Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens

After a couple of starts, the upstart goaltender Carter Hart seems to be back in the saddle again. His play against the Carolina Hurricanes was that of a goaltender that found his confidence and got in a groove again. Winning that game, 4-1, Hart saved 33 out of 34 shots for a 97.1% save percentage.
Tonight, there is a new test. The Montreal Canadiens are a new opponent who is playing as hard as The Philadelphia Flyers.

The Wells Fargo Center is home for the Philadelphia Flyers. Some say “home is where the heart is” and the Flyers have the best win percentage at home in the metropolitan division, 78.5%. Scorching hot, the Montreal Canadiens have won four out of their last five games while scoring at least four goals in each win. However, Philadelphia has scored a powerplay goal in each of their last four games at home, good for the second-best powerplay on home ice in the NHL. If the Flyers want to have a good chance at hanging in and defeating the Canadiens, they are going to have to score first in this game and cash in on the powerplay early.

Over the last ten games, the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens are 5-5, with the Flyers winning five of the last seven in that sample. The last time these teams met, the Canadiens defeated Philadelphia, 3-1. Defensively, the Flyers need to play composed along with Carter Hart so he can get into a grove in the net. There are not any players listed on Philadelphia’s injury report. For Montreal, Jesperi Kotkaniemi was on injured reserve since November 7th.

Montreal Canadiens – Skaters

Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar are tied for the highest scorers on the Montreal Canadiens. Both have 13 points while Tatar seems to assist more goals whereas Gallagher scores more. On the powerplay, Tatar seems to have more of a presence, but Gallagher is best during even-strength hockey with all of his points coming in that scenario. Gallagher has a higher shot conversion rate of 12.3% compared to Tatar’s 11.9%. Defensively, Gallagher is the more physical of the two, blocking 13 shots and dishing nine hits.

Victor Mete is the biggest threat, defensively. He has a +/- of eight, making him the most consistent defenseman on the Montreal Canadiens. He also leads the Canadiens defensemen in goals scored with three, scoring on 15% of his shots. He is second most on Montreal in blocked shots with 21. Their most physical defenseman is Jeff Petry, blocking 14 shots and dishing 32 hits.

Montreal Canadiens – Goaltender

Keith Kincaid, the Montreal Canadiens back up goaltender, may get the start tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. His 1-1-1 record makes him a mixed bag to start, but he hasn’t had any bad starts in those games. Maintaining an 87.9% save percentage, Kincaid is a serviceable backup goaltender in the NHL. Along with that save percentage, this season is a high goal against average of 4.35. With a goal against average like that, it’s hard to win more than once in three starts.

Faceoff Possession

The absolute advantage in the faceoff circle goes to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Montreal Canadiens are not above 50% in team faceoffs while the Flyers are at 56%. Montreal is at 47.3%. There are two players on the Canadiens over 50% when taking faceoffs, Nate Thompson and Artturi Lehkonen. There are six players on Philadelphia over the 50% faceoff win percentage: James van Riemsdyk, Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, and Michael Raffl.

Prediction

I truly believe that the Philadelphia Flyers can triumph in this battle against an evenly matched team in the Montreal Canadiens. Not only do I believe the Flyers will win, but I say that they win in regulation. We’ve seen the best and worst of Carter Hart this season so far and I think that Hart is the hot hand right now. If the special teams can stay in harmony as they were against the Carolina Hurricanes, this game will favor the Philadelphia. It is very important to beat the Canadiens to the punch in scoring this game.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The money line favors the Philadelphia Flyers at -115 with the over-under at 6.5. I think the Flyers win 4-3 against the Montreal Canadiens tonight in regulation. If you like what read here, follow Philly Sports Network on Twitter at PhiladelphiaSN. Discuss Flyers hockey with me on Twitter at EricReesePSN.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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