How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Flyers region: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Streaming: NHL.tv / NHL Live
After that listless loss in Dallas, a game against the Boston Bruins turned out to be just what the Montreal Canadiens needed to relight that fire within themselves. It was a night of ups and downs, but the Habs managed to weather a Bruins storm and emerge with a deserved 5-4 victory. Now, with four wins in their last five games, the Canadiens will look to keep the momentum rolling as they head to the City of Brotherly Love.
Tale of the Tape
|2-1-0||H2H Record (18-19)||1-2-0|
|52.0% (8th)||Corsi-for pct.||52.9% (3rd)|
|3.67 (4th)||Goals per game||3.29 (10th)|
|3.20 (20th)||Goals against per game||3.14 (19th)|
|20.0% (16th)||PP%||24.1% (6th)|
|68.9% (30th)||PK%||83.7% (12th)|
After missing the playoffs last year, the Philadelphia Flyers made wholesale changes behind the bench. Out went interim head coach Scott Gordon, who had replaced Dave Hakstol midway through the season, as well as assistant coaches Kris Knoblauch and Rick Wilson. In their place, the Flyers have brought in a few very familiar faces.
Despite a year away from the NHL after his departure from the New York Rangers, Alain Vigneault’s hiring was no surprise. The former Canadiens, Canucks, and Rangers bench boss has been one of the most successful coaches in the league over the last decade, making the playoffs 10 out of 12 seasons since 2006-07. What was surprising was Vigneault’s decision to hire two former head coaches, Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo, as assistants.
Some may argue that having three cooks behind the bench is a recipe for disaster, but so far it hasn’t spoiled the broth. The Flyers are right in the middle of the wild-card hunt, essentially trading three-game winning and losing streaks to start the year. They’ve accomplished this through balanced offence, courtesy of not only their big three Claude Giroux (11 points), Sean Couturier (11), and Jakub Voracek (11), but also the likes of Travis Konecny (15), Kevin Hayes (7), James van Riemsdyk (7), and the surprising Oskar Lindblom (11).
On the blue line, the Flyers have relied heavily on Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen, with Travis Sanheim a steady number three. Beyond that, both Shayne Gostisbehere and new acquistion Justin Braun have played reasonably well from a possession standpoint, but have been victimized by that very Flyers-esque problem: inconsistent goaltending.
There were high hopes for Carter Hart after a .917 rookie season, but so far this year the sophomore slump is hitting hard. Hart enters Thursday’s game with an .885 save percentage and 2.93 goals-against average. After starting five of the first six games of the season, he has been essentially platooning with backup Brian Elliott (.901, 3.05) for the Flyers’ last five games.
In some ways, Thursday night’s clash will be between two similar teams. Both are firmly in the playoff hunt, but still seeking the consistency that will take them to the next level. They are trying to assert their identities — the Canadiens still developing theirs, while the Flyers trying to prove that last year was a fluke. Most of the pieces necessary to truly contend are in place for each side, but they are being let down by obvious glaring failures. A victory for the Canadiens will serve as a good indicator that they are closer to putting it all together than the teams chasing them in the standings.