Everything is right in Flyers world right now, and man is that weird to say.
Winners of three straight and in playoff position at Thanksgiving for the first time since 1900 (or 2011, either one), the Flyers have a chance to make it four straight with a visit to Montreal to face the Canadiens this afternoon.
It took the Flyers a minute, but they ended up pummeling the NHL-worst Red Wings a day ago, scoring three third-period goals to bury Detroit and send them to yet another loss. Carter Hart was strong as the Flyers vegged their way through 40 minutes before turning on the afterburners in the final 20.
It’ll take a more complete effort against a better, but not elite Canadiens team that is among the pack in the subpar Atlantic Division owned by the Bruins. Nevertheless, the Canadiens always seem to give the Flyers a close game and they’ll be more rested than a Flyers team that played less than 24 hours ago.
Brian Elliott is in the cage for the Flyers, looking to follow up on an excellent start last time out in Columbus, where the Flyers won in regulation for the first time since 2005. Elliott was a big part of that win and will need to be strong again with a potentially tired group in front of him in this one.
The Flyers took the lone meeting so far between these two teams with a 3-2 win in overtime back in early November as Sean Couturier ended the proceedings. That was at the Wells Fargo Center, but this matchup is at the Bell Centre, one of the tougher buildings to play in across the league.
Three players to watch for
1. James van Riemsdyk
Perhaps his late goal against the Red Wings will spark one of his goal-scoring tears. Alain Vigneault said he’s been streaky his whole career and this could be the start to one of those streaks.
2. Matt Niskanen
The steady defender took a puck to the face yesterday and returned with a full cage and some damage to his nose. With the swelling up after a day, keep a close eye on Niskanen in this one as he deals with a tough injury.
3. Oskar Lindblom
Oskar was quietly having a good stretch of games, but wasn’t finding the net (although not to the degree of JVR). He too scored in the win yesterday and could be in line for a surge here after seeing the puck hit the back of the net.
Two big questions
1. Is Shayne Gostisbehere fixed?
Yeah, scoring a goal that hits off a defender might not immediately make you right again, but it’s a step in the positive direction for Ghost. He had a strong game otherwise, and needs to string a few good games together in order to really build that confidence back up. Another game against a bad team could keep the momentum going.
2. How good is this penalty kill?
Another day another blanking for the Flyers’ penalty kill as they shut down the Red Wings. Up next is a middle-of-the-pack Montreal power play that won’t scare you outside of Shea Weber’s big shot. The Flyers might have the NHL’s best penalty kill, and it’s become a huge asset for this team.
Looking at the standings, you might think the third-in-the-wild-card Montreal Canadiens are, you know... not that bad. But talk to someone in the know, like Andrew Zadarnowski of Habs Eyes On The Prize and you learn that this is a team lacking identity, working through goaltending disappointment, and whose fans are already calling for the tank. Andrew fills us in on what to expect in today’s afternoon tilt.