Well, it finally happened.
Despite playing one of their better hockey games of late, and keeping themselves within some timely goaltending and questionable officiating of greater competitiveness, the final score did not flatter Montreal. The Los Angeles Kings were left with a 6-0 win, and the Habs were left to try to make some adjustments.
The Flyers got off to a tough start to their year, and while things have improved somewhat, this squad still seems rooted in mediocrity. Following their loss to the Blackhawks last night, the Flyers sit six points out of the East's last wildcard spot. Their possession numbers are commensurate with this standing, as Philly's 47.8% fenwick places them 23rd league-wide.
Montreal should hope to gain an advantage from a tired Flyers group, as the Orange and Black faced one of the NHL's best last night, and got shellacked in the process. The Flyers also opted to spend their stronger goalie on the Blackhawks game, as Ray Emery started in the crease last night. That means that tonight's starter will be Steve Mason, who has been decent himself this season. In stark contrast to the struggles he experienced toward the end of his career Columbus, his tenure in Philadelphia has looked closer to his Calder Trophy days. Mason has amassed 15 quality starts in his first 22 games this year, and at one point, had a streak of six-in-a-row. He's cooled off of late, however, as he was shelled twice in a row, and then had his night off cut short when he came in to play last night's third period.
One player whose services Philadelphia will not enjoy this evening is Vincent Lecavalier, and he's currently on the IR. Vinny was the only Flyer goalscorer in Montreal and Philadelphia's most recent a matchup, a game won 4-1 and thoroughly dominated by the Habs. While the Flyers top line of Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, and Jakub Voracek remains intact, Lecavalier's absence bumps Sean Couturier up to a second line with Matt Read and Steve Downie. Familiar names Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds create two-thirds of a physical, if not possession-strong, third line. The Flyers fourth line is nigh unusable, featuring a journeyman and two enforcers. It appears that Craig Berube recognizes this as well, as the three players (Jay Rosehill, Zac Rinaldo, and Adam Hall) average ice-time of just under seven minutes each per game.
In a bid to return to the higher standard of play they exhibited earlier in the season, Michel Therrien appears set to re-jig his lines. Rene Bourque is still unavailable, so Michael Bournival will play left wing opposite Brian Gionta and beside Tomas Plekanec. Max Pacioretty is tasked with the superhuman responsibility of carrying around both David Desharnais and Daniel Briere, while the Habs excellent fourth line will feature Travis Moen, Ryan White, and Brandon Prust remains intact. Most significant, however, is the likely reunion of the EGG line, which performed admirably earlier this season. Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk, and Brendan Gallagher have filled varying roles since they were split up, but have not found the same level of success elsewhere as they did when they were together. Gallagher, especially, has struggled to score since he left his season-opening linemates, and the Habs will be hoping that their cannonball can regain his scoring touch.
Backstopping the Canadiens chances is Carey Price, who was the victim of some serious crease infringement before being pulled from the Kings game. Tough game aside, Price continues to be the Habs best player, far and away, and stands a good chance to improve on his career .500 record against the now punchless Flyers.
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