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.