Canadiens – Flyers First Round Matchup: Un Nail-Biter, Bien Sûr
The Montreal Canadiens are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Just savour that for a moment…
We all know the Canadiens’ story by now. They were 24th in the league and well on their way to a lottery pick when the season shut down due to a pandemic (you may have heard of it). The league’s restart plan consisted of an expanded playoff format that included the Montreal Canadiens, but they had to take on top-seeded Pittsburgh in the qualifying round (technically not the Stanley Cup playoffs) and nobody gave them a chance. The Canadiens shocked the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games and are moving on to face…
…The Philadelphia Flyers.
The High-Flying Flyers of Philly
After just barely missing the playoffs in 2018-19, the Flyers made no mistake this season, solidifying themselves as a major player in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers went 41-21-7 before the pause, good for 89 points and second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers entered the round robin as the #4 seed in the Eastern Conference, and then proceeded to obliterate everybody, going a perfect 3-0. The Flyers run off excellent forward depth, talented, puck-moving defence and outstanding goaltending from a young man named Carter Hart. The forward group, led by Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, is a balanced squad with plenty of offensive flair. They have this annoying tendency to have the puck. A lot. The defence is young, boasting the likes of Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Shayne Gostisbehere. They are talented, physical and can move the puck quickly and efficiently. Carter Hart is only 21 and is already one of the premier puck-stoppers in this league. He was exceptional in the round robin and all of this season. The bottom line is, Philadelphia is a great team, a team on the rise. As a Canadiens fan, they make me nervous.
How Can the Canadiens Beat Them?
If there’s one thing that is wrong with the Flyers, it’s their power play. It went 0-for-8 in the round robin. Granted, that sounds exactly like the Canadiens’ power play, but the Canadiens need to keep the Flyers from finding their stride on the man advantage. That means not taking penalties. The Flyers steamrolled through the round robin, but I’m not sure how much stock to set by those games. The fact that the two Stanley Cup finalists from last year, Boston and St. Louis, both went 0-3 makes me think that some teams weren’t trying. Seeding may not be an incentive for players to put themselves and their health on the line right before the playoffs. It could be that the Flyers got the #1 seed because they wanted it the most. Now that they are up against a team that matches their will and determination, it will be interesting to see how the Flyers respond. If the Canadiens want to win, they need to see more offence from their top players. Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, Max Domi and Joel Armia combined for one assist in the series against the Penguins, mainly because they were busy against Crosby and Malkin. It’s incredible that the Canadiens managed to beat the Penguins without help from their top forwards, and they can’t count on that happening again. A goal on the power play once in a while would be nice, too. Obviously, if the Canadiens want to win then Carey Price has to be in top form. That’s a given. He’ll have some stiffer competition 190 feet from him, because Carter Hart has played better than Matt Murray did in the last series. Hart, by the way, is going up against his boyhood idol in Price. This goaltending duel will be a key storyline in the series. Montreal needs to utilize Hart’s inexperience. No doubt Hart will be nervous playing against Price in a playoff series, so the Canadiens need to put everything on net, in the hopes of breaking through Hart before he hits his stride. The first time Hart played Montreal at the Bell Centre, he got shelled and pulled in the middle of the game. That was a while ago, but the Canadiens must try to do that to him again.
The Canadiens handily beat the Penguins. This shows that they aren’t nearly as bad as we thought. They have a chance against the Flyers. But if this season was any indication, the Flyers mean serious business. I think that the Flyers will win in 7 games. They are deeper, younger and have more determination than Pittsburgh, and it will be too much for Montreal.
Game one will start at 8:00 tonight.
Nous vengerons 2010, et nous commençons ce soir.
Go Habs Go.
Signed, Le Bo