Friday night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens certainly was the most emotional of the eight series in this round of the playoffs.
The Canadiens were without Brendan Gallagher and incensed about it after he had his jaw broken on a cross-check by Matt Niskanen. The Canadiens wanted to channel that anger in game six to keep their series alive against the Flyers.
But they missed Gallagher when they needed a magic moment and fell to the Flyers 3-2 to be eliminated from the playoffs.
The best forward in these playoffs for the Canadiens was a rookie who just turned 21 years of age.
Nick Suzuki is the future of the franchise. He is the first-line centre that they have been looking for. It is clear that he is the type of player who not just gets you to the playoffs, but gets you through the playoffs, as well.
He is a gamer. He is a money player.
Suzuki had another two goals for the Canadiens in this one. The story is not just Suzuki, though. The story is also who he was combining with skillfully and with chemistry.
Jonathan Drouin has been looking for someone to link with in a cerebral way since he came to Montreal. It was appearing that he would not find anyone, but the search now seems over. Drouin suddenly hit seven points in 10 playoff games. He had only the one goal, but sometimes you’re the shooter and sometimes you’re the passer. All that matters is that you are a part of the good that happens, and he was.
Drouin and Suzuki are outstanding together. It is exciting to imagine the future, if this connection is real. It’s a future that has Suzuki continuing to grow as the club’s long-sought number-one centre and a future that has Drouin finally finding his better self in Montreal. It’s been a long wait for him to find his Halifax days, or even his days in Tampa where he showed so many outstanding moments.
If these two can be consistently good like they were together these playoffs, the Canadiens won’t sneak in next time; instead, they’ll earn their ticket no matter how they draw it up next season.
Another player who looks to have a spot in the future of the Habs is Jake Evans.
You have to give credit to Trevor Timmins for his seventh-round success in Evans and Cayden Primeau. There is a one-per cent chance of landing a player in the seventh round, so this is a remarkable achievement.
Evans is an intelligent player. He won’t ever score much at the NHL level, but his two-way game will make him an easy player to appreciate playing on a lower line of the Habs. As a fourth line centre, Evans will simply take care of his own end and play well enough that his shifts aren’t just absorbing defensive pressure, but creating some offensive pressure, too.
Evans belongs in the NHL. We didn’t know that before the bubble. It’s another positive development for the Habs club of 2020-2021.
Overall, these playoffs were exactly what this organization needed.
They got to evaluate their talent in an important environment. They got a chance to see that the future is brighter than it appeared in March. They beat a highly-ranked Penguins team who have two of the greatest centres in the history of the game, and they gave the Flyers so much to handle that an argument that Philadelphia got a little fortunate would be one with a lot of fair back and forth.
The club can also see what pieces are missing and to start taking that journey to get those pieces. They need more talent defensively and more size on the wings. They also saw that Carey Price is among the world’s best goalies when he is rested and ready for the big game. That’s a vital lesson, too, because it was very obvious when a rested Price carried around a .950 through the playoffs that he needs a back-up goalie.
He needs a backup who can win games for the team allowing Price to play 55, so he’s ready for the more important playoff season with a body that isn’t beaten up and energy that is not sapped.
The organization learned a whole lot, and that is more than worth the loss of the ninth pick overall dropping down to choose 16. The draft is a crapshoot. The ninth pick lands at an 80 percent success rate historically. The pick at 16 lands at 65 percent. It’s not a massive difference. Let’s see how the draft shakes out, but we already know what good these 10 games produced. As the players get on planes leaving the bubble, they can feel hungry to play hockey again, and the fans can feel hope again.
These are worthy things. Revel in them. They bring hope, and hope is the best of things.
It was apparent less than six minutes into the contest that this one simply was not meant to be.
Carey Price has been outstanding these playoffs, stopping pretty much everything that he could see or wasn’t deflected. First goal against is deflected on the way to the net by Shea Weber who was only two feet in front of Price. Second goal is deflected as well, and again, it’s a Canadiens player — Artturi Lehkonen — who gets a stick on it accidentally from one foot out.
Sometimes it doesn’t go your way. You may have all the will in the world, but it is not going to matter as the hockey gods have other ideas. Second period and the third Flyers goal also is a weird bounce as Price puts it into his own net off his back side pants and pads. The Canadiens looked willing. They had hunger to burn in this one. However, considering the Canadiens’ scoring abilities, there wasn’t going to be a way to recover from all of this misfortune, though they sure gave it a heck of a go.
The shot attempts were 72-34 in favour of Montreal. They deserved better than their fate. It’s not really worth pointing out poor performances at this hour. This entire 10-game post-season affair was a bonus for long-suffering hockey fans who enjoyed a chance to cheer for their heroes.
They also enjoyed a chance to watch some young kids grow, like Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. They enjoyed a view of the future that didn’t look bleak like it did in March.
There is a ways to go for this team. The bad luck of three fortunate goals against off Canadiens doesn’t change the shortcomings of the club overall. There will be hard decisions to come, like what to do with Max Domi who simply did not rise to the occasion of these playoffs when much is needed of him and much is expected of him. But that focus is for another day.
For now, take heart that the summer gave you 10 days of entertainment that was good for the soul when the year 2020 has not given you much to enjoy overall. We will see you when they start up again in three months — when hope once again springs eternal.
If the National Hockey League really cared about player safety, then they would hire people who, when they played the game, were also concerned about player safety. They wouldn’t have at the head of it a former player who stayed in the league to beat the crap out of people.
How can anyone suggest that the Department of Player Safety cares about safety when the head of it is George Parros? He was in charge of inflicting damage as a player. His instinct is not to care about safety.
Parros is an erudite person. He went to Princeton, where his major was economics. However, this is irrelevant to his attitudes about safety. If someone thinks an education equates to good judgment on safety, they don’t understand how a mind works.
Education and assessing suspensions for heinous acts are not related. Brendan Gallagher had his jaw broken deliberately by Matt Niskanen with a vicious cross-check in game five. Gallagher will be getting nourishment through a straw for weeks. Niskanen got a one-game suspension? Imagine a scenario in which someone is interested in the NHL but their background is the NBA. They try an NHL playoff game for the first time, and see Gallagher bleeding profusely as he yells at the referees for justice. The refs dole out none. They don’t even offer up a minor penalty for a cross-check that makes Gallagher’s mouth look sickly.
Then this NBA fan learns that the suspension for that act of violence was one game. How would they even think this is a league worth taking seriously? It would seem to a foreigner of the NHL to be more like WWE or mixed martial arts, not a sport in the company of others, like baseball, basketball and soccer.
The NHL doesn’t care at all about player safety. Go kill each other. We don’t care.
The NHL is sadly barbaric at times. It will remain barbaric as long as the penalty for a former violent offender like Niskanen is one game. Might as well start a playoff series in game one against Connor McDavid and mash his face in. You then take the one-game suspension and win the series fairly easily after that. The only thing stopping this from happening is the morals of the less skillful players to not win through such disgusting means.
No one can argue that the league is doing anything to protect McDavid, or in this case, Gallagher. Shameful. It has been shameful for years, and apparently, is happy to remain shameful.