When the Montreal Canadiens left the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday evening, they did so with a lot of positives and a couple of concerns. By the time they left the Verizon Center, the opposite looked to be true.
The Habs were awful for big chunks of Thursday's affair, but survived a 13-0 first period shot disadvantage and stuck around long enough to claim their gimmick point. Dustin Tokarski was superb, hopefully illustrating his continued development toward being a good insurance policy on Price. The fourth line, with Travis Moen in for Dale Weise, was better than Wednesday's had been, making a few hard-charging plays and coming out ahead of their inferior Washington counterparts.
Sadly, no other line could make the same claim, and it has led to some Michel Therrien shuffling on the right wing. Jiri Sekac will now accompany Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk, a line that showed some promise once assembled on Thursday. P.A. Parenteau, one of the Habs best forwards in the early going, is now skating with Lars Eller and Rene Bourque. And predictably, MT is back to his safety blanket, with David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher, and Max Pacioretty reunited.
The Habs need more out of their forward group than they received last time out, and as it turns out, tonight might be a perfect time to balance the books.
How to watch
In English: City TV (National broadcast)
In French: TVA (National broadcast)
In Philadelphia: CSN-Philly (Regional broadcast)
Tale of the Tape
Know Your Enemy
The Philadelphia Flyers were a middling team last season. Their performance ebbed and flowed with that of their star, Claude Giroux, and in the end, found themselves out of the playoffs after a back and forth first round series with the New York Rangers.
That line hasn't had a good start to the year either, likely a strong aggravating factor in their winless start. Giroux will also be asked to carry the burden once shouldered by departed 50-point man Scott Hartnell, who was traded to Columbus in a straight-up swap for the not quite as effective R.J. Umberger.
The Flyers squad that will take the ice at the Wells Fargo Center tonight will look a little different on the blue line, too. Gone is the venerable Kimmo Timonen, an aged but effective defenseman that the Flyers absolutely relied on. Injured is Braydon Coburn, who is day-to-day and thought to be about a week away from a return to the lineup.
Down their first pair, the Flyers will turn to a couple of newcomers to their lineup, Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz. This defensive configuration got drilled by the Bruins, and while they held their own better against the Devils, the opportunists from East Rutherford jumped on a tired Steve Mason and put the Flyers in a hole they couldn't climb all the way out of.
The Canadiens have four lines that can put pressure on the Flyers D, and they're due for a faster start. If the Habs new lines can get pucks at Ray Emery, they may be able to earn an early advantage.
Last Time Out
The Habs and Flyers last squared off last January, and the game came at one of the most frustrating intervals of the Habs' season. Calls for Michel Therrien's head were in full force. EOTP, as a community, had exercised our veto power on roster decisions and cut Francis Bouillon and Douglas Murray, but, irritatingly, Marc Bergevin didn't get the memo. Add in P.K. Subban's third period benching, an average (at best) performance from Peter Budaj, and Zac Rinaldo coming up with one of his two goals on the year, and you have the recipe for some truly masochistic Habs viewership.
Tonight, however, should be different. The Habs are at full strength, which is considerably stronger than their level of play when Philly last saw them. At the same time, the Flyers are suffering in early season doldrums, resultant of some key injuries and departures.
The Canadiens goaltenders have already shown their skaters that they can be one hundred percent confident in the level of support they'll get from the back-end. Now, with two more winnable points on the table, it's time for the Habs to finish their first week strong, and show their keepers that they can return the favour.