Flyers vs. Canadiens First Round preview: Matchups, breakdowns, more

Philadelphia Flyers left wing James van Riemsdyk (25) and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Brett Kulak (77) battle for position in front of Montreal goaltender Carey Price (31) during the second period at Wells Fargo Center.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Advantage: Flyers

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.

Advantage: Flyers

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)

Advantage: Flyers

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

Advantage: Canadiens

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.

 

Flyers defense

Ivan Provarov – Matt Niskanen

Philippe Myers – Travis Sanheim

Shayne Gostisbehere – Justin Braun

 

Canadiens defense

Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber

Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry

Xavier Ouelette – Victor Mete

Advantage: Flyers

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. 

 

Flyers goaltending

Carter Hart: 24-13-3, 2.42 GAA, .914 SV%

Canadiens goaltending

Carey Price: 27-25-6, 2.79 GAA, .909 SV%

Advantage: Canadiens

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

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