How the Montreal Canadiens can break through Carter’s Hart in Game 6

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 14: Jesperi Kotkaniemi #15 of the Montreal Canadiens takes a shot on Carter Hart #79 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 14, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 14: Jesperi Kotkaniemi #15 of the Montreal Canadiens takes a shot on Carter Hart #79 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 14, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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The Montreal Canadiens are fighting off elimination, and with fiery feelings between them and the Philadelphia Flyers, it’ll make for an exciting Game 6.

It’s circumstantial, seeing as how this one of two series left in the first round, but this battle between the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers is the series to watch.

There have been three shutout wins between the two clubs, and Game 5 brought out everything. Carter Hart looked human once again, which saw Joel Armia, Brendan Gallagher and Nick Suzuki score on him twice. It wasn’t perfect as the Habs gave up goals three goals on seven opportunities, but they fought off elimination and lived on to compete in Game 6.

As hard as the Montreal Canadiens played, it wasn’t the clear domination that we’ve seen from them in the past. In their 5-0 win over the Flyers, the Habs had 66% of the scoring chances and walked out with a 58.51% CF% at 5v5. There have been other games where Montreal has out-possessed and outshot Philadelphia, but the discrepancy in scoring chances has never been so significant save for that game.

Coincidently, it’s two games where Hart was lit up. The young goaltender allowed 3 goals on 29 shots in Game 5 and 4 goals on 26 shots in Game 2.

Two of the goals in Game 2 can be held up to defensive breakdowns by Philadelphia. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Tomas Tatar are left to head to the front of the net and score. The Habs then used Flyers’ defencemen, Justin Braun, on two more as Tatar used him as a screen while Joel Armia banked a hot off his skate.

In Game 5, similar defensive breakdowns occur for Philadelphia. Armia shouldn’t be able to beat two Flyers on a shorthanded chance and get to the puck before they do. Brendan Gallagher is left alone uncontested in the crease to bat in Nick Suzuki’s perfectly placed pass. And finally, Suzuki is left alone in the slot to bank that crisp pass from Jonathan Drouin.

Those are the goals to focus on. There is Armia’s second goal of the game, but that’s just a bad goal from Hart to give up.

The Montreal Canadiens are forcing the Philadelphia Flyers to slip up on their defensive coverage, and when they do, it dramatically impacts Carter Hart. They’re fighting to pucks and winning battles with speed so much so that when the Flyers fight the puck carrier, they completely forget about those who are open.

That’s how the Habs solve Hart. They need to channel that energy from Games 2 and 5 to have success here, and considering the storylines surrounding the game, it may not be hard.

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The team should be upset with what Alain Vigneault said about Brendan Gallagher. The Philadelphia Flyers will be upset about Nick Suzuki patting Hart on the head after giving up that bad Armia goal. And both teams are going to be angry about all the fighting that took place in the third, especially the fact that both Gallagher and Matt Niskanen won’t be on the ice.

Acknowledgements: Advanced stats from Natural Stat Trick