After dispatching the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the Qualifying Round, the Montreal Canadiens are ready to take on the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Habs are hoping to play spoiler and they’ve got to be embracing the underdog role. Montreal has done the upset thing before, notably in 2010 against the Washington Capitals and Penguins in the post-season. But that time out, the brick wall the Canadiens ran into were the Flyers.
Philly is ahead of Montreal in nearly every statistical metric that matters. They have the better power play, penalty kill, overall offence, and overall defence. They even took the head-to-head in the regular season. To make this more daunting, the Flyers dominated the round robin and won all three games by a combined score of 11-3.
So how is Philadelphia getting this done?
Balance is key. The Flyers haven’t played anyone fewer than 10 minutes a game, with only defencemen Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen averaging more than 20. If there is an issue, it is the power play. Philly didn’t score a man-advantage goal in 11 chances in the round robin.
Granted, Montreal was zero for 12 on the power play against the Penguins.
It’s a broken record, but the Canadiens have to rely a lot on Carey Price. He secured the series clincher against Pittsburgh in Game Four, making 22 stops for his sixth post-season shutout and first since 2015. He went 27-25-6 in the regular season, posting a 2.79 goals against average and a .909 save percentage.
The Flyers are confident countering with goalie Carter Hart. He allowed just two goals on 59 shots in two round robin starts. In the regular season, the 21-year-old was put up great numbers. His 2.42 goals against average was second in the NHL among goalies who played at least 40 games.
Now, Montreal could give Hart and the Flyers some trouble. They’ve turned up in the bubble with a young, robust group. Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored twice against the Penguins, but he finished the regular season in the minors and did not enjoy the greatest year. Bounce-back stories like that are what the Habs are counting on to get by the Flyers.
On paper, this should be a win for Philadelphia. But that’s what experts said about the series against the Penguins too. And now we’re staring down the barrel of another potential upset.