Ask anyone going into the 2019-20 NHL season and they’ll tell you that the Philadelphia Flyers were a fringe playoff team.
Now, here we are after one of the weirdest seasons ever and the Flyers are the top seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens, who are fresh off upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games.
Despite the two teams residing on either end of the playoff standings, the Canadiens gave the Flyers plenty of problems during their three regular-season meetings.
While the Flyers took two of three games, both game in overtime before Montreal took care of them 4-1 in their most previous meeting in January.
It’s fresh on the minds of the Flyers, who are not taking their playoff matchup with Montreal — which begins on Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET) — lightly.
Here, we take a look at how the two teams stack up on paper and who has the advantages line-by-line. But first, this is how you’ll be able to catch all the games in this best-of-seven series:
Flyers vs. Canadiens First Round Schedule
- Game 1: Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports
- Game 2: Friday, Aug. 14, 3 p.m., NBC Sports
- Game 3: Sunday, Aug. 16, 8 p.m., NBC
- Game 4: Tuesday, Aug. 18, 3 p.m., NBC Sports
- Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, Aug. 19, TBD
- Game 6 (if necessary): Friday, Aug. 21, TBD
- Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, Aug. 23, TBD
Flyers vs. Canadiens line comparisons, advantages
Flyers 1st Line
- LW- Claude Giroux: 21 goals, 32 assists, 53 points
- C- Sean Couturier: 22 G, 37 A, 59 pts.
- RW- Jakub Voracek (game-time decision): 12 G, 44 A, 56 pts.
Canadiens 1st Line
- LW- Tomas Tatar- 22 G, 39 A, 61 pts.
- C- Nick Suzuki- 13 G, 28 A, 41 pts.
- RW- Brendan Gallagher- 22 G, 21 A, 43 pts.
The Flyers have one of the best playmaking lines in all of hockey, which will be the engine of Philadelphia’s offense.
Flyers 2nd Line
- LW- Scott Laughton: 13 G, 14 A, 27 pts.
- C- Kevin Hayes: 23 G, 18 A, 41 pts.
- RW- Travis Konecny: 24 G, 37 A, 61 pts.
Canadiens 2nd Line
- LW- Jonathan Drouin: 7 G, 8 A, 15 pts. (27 games)
- C- Jesperi Kotkaniemi: 6 G, 2 A, 8 pts. (36 games)
- RW- Joel Armia: 16 G, 14 A, 30 pts.
Drouin and Kotkaniemi continue to have high ceilings and some lofty expectations, but the Flyers’ combination of Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny gives them such scoring depth in their lineup.
Flyers 3rd Line
- LW- James Van Riemsdyk: 19 G, 21 A, 40 pts.
- C- Derek Grant: 1 G, 4 A, 5 pts. (7 games)
- RW- Joel Farabee: 8 G, 13 A, 21 pts.
Canadiens 3rd Line
- LW- Artturi Lehkonen: 13 G, 14 A, 27 pts.
- C- Phillip Danault: 13 G, 34 A, 47 pts.
- RW- Paul Byron: 4 G, 6 A, 10 pts. (29 games)
Farabee has the makings of being a top-line scorer as his NHL development continues and James Van Riemsdyk gives the third line an important veteran presence. It’s close between these two lines, especially because the Habs can brig some more physicality into the matchup.
Flyers 4th Line
- LW- Connor Bunnaman: 1 G, 1 A, 2 pts. (21 games)
- C- Nate Thompson- 0 G, 1 A, 1 pt. (7 games)
- RW- Nicolas Aube-Kubel: 7 G, 8 A, 15 pts.
Canadiens 4th Line
- LW- Dale Weise: 1 G, 4 A, 5 pts. (23 games)
- C- Max Domi: 17 G, 27 A, 44 pts.
- RW- Alex Belzile: N/A
Whenever you have a center that can play in the top six like Max Domi, your fourth line is in good shape. The Canadiens can play the role of agitator and playmaker here better than the Flyers.
Ivan Provarov – Matt Niskanen
Philippe Myers – Travis Sanheim
Shayne Gostisbehere – Justin Braun
Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber
Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry
Xavier Ouelette – Victor Mete
Again, this is not by much, but what puts the Flyers over the top is that they have a more consistent trio of pairings. Niskanen and Provarov have played like top-20 blueliners this season while Myers has quickly developed into a bona fide second-pairing d-man. It says just how deep the defense is when a guy like Gostisbehere is now on the third pairing.
For Montreal, Brett Kulak and Jeff Petry are one of the best second pairings in the league — and it doesn’t need to be said just how good Chiarot has been with Weber. But the Canadiens’ third pairing of Ouelette and Mete could be a liability this series.
Carter Hart: 24-13-3, 2.42 GAA, .914 SV%
Carey Price: 27-25-6, 2.79 GAA, .909 SV%
Hart has been superb down the stretch for Philly, but when it comes to playoff hockey, it’s hard to go against experience and one of the greatest goalies of this generation. Price is just that, boasting a Vezina Trophy, Hart Trophy, and 64 games worth of playoff experience
Prediction: Flyers in 7