Eastern Conference Quarter-finals: Game 1
How to watch
Start time: 8:00 PM EDT / 5:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the US: NBC
Streaming: Sportsnet Now
The Montreal Canadiens are heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2017! Not too shabby for a team that were absolutely nowhere near a playoff spot before the March pause. The Philadelphia Flyers, on the other hand, were playoff bound before the pandemic struck, and didn’t lose momentum once the season started up again, outscoring the three best teams in the Eastern Conference 11-3 during the round-robin series.
However, it would seem that the Habs gained momentum once they were given the opportunity to grab a spot in the big show, knocking the Pittsburgh Penguins out in Game 4 ... on Sidney Crosby’s birthday, no less.
After knocking off the top seed in the qualifying round, the Canadiens are once again the underdogs, going up against the Eastern Conference’s number-one seed, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Tale of the Tape
|48.9% (15th)||Corsi-for pct.||47.9% (16th)|
|2.50 (12th)||Goals per game||3.67 (5th)|
|2.00 (7th)||Goals against per game||1.00 (1st)|
Canadiens winger Dale Weise tells it like it is. “We’re going to be the underdogs in any series we’re in.” Might as well own it.
The Habs’ defence did a great job at limiting Pittsburgh’s stars and completely shutting the door (with a little help from Carey Price) during their Game 4 victory. Not only were they doing their defensive duties, Shea Weber and Jeff Petry were among the top goal-scorers during the qualifying round with two apiece. Sophomore Jesperi Kotkaniemi is tied with them, notching two of his own and playing like a beast. I’m pretty sure Kotkaniemi was made for the playoffs.
So, now that they’ve officially made it to the playoffs, it’s time for the scorers to, well, get on the scoreboard. Where are Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar, Max Domi and Joel Armia hiding, anyway? It’s okay fellas, you can come out and play.
The Flyers began the round-robin portion of the return to play as the fourth-ranked team looking to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference. And they did just that, defeating the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning in style. Just to make it even more interesting, they were short one of their leading scorers, forward Jakub Voracek, who missed the final two games of the round robin due to an undisclosed ailment. Lucky us, Voracek is healthy again and will be joining his team for the opening game of the series.
While Philadelphia is feeling pretty confident and agree that Montreal will be the underdogs during this series, they say they won’t be letting their guard down. Hmmm ... where have I heard that one before?
On the goaltending front, it may seem as if Carter Hart has a bit of a leg up on 32-year-old Price, with a goals-against average of 1.00 and save percentage of .966, compared to Price’s 1.67 GAA and .947 efficiency. However, as we look closer and compare Price’s shots against (133) and TOI (251.55) to Hart’s 59 SA and less than half of Price’s ice time (120), I think Hart will have his hands full trying to keep up with his idol in a seven-game series.
Price took on both options on the Penguins’ roster, Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry, and came out on the winning end. He just may be able to do the same to young Hart if his defence corps, led by Weber, Petry and Ben Chiarot, have his back as well as they did during the qualifiers.
Advancing past the first round tends to be a challenge for both teams. Montreal hasn’t gotten past the first round since 2015, and the Flyers haven’t done so since the last work stoppage. Well, somebody’s gonna make it through this time. Let the playoffs begin!