Game 32 Preview: Montréal Canadiens @ Philadelphia Flyers

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Image courtesy of AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes

After a grueling six-game road-trip, the Philadelphia Flyers return home to the Wells Fargo Center to face the Montreal Canadiens in the second night of a back-to-back.  *gulp*  Oh, and Danny Briere’s back..

 

Montreal Canadiens (19-10-3) @ Philadelphia Flyers (13-15-3), 7:00 PM EST
TV: RDS, CSN-PH, TSN-HABS

RECORDS:

Montreal Canadiens: 19-10-3
Away: 8-4-1
vs. Eastern Conference: 13-3-2
vs. Metropolitan Division: 9-1-1

Philadelphia Flyers: 13-15-3
Home: 7-7-0
vs. Eastern Conference: 10-9-2
vs. Atlantic Division: 5-5-1

GAME 32 PREVIEW, QUICK NOTES:

The Philadelphia Flyers (13-15-3) return home for the first time in nearly two weeks to face-off against the Montreal Canadiens (19-10-3).  The game will be televised locally on CSN-PH and in English and French in Canada on TSN-HABS and RDS, respectively, at 7:00 PM EST.

After tonight’s match-up, the Flyers will head off to DC for the first game of a home-and-home set on Sunday.  They’ll return to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday to face the Capitals for the second game.

Some quick notes:

  • The Flyers finished their road-trip with a record of 2-3-1 (5 points).  I said before the game in Nashville that, in my opinion, the team would need to grab 7-8 of 12 possible points for the trip to be considered a success.  Looking back, they’re lucky they even got five.  They were completely dominated against Nashville, but a late Couturier goal and stellar play by Mason (in regulation, overtime and the shootout) stole two points.  A surprisingly strong third period against Detroit secured the team’s second regulation win in a little under two weeks.  That’s uh.. not good.  Philadelphia was very close to turning that road-trip into a complete disaster.
  • Despite the team’s recent struggles (4-5-1 in their last 10), they are only 3 points out of a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division with a game in hand.  The division is just awful.  But what does that say about the Flyers when they can barely make up any ground in said division?
  • About last night’s game in Chicago:  It already seems like the doors have been blown off judging by the reaction on Twitter last night.  It’s time for a reality check.  Chicago is the one of the best teams in the league at overall and 5-on-5 possession.  They’re top-3 in goals-for percentage.  They’re top-2 in shooting percentage.  They’re top-2 in shots-for percentage.  If you think we’re currently built to compete with a team like that, you’re completely insane.  Everybody relax, put down the pitchforks.  Chicago is a ridiculously good team.
  • Everyone who watched the game probably noticed the excessive, egregious mistakes made by every defenseman not named Braydon Coburn (looking at you, Luke..).  John Saquella and I were talking last night, and he brought up a good point: almost all of the defensive breakdowns that directly led to a Chicago goal had nothing to do with the Flyers’ lack of speed on the backend.  They all seemed to be mental lapses.  Staring at the wall?  You got it.  Blown coverage in front? You got it. You can’t magically make Luke Schenn skate faster, but you might be able to make him think faster.  Mental mistakes are easier to address than physical shortcomings.  That’s not to take away from the fact that the backend was a big catalyst to a very, very embarrassing performance.
  • Danny Briere (5-5-10 in 22 games) returns to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since his buyout and eventual signing with the Canadiens.  His season has already been marred by concussions, but he’s done pretty well in the games he’s suited up for.  His overall shooting percentage is 7% higher than what it was when he was on the Flyers last year.  He’s starting in the offensive zone 14% less often than last year (Philadelphia kept him sheltered, for good reason), but he’s driving play a little bit better.  Michel Therrien’s got him as a third-line wing, which is where I’d expect him to be at this point in his career.  And you know what?  He hasn’t been a train-wreck.  It’s good to see.  Welcome back, Danny.
  • Steve Mason’s the starter tonight.  He’s got a 2.35 GAA/.926 SV% in 23 GP.  He saw a little action in the third period during last night’s “game”, but there should be no worry regarding whether or not he’s rested enough to start.  He is.
  • After a pretty abysmal start, the Philadelphia Flyers’ power play is now at 18.1%, good for 15th in the league.  Both Flyers goals last night were registered on the power play, and the team had one against Ottawa on Monday.  It’s nice to see the power play capitalizing on chances.
  • The Habs are coming off of a pretty lousy performance themselves, a 6-0 defeat at home to the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.  You can’t really put much thought into that loss, though:  The Canadiens are 8-1-1 in their last 10.  This is the second of three meetings between the two teams this season.  The Canadiens return to the Wells Fargo Center for the final match-up on January 8.

PROJECTED LINEUPS (SUBJECT TO CHANGE):

Montreal Canadiens:

Max Pacioretty (67) : David Desharnais (51) : Brendan Gallagher (11)
Alex Galchenyuk (27) : Tomas Plekanec (14) : Brian Gionta (21)
Brandon Prust (8) : Lars Eller (81) : Daniel Briere (48)
Michael Bournival (49) : Ryan White (53) : Travis Moen (32)

Andrei Markov (79) : P.K. Subban (76)
Josh Gorges (26) : Alexei Emelin (74)
Francis Bouillon (55) : Raphael Diaz (61)

Carey Price (31)
Backup: Peter Budaj (30)

Scratches:

Rene Bourque
Davis Drewiske
Douglas Murray
George Parros

Philadelphia Flyers:

Scott Hartnell (19) : Claude Giroux (28) : Jakub Voracek (93)
Michael Raffl (12) : Brayden Schenn (10) : Wayne Simmonds (17)
Steve Downie (9) : Sean Couturier (14) : Matt Read (24)
Jay Rosehill (37) : Adam Hall (18) : Zac Rinaldo (36)

Kimmo Timonen (44) : Braydon Coburn (5)
Nicklas Grossmann (8) : Mark Streit (32)
Andrej Meszaros (41) : Luke Schenn (22)

Steve Mason (35)
Backup: Ray Emery (29)

Scratches:

Hal Gill
Erik Gustafsson
Vincent Lecavalier
Chris Pronger