It’s finally time! We made it through the play-in round and round robins, as well as the weirdness that was the first day of playoff action, and it’s finally time that the Flyers make their proper playoff debut. They rolled through their three round robin opponents with relative ease, snatching up the top seed in the East, and looked pretty dominant in the process, if we do say so ourselves. They’re heading into the first round looking pretty sharp.
They’ll be meeting the eighth seed Montreal Canadiens for the first round, who you, in case you missed it, came into the play-in round as the 12th seed and upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in just four games to move on. Which, truly, you just hate to see.
But the Canadiens are coming into this one with some momentum, which should make for an interesting matchup for the Flyers. Are we excited yet?
Three players to watch
1. Carter Hart
Hart figures to get the start tonight, and we won’t go and narrativize this to death, but this is a big game for him. We’ve seen him perform well in the regular season, and we’ve seen him perform well in the round robin, but the intensity and the difficulty of play is going to be kicked up another notch, still, and we’ll have to see how Hart’s able to adjust to that. If history is to be any indication, we can feel pretty good about his chances of settling in pretty quickly, but this remains uncharted territory. Montreal does have some offensive weapons that Hart will have to deal with, and the Flyers are going to need him to be sharp right out of the gates.
2. Claude Giroux
I want to be clear, this is not a call-out post. Giroux had a fine enough round robin and we’re not here to pile on or take shots. But, that said, the Flyers’ top line was quieter during the round robin, relatively speaking, and they weren’t getting much in the way of primary scoring. The depth scoring made up for it, but we’d still like to see a bit more out of Giroux and the top line, at least on the score sheet. We know that there’s a whole other level that Giroux can tap into, and now is as good of a time as any for that to happen, right?
3. Carey Price
And turning to the other side for a moment, probably the individual opponent that the Flyers most have to be worried about is Price. He had a solid showing against the Penguins, and we know that he is a solid goalie, capable of stealing games for his team. The Canadiens may not be nearly as deep as the Flyers, but Price has the ability to mask a lot of that, if he’s able to really turn it on. Now, whether he’s able to do that is another question entirely, so we’ll have to see just which Carey Price shows up to start this series, and how much trouble he gives the Flyers.
Two big questions
1. Initial vibe of the series? Who will set the tone?
The Flyers and the Canadiens play pretty different styles, and while we’ve seen the Flyers be able to hang with teams who they aren’t perfect stylistic fits with, but it goes without saying that whichever team is able to set the tone, to get everyone playing their style is going to have an easier time. And in a series like this, it can be a toss up for who’s going to be able to set the terms first, so who’s it going to be this time around? Tune in to find out!
2. Can the power play get going?
It’s no secret that the Flyers’ power play has been something of a sore spot for them throughout the round robin, and they’re going to need to find a way to get going now that we’re in the playoffs for real. They looked a little bit better in their last game against the Lightning, but they still do have a ways to go. Can they hit the ground running in Game 1 and work to get themselves back on track? Here’s hoping.
Puck drops at 8:00 tonight, and you can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below.
Giroux - Couturier - Voracek
Laughton - Hayes - Konecny
van Riemsdyk - Grant - Aube-Kubel
Farabee - Thompson - Pitlick
Provorov - Niskanen
Sanheim - Myers
Gostisbehere - Braun
Ahead of the first round we’ve got Laura Saba and Scott Matla of Locked On Canadiens giving us the lowdown on how the Habs beat the Penguins, what we should expect from their best (and worst - sup Dale) players, and if the return of Carey Price is real or just smoke and mirrors.