Leading up to the Flyers' Aug. 2 round-robin opener — which officially commences the team's run at the 2020 Stanley Cup in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament — we're going to break down every possible first-round matchup for the club.
Today, we look at the 12th-seeded Canadiens, who the Flyers faced three times in the 2019-20 season, having a 2-1-0 record.
Flyers by the numbers
Goals per game: 3.29 (seventh overall)
Goals allowed per game: 2.77 (tied for seventh fewest)
Power play percentage: 20.8 (14th overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 81.8 (11th overall)
Canadiens by the numbers
Goals per game: 2.93 (19th overall)
Goals allowed per game: 3.10 (13th most)
Power play percentage: 17.1 (22nd overall)
Penalty kill percentage: 78.7 (19th overall)
How they could meet
The Flyers find themselves in a very strong position with their round-robin seeding because they can only improve. They’ll be matched up against the Canadiens if they can earn the No. 1 seed and Montreal knocks off the fifth-seeded Penguins in the best-of-five qualifying-round series.
Why matchup could be favorable for Flyers
On paper, the Flyers coming out on top of this series almost seems like a no-brainer. Comparing the numbers above, the Flyers dominate in every category, but the biggest factor are those goals for and goals against.
The Flyers’ goaltending duo of Brian Elliott and Carter Hart has been dominant with whatever game head coach Alain Vigneault throws at each netminder. While there was some strategy in playing Hart at home and Elliott on the road the majority of the time, it’ll be interesting it see how the tandem plays out. This is probably the best problem a team could have — having two sturdy goalies ready to go. Where a young Hart gets his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this isn’t Elliott’s first rodeo. This will be the veteran goaltender’s eighth trip to the postseason as he has 45 playoff games under his belt — for a netminder, that’s not a bad résumé.
On the opposing end of the ice, the Flyers will be going up against one of the most respected in the game with Carey Price, who has also seen the playoffs on eight separate seasons. This season has been an interesting one for Price though — and an inconsistent one at that. With a 27-25-6 record, it’ll be interesting to see how Price emerges. If the Flyers shut down Price, it’s over for the Habs.
While the Canadiens wouldn’t have even made the playoffs had the season ended in a normal fashion, the Flyers would’ve been entering the race for the Stanley Cup with a few banged up roster spots. During the mandatory league hiatus, Philippe Myers (right knee patella fracture) and James van Riemsdyk (fractured right index finger), two injured players that would’ve created absences and raised concerns in the winding 13 games of the season, had more than enough time to recover.
Something worth playing for
This has been a season like no other — from the season being suspended in early March to going on a hiatus for nearly five months because of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s been difficult. The Flyers also had to handle the news of Oskar Lindblom being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma back in December. It was a statement not a single person would have expected. What was even more unexpected was that just a few months later, Lindblom was officially done with his treatments and now, according to general manager Chuck Fletcher, there’s even a possibility of him traveling to the Toronto bubble with the team.
It’s a story with a happy ending for a player that rightfully deserves it. His teammates have been playing for Lindblom — when he was around, it was clear the team wanted to do well, he lit up the room and his kindness is something worth fighting for.
The image of captain Claude Giroux handing the Stanley Cup off to Lindblom should be motivation enough for the team. In a year with so much negativity, having a moment like that to look back on could possibly (definitely) make it all worth it.
Why matchup could be trouble for Flyers
It wasn’t a major issue during the 2019-20 season, but one fear always lingers — one that happened against the Canadiens back in January — is when the Flyers play down to their opponent. In those games, they often sit back on their skates, turtle with a lead or have to play a game of catch-up. This could be a worst-case scenario trap series, given the seeding — and with so many eyes on the surprising Flyers team pushing to make a Cup run, it’s possible they fall into it.
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