By Jerry Wein
The Flyers are getting ready for game 2 of their first round Stanley Cup series today with the Montreal Canadiens.
And it may be easy to forget that before this season they basically had lost decade in the NHL wilderness, without a serious playoff run, coaching stability or any real reason for Philly fans to get behind them.
It showed in the East standings – sometimes near the bottom – and in the bottom line – where attendance plummeted.
The Flyers tried a college coach, built a rage room for their frustrated fans and cycled through a series of can’t-miss prospects who somehow missed.
But now – or up in Toronto where the games are played in one of the two NHL bubble cities – coach Alain Vigneault has a team bubbling with championship talent.
Carter Hart, only 21 has played every bit like the franchise goalie the Flyers expected. He allowed just two goals on 59 shots in the round-robin series that helped the Flyers go 3-0 and clinch the top seed in the East. His .914 save percentage was tied for eighth in the regular season.
Their depth was astounding, never more-so than in a 3-1 win over Washington when Scott Laughton had two goals and an assist, Kevin Hayes had three assists, and Travis Konecny had two assists. That production took the load off stars Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek as they look to get hot in the playoffs after they each failed to score in round-robin play. The Flyers still outscored Boston, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay 11-3 in the round-robin.
”We have different guys throughout the lineup that can make a difference on any given night, so it’s nice to have that depth,” Couturier said. ”Every line just has to play the right way and not be a liability. Someone’s going to step up at the right time.”