Out of the eight Stanley Cup playoff series in progress, just one is all tied up. That would be the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens, who have each won one game apiece and now aim to take a series lead in a crucial Game 3 Sunday night in Toronto.
Here is a preview for Sunday night’s showdown between the Flyers and the Canadiens, along with a series recap and a free pick. Currently, the Flyers are -140 to reclaim the series lead.
The Flyers showed why they are the No. 1 seed in the East with a dominant defensive display in Game 1. Led by Carter Hart’s 27 saves, Philadelphia took the opening game of the series by a score of 2-1.
Right wing Jakub Voracek put the Flyers on the board less than midway through the first period with a power-play goal. In the second, Montreal defenseman Shea Weber scored on the power play, his third goal of the postseason, to tie the game at 1.
But the tie lasted just 16 seconds, as left wing Joel Farabee got his own rebound and buried the go-ahead goal for Philadelphia. The Flyers then held Montreal to six shots in the final period to hold on for the win.
However, the script flipped big time for Game 2. Former Vezina winner Carey Price recorded a 30-save shutout as the Canadiens cruised to a 5-0 victory. Left wing Tomas Tatar and center Jesperi Kotkaniemi each scored two goals in the game, one of each coming on the power play.
They were the first two goals from Tatar this postseason, but the third and fourth from Kotkaniemi, the third overall pick in 2018. Right wing Joel Armia scored the other goal for Montreal, his first of the postseason, that came near the end of the second period to make it 4-0.
Montreal outshot Philadelphia this time around while holding them scoreless on five power-play chances.
Keys to Victory
Philadelphia will win if: Its penalty kill improves. Out of the six goals the Canadiens have scored this series, three of them have come on the power play. Montreal made the most of its six power-play opportunities in Game 2 especially, scoring twice and burying the Flyers.
So Philadelphia will need to find a way to tighten up and keep Hart protected when it goes short-handed. The Flyers managed to be a top-10 team on the penalty kill during the regular season, while Montreal was just 22nd with the extra attacker.
Expect the solid defensemen like Ivan Provorov, Matt Niskanen, and Travis Sanheim to have to step up if the Flyers are going to take the series lead once again.
Montreal will win if: Its top scorers start producing. The Canadiens have showcased their solid depth this series, getting goals from guys like Armia and Kotkaniemi. However, their best offensive players have been largely shut down by a very good Flyers defense.
If the Canadiens are going to win Sunday night and prevail in the series, their big names will have to start producing. This includes forwards Brendan Gallagher, Max Domi, and Jonathan Drouin, as well as their 40-point defenseman Jeff Petry.
Fortunately, Philadelphia has yet to have their stars like center Sean Couturier and left wing Claude Giroux get going either, but the Canadiens will need the anchors on the top six to get going soon.
Expect a rematch in net between Hart and Price. The youngster Hart is hoping to rebound after allowing four goals in Game 2. It was the first time he allowed more than two goals since the NHL restart.
Meanwhile, Price recorded his second shutout of the postseason in Game 2, as the longtime netminder has allowed three or more goals just once since Montreal returned to action on Aug. 1.
The Flyers have the No. 1 seed in the East, while no team remaining had fewer points in the regular season than the Canadiens. But right now, Montreal is getting production from unexpected places, brilliant goaltending from Price, and is playing for head coach Claude Julien, who was hospitalized early this week.
I’m going with the upset and picking the Canadiens to build off their successful Game 2 and take a 2-1 series lead.
Pick: Canadiens +115