The Canadiens finally did exactly what they were supposed to do.
Let's be clear: the Boston Bruins short two of their three best players are not the team we've come to know and, well, strongly dislike. That said, the Bruins are a division rival, and every team goes through lulls in their season, injury-related or otherwise. The Habs are going to find themselves in a similar situation at some point, making the two points earned on Thursday all the more valuable.
The team the Habs will face tonight is not the Boston Bruins. There isn't a rivalry at the same magnitude, frustrating as games against Philly tend to be. There's a fair chance the Flyers will not factor into the Eastern playoff picture this year. As NHL regular season games go, the stakes are relatively low.
Nevertheless, this is another team that the Habs are capable of beating, and to do so would be to take care of business for the second game in a row. For a Canadiens team that has struggled with consistency, that would be a step in the right direction. And, who knows - those two points might come in handy by April.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00PM EST
In Canada (French): TVA
In Canada (English): Sportsnet
In Philadelphia: CSN-PH
In the USA: NHLN-US
Elsewhere: NHL Gamecenter Live or NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
Know Your Enemy
The Flyers are an unbalanced team.
Neither of their goalie duo of Steve Mason and Ray Emery has been inspirational, which each putting up more or less average numbers to start the year. Where Philly has compensated is in the offensive zone, where they've buried an impressive 3.2 goals per game, putting them behind only the Penguins and Lightning league-wide.
That offence is predicated almost entirely on the abilities of their star players, as Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux have each burst out to torrid starts. Each player is in the top 10 in NHL scoring so far, and Voracek's 24 points in 17 games put him only one point back of Sidney Crosby for the league lead. Between those two men and the third member of their line, Wayne Simmonds, the Flyers have truly put all of their offensive eggs into one basket. The balance of this game will likely hang on the Habs', and specifically P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov's, ability to stymie this formidable group.
With less than reliable goaltenders, and D-men not always making their job easy, a disproportionate amount of defensive responsibility also falls to the Flyers forward corps. With the high-calibre first line taking the most offensive zone starts, Sean Couturier and Matt Read see the opposite assignment, taking tough competition and starting in the Flyers end. While this arrangement covers off the two most immediate tactical priorities, it leaves Vincent Lecavalier in a compromising position. The Flyers make every effort not to use their bottom six, and the former Lightning captain is the only truly effective player skating on Philadelphia's bottom two lines. Considering the recent productivity of the Habs third line, and the versatility of their fourth line, the Habs may have a true advantage in exploiting Philly's depth forwards.
Last Time Out
When they last met, the Canadiens dispatched the Flyers with an effort not unlike the one they put in against Boston last night. The Flyers earned an early lead, and despite some Montreal pressure, built themselves up to an intimidating 3-0 lead. Then, the dam broke, as the Habs poured on three goals in the span 7:35 to tie the game. Ray Emery foiled Alex Galchenyuk on an overtime breakaway, but P.A. Parenteau sealed the deal with the shootout winner.
If all goes to plan, the Habs shouldn't need that extra session to get the win tonight. The Flyers may have a first line with superpowers, but the Canadiens have two of the league's best defencemen, and enough depth to play them on the same pair. If Subban and Markov can get the job done tonight, look for the Habs to come away with the win.