Eastern Conference Quarter-finals: Game 2
How to watch
Start time: 3:00 PM EDT / 12:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the US: NBCSN
Streaming: Sportsnet Now
While many of us were reflecting on a close game between the Canadiens and Flyers in Game 1 and wondering what to expect from the next match in the quarter-final, Claude Julien was being taken to hospital in Toronto with chest pains. He remained there on Thursday for observation, and will miss tonight’s game, and at least the remainder of this series.
The head coach is now focusing on his health and his family, while the Canadiens will continue on, using the situation as motivation. To this point, Montreal has relied on its underdog standing to inspire their play, taking a post-season spot that was handed to them and trying to run with that narrative. Now they have something a bit more tangible to latch on to.
Montreal’s remaining coaching staff, led by Kirk Muller who takes over the main duties, will try to replicate the play that has had Montreal in every game they’ve played to this point. The team has mostly been running with minor tweaks designed to unlock more offence, and we’ll see if those continue in Game 2.
Tale of the Tape
|2.20||Goals per game||3.25|
|2.00||Goals against per game||1.00|
Finding offence has proven difficult for any of the four teams that have faced the Flyers so far this month. Philadelphia is only allowing an average of one goal per game, and Carter Hart now leads all goaltenders who’ve played more than one game with a .966 save percentage.
The Canadiens aren’t doing so bad themselves on the defensive side, which has been somewhat surprising for the team that ranked 19th in goals against per game during the regular season. Not far behind Hart is Carey Price and his .947 effectiveness, while his team is allowing opponents just two goals per night.
Those expected goal totals were precisely what actually played out on Wednesday night; a 2-1 victory for Philadelphia after a fairly even battle. The Flyers were heavy favourites to defeat the Canadiens after they steamrollled their competition in the round-robin portion of the post-season, but at least through the first game of the Eastern Conference Quarter-final that wasn’t the case.
One move that could have increased the scoring was moving Max Domi up to play with Jonathan Drouin and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The line was put together after a penalty kill, and played another few shifts before the end of the night, getting some decent looks in about three minutes together.
On the flip side of that promotion for Domi is the absence of the usual linemate, Joel Armia. The big winger played just two short shifts after the six-minute mark of the third period, and none in the final seven. He has been part of a very good third line that had the Penguins’ coaches scrambling to match them (when he wasn’t in the penalty box at least), and his loss would prevent a four-line rotation. If he’s unable to go this afternoon, there will be some changes to be made to the forward group.
Philadelphia’s main injury concern heading into the series proved to be no concern at all. Jakub Voracek didn’t only play 17:21 after missing the final round-robin game versus the Tampa Bay Lightning, but also got credit for the power-play goal to open the scoring versus Montreal. His presence definitely helped the third line’s quality ... though it still wasn’t able to overpower the Canadiens’ third trio.
It’s becoming clear that Montreal’s young centres are ready to compete in a post-season environment, and that’s changing some thoughts on how close the Habs are to contending. They probably aren’t going to challenge for the Stanley Cup this season, but they have the ability to win any game they play right now, and they should at least continue to give us a competitive opening-round series.