The Philadelphia Flyers return to action Friday night for Game 6 of their series against the Montreal Canadiens. Wednesday’s Game 5 was a thriller that, unfortunately for the Flyers, resulted in a loss, shrinking their series lead to just one game.
It also resulted in another loss — Matt Niskanen.
The 33-year-old first-year Flyer and former Stanley Cup champion was suspended for Game 6 after cross-checking Habs forward Brendan Gallagher in Game 5. Gallagher was left with a broken jaw, which requires surgery, and will miss the remainder of the series.
Losing Niskanen is certainly a major blow for the Flyers. While the former Minnesota Duluth Bulldog has been far from perfect throughout the series against Montreal, he’s been credited with helping Ivan Provorov turn his game around after a disappointing campaign in 2018-19.
With Niskanen out of commission for Game 6, it’s expected that Shayne Gostisbehere will draw back into the lineup after sitting out Games 4 and 5. Gostisbehere has had a turbulent season, and despite showing flashes of his vintage form on occasion, he still has yet to earn the trust of head coach Alain Vigneault and Co.
That said, Gostisbehere was dynamic for the Flyers in their final game of the round robin series. He finished the game with two assists, including this beautiful feed to Joel Farabee that resulted in the Flyers extending their lead to 3-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Joel Farabee finds the back of the net! Gostisbehere and Couturier with the (beautiful) assists. pic.twitter.com/Ejwmku012D— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) August 9, 2020
It will also be interesting to see how Carter Hart responds after allowing four goals in Game 5. After giving up what appeared to be a goal to Nick Suzuki in the second period, it looked as if Hart was about to be pulled in favor of Brian Elliott. However, the goal was overturned after it was confirmed that the Canadiens were offside when entering the offensive zone, ultimately leading to Hart staying in the game.
Hart has been downright superb for the Flyers throughout the postseason. Of all goalies to appear in at least three playoff games, Hart ranks first with an absurd .944 save percentage. At 22 years old, Hart is already turning out to be a superstar for the Flyers. And after being trolled by Suzuki on the Canadiens’ game-tying goal, one can only imagine he’ll want to be at his best in Game 6.
Two big questions
1. Who will line up alongside Provorov?
This is the question many will be asking going into Game 6. Provorov has played alongside Niskanen for the majority of the season, and it’s unclear who will fill in for the veteran defender as he serves his one-game suspension.
Provorov began the season playing with Justin Braun, so perhaps the former San Jose Sharks blueliner will take over on the top pairing. Phil Myers also spent some time with Provorov during the regular season, and given his stellar play throughout the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine the coaching staff wouldn’t trust him to play a game alongside the team’s unquestioned No. 1 defenseman.
2. Can the Flyers close out the series and advance?
Ready for some Flyers trivia? Very few people know this, but the Flyers have not won a playoff series since 2012.
Again, very few people know that little factoid.
The Flyers have been the better team for much of the series against Montreal, and a win in Game 6 — even a sloppy one — would give fans something they’ve been waiting for for nearly a decade. It was expected that this series wouldn’t be a walk in the park, but if the Flyers can’t seal the deal Friday night, the Habs would have a whole lot of momentum going into Game 7, and that would be very bad.
Flyers projected lineup
This projected lineup is very projected. Take it all with a grain of salt.
Raffl — Couturier — Voracek
Farabee — Hayes — Konecny
Giroux — Grant — Laughton
Bunnaman — Thompson — Pitlick
Provorov — Myers
Sanheim — Braun
Hagg — Gostisbehere