February looks prepared to offer ample opportunity for the Habs to bank some points. The remainder of the month brings two games against the free-falling Maple Leafs, and another pair against the middling Blue Jackets.
The Edmonton Oilers are on the docket later this week, most recently notable for combining with the Leafs to produce what Don Cherry baptized as the worst period of hockey ever put on by two professional teams. February is looking like the easiest month of the 2014-15 schedule, and an excellent opportunity for the Canadiens to build momentum heading into the post-season.
Before they get there, however, there is the Philadelphia Flyers.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
|48.8||Score-Adjusted Fenwick %||48.6|
|1.22||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.02|
Know Your Enemy
It is well-known that the Philadelphia Flyers employ two of the NHL's most talented players in Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. The pair are each among the NHL's top seven scorers, and are the twin engines behind an Flyers offence that lacks talented depth. It's worth noting that their third line, centered by Vincent Lecavalier, has become more productive as their usage has softened, but the abysmal fourth line, the new home of former Hab Ryan White, has been difficult to cover up.
Perhaps less noticeable has been the success of Steve Mason in the Philadelphia crease this season. After splitting time more evenly with Ray Emery earlier the campaign, Mason took over the starting spot by distinguishing himself with superb play. With an even strength save percentage of 93.8, Mason ranks fourth among all goaltenders to play at least 1000 minutes so far this season. Emery, in just over 750 minutes, languishes at a below average 90.9%.
The Habs could be considered fortunate to have seen Emery in their two previous meetings with the Flyers, scoring ten goals and earning all four available points. As of Sunday, however, a lower body injury has put Mason on the shelf for at least tonight's game, robbing the team of their possible MVP. Michael McCarron's former teammate, Anthony Stolarz, has been summoned to fill the back-up role, meaning the Canadiens will face-off against Emery in this third and final match as well.
Last Time Out
The Flyers may be the owners of the NHL's third best powerplay, but it was the Canadiens special teams that were a big part of their win over Philly in mid-November.
P.A. Parenteau opened the scoring with a powerplay goal, and then David Desharnais added another before the first period was over. With another man-advantage opportunity six minutes into the second, P.K. Subban cashed in on a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play with a hard one-timer.
Then, with Brendan Gallagher already sitting for an obstruction penalty, ace penalty killer Tomas Plekanec took a minor of his own. Faced with a minute-long kill while two men down, the Habs special-teams again came through, foiling the Flyers as they tried to climb back into the game.
Despite the brilliance up or down a man, the Canadiens were outplayed at even strength, and Brayden Schenn potted a goal on either side of his team's two man advantage to close the Flyers deficit to one. Thanks to Parenteau, that would be as close as they would get.
A tip-in of a Sergei Gonchar shot sixty-two seconds after the third period puck-drop gave the Habs their two goal cushion back, and bestowed the type of third period lead that Carey Price does not readily give up.
Seeing as the Bruins out of the way, only two of the ten games remaining on Montreal's February slate feature opponents that are currently playoff-bound. The Flyers are fighting desperately to become a part of that group, but minus their star goaltender it will be an uphill battle.
With two straight solid wins, the Habs look ready to distance themselves from that ugly three day stretch that started on Superbowl Sunday. With a grueling March looming, the Canadiens would do well to bolster their point total tonight.