The Flyers will look to stop the bleeding at five tonight in Montreal as they take on the Canadiens for the first time this season.
The Flyers of the past few seasons have been incredibly streaky. Sometimes they reel off big winning streaks, but mostly they just lose a lot of games in a row. Last season they had losing streaks of 13 games, 10 games, and two 6-game streaks. This roster is pretty made-over from even just last year and there’s a new veteran coach in town, so there was also hope that that tendency had been left behind. Now, it’s early in the season and a single five-game losing streak isn’t necessarily indicative of anything. But six games?
Anyway, the Montreal Canadiens are about in the same spot as the Flyers right now. They’re 8-8-1 with 17 points and in 6th place in the Atlantic. But the Canadiens aren’t exactly trying to win the cup this year. They’re a team intentionally on the rebuild that just drafted first overall in 2022 and have a young roster with some potential.
It’ll be Carter Hart starting his third game in a row for the Flyers up against Jake Allen, who’s 5-6 with a .901 save percentage this season. Hart is doing his best to keep the Flyers above water, but it’s starting to look like, as Dennis Green once said, they are who we thought they were. We’ll see if they can stave off a loss and end the streak against what should be a weaker opponent than their previous loss.
Projected Flyers lines
Owen Tippett—Kevin Hayes—Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton—Noah Cates—Joel Farabee
Max Willman—Morgan Frost—Zack MacEwen
Nic Deslauriers—Lukáš Sedlák—Keiffer Bellows
Ivan Provorov—Anthony DeAngelo
Travis Sanheim—Justin Braun
Nick Seeler—Rasmus Ristolainen
Projected Canadiens lines
Cole Caufield—Nick Suzuki—Kirby Dach
Mike Hoffman—Christian Dvorak—Brendan Gallagher
Evgenii Dadonov—Sean Monahan—Josh Anderson
Michael Pezzetta—Jake Evans—Juraj Slafkovský
Kaiden Guhle—David Savard
Joel Edmundson—Arber Xhekaj
Jordan Harris—Johnathan Kovacevic
Keep an eye on:
- Owen Tippett, who is struggling to finish at even strength but is making the most of his increased power play opportunities. He scored the lone Flyers goal on Thursday against the Bruins on the man advantage. Right now, Tippett is averaging 3:25 on the power play which is significantly more than he has in his career and three of his four goals have come during that ice time.
- The Canadiens young guns, who are playing on a line together and leading the team in scoring. Nick Suzuki, 23, Cole Caufield, 22, and Kirby Dach, 22, are by far the most productive trio the Canadiens have this year. Suzuki has 11 goals and 10 assists with an outrageous (and, of course, unsustainable) shooting percentage of 28.2. These are the kind of exciting pieces that can make a bad team palatable and help build hope in the fanbase.
- Travis Sanheim and Justin Braun, who are paired up on the Flyers’ second pair. Natural Stat Trick’s expected goals stat has the Flyers at 6.51 for and 6 against while these two are on the ice together. It’s not there by much, but it is in the positive. They’re not getting beat as bad as the top pair of Ivan Provorov and Tony DeAngelo and they’re playing significantly more minutes than Nick Seeler and Rasmus Ristolainen.
- Juraj Slafkovský, who the Canadiens selected with the first overall pick in June and has cracked the NHL lineup as an 18-year-old. The 6-foot-4 winger only has 4 points in 12 games so far, but he’s only getting fourth-line minutes and also serves as a pretty great example of another exciting young piece on an otherwise unexciting team.
- The Flyers are 80-83-30-9 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Canadiens. They are 36-47-14-5 in Montreal. They went 1-0-2 against the Canadiens last season.
- The Flyers are -10 in goal differential this season, with 42 goals and 52 goals against, while the Canadiens are -8, with 51 goals and 59 against.
- At 7-7-3, this is not the worst start that John Tortorella has had with a new team, but it’s close. Through 17 games, the Blue Jackets were 10-7-0, the Canucks were 10-5-2 in, and the Rangers were 9-6-2. Torts’ worst start at this point was with the Lightning in 2000-01, who were 3-13-2; this was after Steve Ludzik went 12-20-5-2 and Torts took over for him with 30-ish games left.
- Current everyday Flyers who have a positive plus-minus: Nick Seeler, Nic Deslauriers, Zack MacEwen, Lukáš Sedlák, and Noah Cates.
- Arber Xhekaj, who signed with the Canadiens this offseason after going unselected in three drafts, is tied for the lead league with 13 penalties this season and is second in minutes with 40.
*Stats via Natural Stat Trick, Hockey-Reference, and NHL.com.