A couple Sundays ago, we watched nearly the best case scenario for the Flyers. Despite showing some signs of rust, the Flyers came out with an impressive 4-1 victory over the President’s Trophy winning Boston Bruins on Sunday. Not only did they come out with the win, but we watched some crucial x-factors unfold. The bottom six produced at a high level, Carter Hart showed signs of veteran-like poise between the pipes, and the young defensive core led the way as well.
The Flyers looked like a team trying to prove something to not only the NHL, but their fans as well. They came out with an edge, and showed how well they could play heading into these playoffs. Looking to get better seeding, Philadelphia simply outplayed and dominated the Bruins. They then carried this momentum against both the Capitals and Lighting, going 3-0-0 in the bubble.
Montreal in the bubble
If you’re a hockey fan, you already likely know what the Canadiens just pulled off. Montreal just pulled off easily the biggest upset in the bubble. After sneaking into this format after being the 24th team out of 24, the Habs completely stole the series from the best team outside the top four of each conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Goaltender Carey Price was the ultimate difference maker in this one. Going 3-1-0 in those four games, Price made 126 saves on 133 shots (.947 save %). These saves weren’t easy either. Price made miraculous save after miraculous save against some of the best scorers in the league.
Offensively, the Habs did not do much. Without the benefit of top-tier talent or even adequate time to regain conditioning, the Canadiens made the sloppy ice rink in Toronto their domain. This series was not an overly entertaining affair, and that’s because the Canadiens made it that way. Despite averaging three goals a game, the Habs played the game in such a way that the Penguins could not solve. Montreal played smart, simplified the game, and let the goals come naturally.
The Flyers and Habs faced times this season. The Flyers took the series 2-1, as Montreal took game three of the season series. Philadelphia took a fast 2-0 series lead, winning 3-2 and 4-3 at both the beginning and end of November. Price recorded 40 saves in the Habs scavenging of game three in January.
The Flyers have evidently had the Habs’ number this season. However, that was until Price stood on his head for Montreal. The Flyers will need to hope that the goaltender has cooled off a bit as they head into this series. The Canadiens are comfortable with being underdogs, and the Flyers will need to get to Price early and often to take this series.
Flyers to Watch
About a month ago, the Flyers’ team at Philly Sports Network wrote about the top five Flyers against each qualifying team. The five against Montreal, however, do not come as much of a surprise. For Sunday’s game, make sure to continue to watch the veteran guys. The Flyers will need to rely on Matt Niskanen, Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Sean Couturier all of which have incredible success in their careers against the Canadiens.
A key player to watch in this game will be James van Riemsdyk. Now, JvR catches a lot of flack, with much of that being for good reason. However, van Riemsdyk leads the Flyers with three career power play goals against Montreal. With a Flyers’ power play as lackluster as possible in the round robin facing a Canadiens’ penalty kill that has been just as underwhelming, it could be a prime chance for JvR to step things up.
Goaltending will be huge in this one too. With Carey Price looking like the greatest goalie of all time in the qualifying round, the Flyers will need Hart to respond. For his career, Hart is 2-2-0 against his childhood idol, with a 2.85 GAA and a .914 save percentage. If needed, Elliott has a great track record against the Habs in his career as well, posting a 2.88 GAA and .912 save percentage in 16 career appearances.
If there is one thing that Philly fans do, it’s that they get overly confident based upon a small sample size. Whether it be the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, or Flyers, fans constantly give these teams the benefit of the doubt, whether they deserve it or not. However, the Flyers finally deserve this recognition. They have battled hard this season and have overcome a lot of adversity.
This game has more confidence gleaming over the Flyers than the round robin. Unlike the top teams the Flyers had to beat, the Habs have shown signs of weakness during nearly the entire regular season. Only beating the Flyers one time this season as mentioned earlier, Montreal does not seem to match up well.
The Flyers have proven to hockey fans and experts everywhere that they should be heavily favored in this series. The Flyers will take this one 5-2 and declare their dominance early in this series.
Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports