Last night, the Flyers beat the Lightning 4-1 to finish at the top of the standings of the round robin tournament. Philadelphia has now won 12 of its last 13 games and this is far from a new incarnation of the Broad Street Bullies. It’s a complete team with 4 good lines, respectable depth and a real number one goaltender. It’s been a while since the Flyers had a bona fide starting goaltender, the memories of Bernie Parent, Pelle Lindbergh and even Hextall linger but it seems like Carter Hart is ready to take the next step and join their rank as an impact masked man. The youngster started 43 games this year, signed 24 victories with a 2.42 GAA and a .914 save percentage. In his 2 games in the bubble he has 2 wins, a 1.00 GAA and a whopping .966 save percentage. The Canadiens will have their work cut out for them.
Fortunately, the Habs have been pretty good against Philadelphia this season, they won once and lost twice on tightly contested affairs in overtime. The Canadiens scored 9 goals to the Flyers’ 8, the Habs power play was 2/6 while Philly’s was 0/12 and the Canadiens also won the hits battle with 87 to 78. Most importantly, Carey Price played two of those games and had a 1.98 GAA and a .952 save percentage. In fact, if you go back to the last 5 years, Price’s numbers are rather reassuring against the upcoming foe (aside from the 2017-2018 season, Price’s worst career season):
2019-2020 1-0-1 1.98 GAA .952 SP
2018-2019 2-0-0 1.00 GAA .968 SP
2017-2018 0-1-1 3.50 GAA .872 SP
2016-2017 2-1-0 2.35 GAA .925 SP
2015-2016 Not played against the Flyers only 12 games played
2014-2015 3-0-0- 2.25 GAA .918 SP
While Montreal will need more than a Price on top of his game to win the series, his performance will no doubt be a big factor in this series. Much like against Pittsburgh, a solid Price will allow a young Canadiens team to find its footing and confidence. Let's hope that Gallagher can start scoring again as well, he did register his first career hat-trick against the Flyers in February 2019. After coming head to head with Crosby and Malkin, the Habs will now have to contend with Giroux, Voracek and Couturier to name a few. Last night, the Flyers’ lines and pairing were as follows:
Giroux – Couturier – Farabee
Laughton – Hayes – Konecny
Van Riemsdyk – Grant – Aube-Kubel
Bunnaman – Thompson – Pitlick
Voracek was not in the line-up, he normally slots in on the first line while Farabee is usually on the 3rd one. That top line will be a huge concern for the Habs and Philip Danault will have to be dominant to contain them, they were the 4th, 2nd and 3rd best scorer for Philadelphia this season. Second liner Konecny was their most productive forward with 61 points.
Aside from all the stats though, this match-up will also be interesting because Carter Hart has said that Carey Price was his idol growing up. While this might not make Price feel any younger, it also means the Hart finally gets to measure up with his idol. Looking at his work in the last week though, don’t expect him to get star struck. He didn’t even flinch stopping Kucherov on a breakaway last night and he looks calm and collected, much like Price in fact.
This should also be quite the battle behind the bench as Claude Julien will be pitted against not one, but two former Canadiens head coach in Alain Vigneault and Michel Therrien. The Flyers’ coaching staff is completed by assistants Ian Laperrière and Mike Yeo. There is definitely a great deal of experience behind that bench. So far, Julien and Vigneault have met twice in the playoffs. Julien bested Vigneault in the 2011 Cup final when he lead the Bruins to victory over the Canucks while it was Vigneault who was at the helm of the Rangers when they bounced the Habs from the postseason in 2017.
The schedule for the first round isn’t out yet but the plan was for it to start on August 11th. Considering that the Habs last played on Friday and that the Flyers played yesterday, it wouldn’t surprising to see them face-off on Tuesday since there are still teams in action today and it would make sense for these to get an extra day off. The schedule should come out sometime today once the round robin standings have been finalized in both conference and we know if the Leafs or the Jackets will get to take on the Lightning.