Price. The Canadiens’ luck seemed to go from bad to worse and they found themselves in an early 2-0 hole.
Just before the halfway point, Philippe Myers was forced to take a holding penalty for the Flyers. This gave the Canadiens a crucial power play to get back into the game and they did not disappoint. After some good and quick puck movement, Armia was set up for a shot in the slot. He put it on net and Suzuki was on the doorstep to bang in his second goal in as many games.
Montreal got into some penalty trouble later in the opening frame. First, Jeff Petry got his stick up too high on Nate Thompson. Just as that one expired, Weber got called for a rather weak cross-checking penalty. The Habs killed off both penalties with Philadelphia not looking particularly strong with the man advantage. The kills gave them some momentum, and Montreal came very close to tying the game with a few strong shifts in the last couple minutes.
The Canadiens had their second chance with the man advantage early in the middle frame. They had some good chances but it ultimately did not end the same way as the first. Shortly after that, there was a scramble in front of Price. The puck was in the crease and somehow found its way in for another bad bounce against the Canadiens. Michael Raffl was credited with the goal.
Montreal did not let that get them down. Just over six minutes into the period, Drouin went in hard on the forecheck and won the puck. He brought it out front and made a perfect pass through the Flyers’ defence and Suzuki was there to one-time his second of the night.
The Canadiens dominated most of the second period as they pushed hard to tie it up. The Flyers only had one shot in the frame until the 6:39 mark when Domi turned the puck over and was forced to take a penalty. Domi’s teammates picked him up and they were able to kill the penalty for him.
Montreal had the puck in the offensive zone for the remainder of the period. They were all around the net but could not find that all-important tying goal. The Habs were all over the Flyers and it was insanely frustrating to still somehow be down 3-2. Nonetheless, the Canadiens had twenty minutes left to extend the series.
The final frame got off to a slow start and through most of the first ten minutes, the Habs were not quite showing the desperation that they needed to show. After the midway point, you could see Philadelphia starting to settle into their neutral zone trap like they have done often in the series.
With seven minutes to go, Tatar made a strong move to lose the defender and get a path to the net. He fired a missile, but it hit the crossbar and went out of play. The Habs were rolling various different line combinations out and they were all getting pressure but the clock kept ticking away.
The Habs lifted Price in favour of the extra attacker with just under two minutes left. With eleven seconds left, Philadelphia iced the puck, giving Montreal one last offensive zone chance. At the end of the day, it just was not meant to be for the Habs in this series. They were the better team in every game, but every bounce and call seemed to go against them.
Despite the sad end, there are some major positives moving forward, the biggest one being the development of Suzuki and Kotkaniemi in these two series. The top four defence was stellar and of course, Carey Price is still an elite goaltender. Thus, as the longest and strangest season in Montreal Canadiens history draws to a close, there is plenty to be excited about next year.
HW Habs Three Stars
First Star – Nick Suzuki
Suzuki took some major strides forward in his development during the NHL restart. He went from having a decent rookie season to being a dominant centreman. He became harder and harder to play against as the games went on and scored three of Montreal’s final four goals. I am nothing but excited for Suzuki’s future with this team.
Stats: 2G, 6 SOG, 1 hit, 21:13 TOI
Second Star – Joel Armia
After a rough series against Pittsburgh, Armia stepped up his game in this round. He played some dominant minutes at even strength with strong forechecking and puck control. He was also used in all special teams situations and contributed some key goals and assists down the stretch.
Stats: 2A, 2 SOG, 1 hit, 21:56 TOI
Third Star – Jonathan Drouin
Drouin was not the flashy high-flying offensive player that he was advertised to be in this series but he still left his mark in a big way. He is learning how to be more physical and strong along the boards and it is directly leading to more goals for his team. Hopefully, next season Drouin can continue where he left off before his injury troubles.
Stats: 2A, 3 SOG, 1 hit, 19:00 TOI
Honourable Mention – Artturi Lehkonen
All the same things that I said about Joel Armia can also be said about Lehkonen. He is a very reliable player for the Habs in any situation. Moving forward, I believe he will continue to be vital to Montreal’s success, he just needs to start finishing on more of his chances.
Stats: -1, 3 SOG, 19:04 TOI