Flyers-Habs Face Off to Start Round 2

Flyers-Habs Face Off to Start Round 2

Just two days after closing out a 7-game series the Caps, the Flyers take the ice again tonight with their second round opponent, the top-seeded Montreal Canadiens. No team in the history of the sport can boast the success that the Habs have had, and even though it's a new building, the 24 championships earned on Montreal ice are undoubtedly intimidating.

Their fans are insane. Like, riot gear and arson insane. Just like they did in the regular season, they will boo the hell out of Danny Briere any time he touches the puck. Why? Because he speaks French, and when he became a free agent this past summer, he didn't sign there. He's not even from Montreal; he's from Ottawa. Get over it. But I digress. (Also, Carey Price might hate him for this.)

Danny's also the hottest player on the ice in these playoffs, leading the league in playoff goals (6) and points (11). The Flyers will need him to keep it up, because Montreal is one of the best offensive teams in hockey. They're faster than the Capitals, and we saw how Washington's speed and finesse gave the Flyers fits at times, but they're also deeper. In the end, depth was one of the biggest keys to beating the Caps, but Montreal has it in spades. From a Canadiens blog, we've learned that the top two lines for tonight will be as follows:

It has been confirmed that Carbonneau will stick with
Higgins-Koivu-Kovalev line for the first game of the second round
tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. That means that the Kostitsyn
brothers will again be centered by Tomas Plekanec.

They might not be the biggest household names, but those guys can fire the puck. The Habs also have a hot goaltender in Carey Price. Don't be fooled by his age; this franchise knows how to find soon-to-be legends in goal. A fella by the name of Patrick Roy lead the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup victory in 1986, his rookie year, so maybe postseason experience isn't always as important as it's made out to be. Price was good enough this season to let Montreal send Cristobal Huet to the Caps for chump change, and he notched two shutouts in the series against Boston.

The Bruins did show that Montreal can be beat, taking them to seven games, and the Flyers are arguably a superior team to Boston. However, if they want to advance to the next round, they have to stay out of the penalty box. The Canadiens had an amazing power play unit this past season, converting on 24.2% of their opportunities to lead the NHL in that category. The Flyers were second, with 21.8% success, so Montreal will need to take it easy with the stick play as well. The Bruins managed to stifle the Habs PP unit, holding them to 3 goals on 32 man-ups, so you can bet John Stevens and the boys will be hitting the tape throughout the series.

Marty Biron was the star of the first round for the Flyers, and he's playing at the top his game. He'll need to stay there against the shooting gallery that's about to start, but that's nothing new in the playoffs, where a hot goalie can take a team all the way to glory. The Flyers lost all four games of the season series, outscored 15-6. But they don't call it the second season for nothing, and the Flyers have shown a lot of character any time they've been counted out.   

Eagles-Vikings predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Vikings predictions by our (cough) experts

The Eagles are coming off two straight losses and the slate doesn't get any easier with the 5-0 Vikings coming to town.

It also marks the return of Sam Bradford, who was traded just before Week 1, paving the way for rookie Carson Wentz to start.

The Eagles kick off against Minnesota at the Linc on Sunday at 1 p.m., so it's time for our (cough) experts' predictions for the Week 7 matchup.

Dave Zangaro (2-3)
I'll admit, this game just has a weird feel. It has the feeling like the Eagles might be able to catch the Vikings sleeping after their bye week and hand them their first loss of the season.

I was almost tempted to pick the Birds in this one.

But I'm not.

Ultimately, the Vikings are just the better team. I'm not sure how the Eagles are going to put up points against them. And I'm not convinced the Eagles' defense will be able to stop anyone after what we saw last weekend.

They keep it close, but the Birds fall to 3-3.

Vikings 20, Eagles 17

Derrick Gunn (2-3)
The good news is Minnesota's offense is ranked 30th in the league and the Vikings' run game is dead last averaging 70.6 yards per game. 

The bad news is the Vikings' defense is a monster, ranked 2nd overall and first in points allowed at 12.6.

There is not a weak link in the Vikings' D and they are fundamentally sound across the board. The Eagles' defense vows that what happened to them at Washington — allowing 230 rushing yards — won't happen again. 

Carson Wentz got roughed up by the Redskins' pass rush, and unless the Eagles' offensive line plugs the leaks, more of the same could happen this Sunday. The Birds have every reason to rebound at home, but I just don't like the overall matchup. 

Vikings 20, Eagles 13

Ray Didinger (2-3)
The Vikings aren't going undefeated. You don't go 16-0 in the NFL with a 30th ranked offense which is what the Vikings have. Yes, their defense is very good. Going back to last season they have held each of their last nine opponents to 17 points or less. They are deep, fast and well-coached by Mike Zimmer. But the offense led by Sam Bradford coughs and sputters a lot.
As a result, the Vikings will play a lot of close, low-scoring games and somewhere along the line they are going to lose. It could even happen this week when they play the Eagles. Special teams could be huge. The Eagles have a big edge with kicker Caleb Sturgis. Vikings kicker Blair Walsh has already missed three field goals and two PATs. However, the Vikings return men -- Marcus Sherels on punts, Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoffs -- are very dangerous. I expect the Eagles to keep it close but in the end I have to go with the superior defense.
Vikings 21, Eagles 16

Andrew Kulp (2-3)
Which Eagles defense shows up on Sunday? If they can limit Minnesota's anemic ground attack, which ranks dead last in the NFL, this should be a close game. Sam Bradford is playing really well, but it's not like he's airing it out all over the place.

Then it becomes a question of how Halapoulivaati Vaitai responds to a rough debut. The Vikings pass-rush is fierce, so it doesn't get any easier this week. As long as the protection gives Carson Wentz a chance, that will at least give the rookie signal-caller a shot at making a few big plays.

For some reason, I like their chances at both. It's going to be another ugly one, but the Eagles do just enough to squeak by.

Eagles 20, Vikings 19

Corey Seidman (2-3)
I foresee a low-scoring game in which the Eagles are more competitive than some might think.

But in the end, the Vikings have the personnel and the defensive-minded head coach (Mike Zimmer) to get key stops down the stretch.

Vikings 20, Eagles 16

Andy Schwartz (1-4)
You’re still reading? 

Well good for you. Much appreciated. 

Because clearly I certainly don’t know what to expect from this team. 

But let’s forget all that for the moment and look at the Bradford Bowl. 

The Vikings’ offense is hardly scary (30th in the league in yards per game behind the Rams and Niners), but their defense is (second in yards per game behind Seattle).

The Eagles’ offense is hardly scary (22nd in yards per game), and their defense (sixth in yards per game) was pretty scary a few weeks ago.

So let’s look at the intangibles. Which team needs this game more? The Eagles. And they’re at home. 

But given the outcomes the last two weeks and that Minnesota is unbeaten and coming off a bye, it certainly makes sense to pick the Vikes, who are favored by 2.5.

Then again, the Eagles not too long ago were unbeaten and coming off a bye … and we all know what happened.

So I’ll say the Birds pull off another upset and remain unbeaten at the Linc. 

Just don’t bet on it.

Eagles 6, Vikings 5