Flyers

NHL playoffs Flyers vs. Canadiens: Previewing possible 1st-round matchup

NHL playoffs Flyers vs. Canadiens: Previewing possible 1st-round matchup

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. 

Goaltending

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. 

Full health 

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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2020 NHL playoffs: Standings in round robin, series updates as Flyers, Lightning eye No. 1 seed

2020 NHL playoffs: Standings in round robin, series updates as Flyers, Lightning eye No. 1 seed

The Flyers have earned at least a point against every Eastern Conference team this season except one:

The Lightning.

On Saturday at Scotiabank Arena, the Flyers will meet Tampa Bay in what has become the East's round-robin championship of the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

In the round-robin fight for top seeding, the Flyers have set themselves up well with a 4-1 victory over the Bruins and a 3-1 decision over the Capitals.

"I think it’s just important to play the right way and keep building on this momentum we’re gaining right now," Sean Couturier said in a video interview Thursday night after the Flyers' win over Washington. "We want to win, we want to finish the highest possible seed, but I think as long as we’re at our best once the real playoffs start, that’s the biggest thing."

Let's answer four questions heading into Saturday's showdown against the Lightning:

What's on the line?

The winner of the game will earn the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs, while the loser will settle for the No. 2 seed.

Both seeds are obviously advantageous, but there's certainly a difference between them. The No. 1 seed will hold home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. With no fans, that distinction still holds importance because home teams are awarded the last line change in games, which can be critical to matchups when outcomes are in the balance.

Below are the current round-robin standings:

1. Lightning — 2-0-0, four points
1. Flyers — 2-0-0, four points
3. Capitals — 0-1-1, one point
4. Bruins — 0-2-0, zero points

Who could Flyers play in 1st round?

Given they will finish with either one of the East's top two seeds, the Flyers cannot face the fifth-seeded Penguins or sixth-seeded Hurricanes in the first round.

It's still possible the Flyers can face the No. 7 Islanders, No. 8 Maple Leafs, No. 9 Blue Jackets, No. 10 Panthers or No. 12 Canadiens in the first round.

If the Flyers earn the No. 1 seed, they'll meet the lowest seed to advance past the qualifying round. If they're the No. 2 seed, they'll get the second-lowest seed to advance past the qualifying round.

Here's the latest on the best-of-five qualifying series:

No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets (CBJ leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, 8 p.m. ET)

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers (NYI leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, noon ET)

No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers (CAR wins 3-0)

No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens (MTL leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, 4 p.m. ET)

When are final round-robin games?

The Flyers-Lightning round-robin game is Saturday but the start time is TBD. We'll know the time of puck drop at some point Friday.

The Capitals and Bruins finish the round robin Sunday (start time TBD).

The first round of the playoffs is scheduled to begin next Tuesday.

How do Flyers fare vs. Lightning?

Among the round-robin teams, the second-seeded Lightning were the club that gave the Flyers the most trouble in the regular season. The Flyers dropped two games in regulation to Tampa Bay — albeit one was a 1-0 defeat and the other was a chippy 5-3 loss with an empty-netter during the final 22 seconds.

The Lightning can flat-out score, putting up a league-best 3.47 goals per game during the regular season.

However, the Flyers hung with Tampa Bay in other statistical categories and didn't have trade deadline acquisitions Derek Grant or Nate Thompson during the two regular-season matchups.

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NHL playoffs: Flyers fans are losing their minds after win against Capitals

NHL playoffs: Flyers fans are losing their minds after win against Capitals

Yo, the Flyers. 

We can’t get enough of this team right now — but can you blame us? After entering the round robin as the fourth seed, its 3-1 win against the Capitals on Thursday now guarantees at least the second seed moving forward. Top of the East will be on the line Saturday when the Flyers face the Lightning. 

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start acknowledging Alain Vigneault’s team for all that it is this season — but if you’re a Flyers fan, being the underdog is nothing new.

This team does more than simply go through the motions. Its chemistry is off the charts and makes for an entertaining game from start to finish. 

Now, having a 2-0-0 record in the round robin so far, reality is setting in across the league about just how talented this team is. Even if you’ve been keeping an eye on the Flyers, it’s been a long time since the franchise has seen a roster with this much talent — so, it’s OK if you’re still in shock. 

Running over the Capitals though certainly started to put things into perspective for Flyers fans. 

Who knows what this game would have looked like without the line of Scott Laughton, Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny? 

Well, we’ll never know … and that’s a wonderful thing. The Flyers’ second line dominated play and combined for eight points on the day. Since they seem like an inseparable line, is it time to start thinking about nicknames for it? 

It has to have something to do with chirping, don’t you think?

The Capitals also had a lot riding on this game. After an overtime loss to the Lightning earlier in the week, this was essentially a must-win. 

And if the players didn’t realize that during the game (their six minor penalties sure made it seem like that) — fans certainly made enough noise following the loss. 

Oh, did I mention Alex Ovechkin didn’t tally a single point against the Flyers in five games this season? Just something to think about. 

Buckle up Flyers fans, this is only the beginning. 

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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