For the first time in a long time, things are looking up for the Montreal Canadiens.
Their game-day roster is now just one piece away from being more or less complete. Even better, the absence of that one missing piece feels less urgent that it has in some time; after all, goaltending has been solid for a week straight.
With Brendan Gallagher back in the lineup, the team's four trios have returned to a form closely resembling their intended construction. And with the new pairings of Beaulieu-Subban, Markov-Petry, and Emelin-Barberio appearing to stick, the Habs have their defence corps arranged in a configuration with the potential to be great.
If the Winter Classic victory is to turn into a seminal moment in the Canadiens' 2015-16 season, the Habs need to keep their momentum growing. Heading into Philadelphia, the team may have found fertile ground.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:30 PM ET
In the Canadiens region (French): RDS
In the Canadiens region (English): Sportsnet East
In the Flyers region: CSN-PH
In the United States: NBCSN
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|53.5||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||48.7|
|1.10||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.89|
Know Your Enemy
The Philadelphia Flyers, despite their standing in the Eastern Conference, have a few dangerous weapons. Their top line, most recently consisting of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds, is one of the league's best. In goal, Steve Mason has outshone many of his peers, as well. The problems, for the most part, lie in between.
Secondary scoring has been hard to come by at even strength. Like last season, the bottom-six lacks the tools to shutdown opponents. And with two bottom-five special teams, neither the powerplay nor the penalty kill is doing much to make-up for the lack of production at even strength.
Like the Bruins game, the Habs should be able to use their depth to wear down the top-heavy Flyers. If the Canadiens can make that happen, they'll be in good position to build on the success they experienced against Philly last year.
Last Time Out
The Habs capped off a season series sweep last time they met the Flyers, earning a 2-1 overtime win last February. The Flyers struck almost immediately, as Matt Read roofed a shot past Carey Price before the game was a minute old. That was as close as Philadelphia would get.
The Canadiens asserted themselves from there, playing a back-and-forth first period and dominating the final forty minutes. It took until the game's waning minutes for Tomas Plekanec to bang in the game-tying goal out of a scrum in front of Ray Emery, however, which set for the stage for some David Desharnais heroics.
Desharnais attempted to throw the puck out front, but a carom off of Michael Del Zotto and past Emery put the puck back on Desharnais' stick. The centre made good on the opportunity, sticking a shot up top and securing two points for his team. Drama surrounding the outcome notwithstanding, the Habs will play for a similar plotline this evening.
For a once-downtrodden Montreal Canadiens team, the start of a new year could represent a better path forward. A win tonight would be another step in the right direction.