Montreal Canadiens @ Philadelphia Flyers
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: ESPN+, RDS Direct, TSN+
The Montreal Canadiens provided an injury update on Thursday, not to let people know that some of the players will be back in the lineup soon, but mostly just to confirm that they are, indeed, injured. Illnesses for Joel Armia and Kirby Dach are still lingering, and Dach’s has since been deemed to be a lower-body issue as well. While not included in the update, Kaiden Guhle was still not participating in contact drills on Thursday, so it’s unlikely that he will dress in tonight’s game despite travelling with the team for the last two matches of this road trip..
“Road trip” isn’t quite accurate for this recent stretch of four games; the Canadiens have returned home after each one with ample time between them to do so, so this finale shouldn’t feature the same lethargic play many teams experience in their last game of several played as the visitor. A lack of energy hasn’t been an issue for Montreal since its bye week, keeping games close with some better clubs by getting strong efforts from everyone involved.
They did better than just hang with the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday in a game that was all about the goaltending. Vitek Vanecek has has a great season, but he didn’t have a good game versus Montreal, allowing four goals before Montreal scores an empty-netter. Meanwhile, Samuel Montembeault dealt with several breakaways skilfully to limit a team that recorded 40 shots — many them of high quality — to two goals. In the end the Habs won by at least three goals for the seventh time this season. Three of those victories have come in the last five games. It’s that form that they take into Philadelphia.
Tale of the Tape
|44.1% (28th)||Scoring-chances-for %||45.2% (27th)|
|2.67 (29th)||Goals per game||2.68 (27th)|
|3.63 (28th)||Goals against per game||3.20 (19th)|
|16.7% (28th)||PP%||15.8% (32nd)|
|73.6% (28th)||PK%||76.2% (22nd)|
In Montreal’s four wins since returning to action on February 11, they’ve scored at least four goals. You can’t talk about this surge in production without mentioning how involved the defencemen have been in the offence, scoring another three goals on Tuesday and combining for five points. The leader, in several different senses, has been Mike Matheson, who has six points in this span while pacing the team with over 25 minutes per night. This is the type of play Kent Hughes was hoping for when he traded Jeff Petry to the Pittsburgh Penguins, adding a veteran who can take the pressure off the younger prospects.
We’re also seeing a bit of a resurgence for Nick Suzuki following his struggles in the middle third of the season. He has four points in the six-game stretch, playing with Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Josh Anderson. The bye week seems to have helped him recover from the ailments he’d amassed leading up to the break, and despite being forced into the toughest matchups in Dach’s absence, he’s finding ways to be effective at both ends of the ice.
The Flyers are seeing no such post-All-Star resurgence, dropping six of eight games. Their best stretch of action happened in January when they had a 10-4-2 record leading into the star showcase in Florida, and they haven’t found that level since.
As has been the case since Claude Giroux was traded at this time a year ago, the one carrying the load is Travis Konecny. But Konecny is being joined by Scott Laughton, who has taken on a more elevated role, tying his career high in goals with 13 and already setting a new mark with 34 points. Over the last few weeks, he’s been getting well over 20 minutes per night. That has also coincided with the post-break dropoff in Philadelphia’s play, so it may not be as good a development for the team overall as it has been for Laughton himself.
It’s good for the team’s tanking hopes, however, and the Flyers and Canadiens enter this game four points apart in the standings, with six teams below them. Fanbases of both teams will probably be cheering for a loss, but Laughton and Matheson just want to keep their runs going, setting the tone for their teammates as longer-term pieces of their franchises.