Ever since the Flyers have existed, they have been the enemy of the Montreal Canadiens. The city that was once home to some of the greatest intellectuals the world has seen now has a hockey team that leaves intellectuals cold.
If Montreal builds hockey teams that inspire poetry (maybe not lately), then Philly has always been a tabloid team. The two philosophies may never be reconciled, but when they intersect, it is always interesting. So tonight.
Montreal goalie vs. Philadelphia shots
No matter the record, the momentum, two of the last three playoff exits happened because Montreal goalies went stone cold when facing Philadelphia shots. Some might dismiss this as simple coincidence, as luck catching up with people. I wonder as Philly locks up another sharpshooting duo, whether it's so simple.
Plekanec vs. Pronger
Plekanec is the best player on the Canadiens. Pronger (given the right refereeing) is the best at his trade. Last playoffs, Plekanec was not his regular season self under the stifling Philly blanket. This game is a chance to prove either a) he has learned from that, or b) refereeing is critical to how this match-up goes.
Picard and Mike Richards
Throwing Picard out against most teams' third lines is a relatively safe bet. You get the match up, you can limit his exposure to true skill. Philly has depth with Carter, Briere and Richards down the middle to go with Giroux (11 goals), Leino, Hartnell, Zherdev and van Riemsdyk. I'm only going by message board lines for Richards, but any third line pair from those 8 poses a challenge.
Price vs. Bobrovsky
The NHL first star of the week and the NHL rookie of the year to date. As Montreal revels in their goaltending choice, Philly may at long last finally be revelling in a good decision at the back end. Bobrovsky brings in a 2.01 and 0.930 in 14 games , so this should be a match-up of two of the hottest so far this year.
Montreal had something very good building until that crushing knee collision. With Markov firing, this team was quietly and not so quietly dominating games. Philly has their own, of course. They haven't lost in November (fully) and have scared the league with their out-of-town scoreboard updates. It's two hot teams, tow hot goalies, but only one having to deal with the loss of a keystone player. Advantage Philly on momentum.
Flyers the Habs covet
If Pierre Gauthier could have his scouts redo one pick in his tenure, it might be this one. Kostitsyn vs. Carter or Richards, well at least Kostitsyn plays. Mr. High School Hockey vs. Franco-Ontarian QMJHL scoring star, now that's a flub. His 11 goals lead one of the most solid teams in the NHL. Fischer plays for the Florida Everblades...
The Canadiens have thrown around second round picks like it's nobody's business recently, but they have never made one into a defender like Meszaros. Meszaros is expensive, but he has potential and youth. After this season when Hamrlik, Gill and others depart, starting a stable with someone like Meszaros beside Subban would feel better than say Mathieu Carle.
Habs the Flyers covet
The Flyers have names on D, but if they have a weakness it may be there lack of quiet (and cheaper) efficiency. Josh Gorges is what they need to complement their big D.
Bobrovsky or not, the Flyers could use Price. He's more seasoned than the rookie Russian (as they look to contend now) and it wouldn't hurt his skills to practice against the shooters he has most trouble with.
Impact of this result
Both teams at this point will shrug off a loss quite easily. Both teams are just about due. The value of winning in Montreal may be greater due to the playoff hangover and the feeling that the Habs have won against the lesser crowd so far (I don't agree with the latter). The impact of a win for Philly may be the firming up of an Achilles heel for the Montrealers, depending on the result.