The Montreal Canadiens visit the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Mar. 18, in one of the most important games of the season for both teams. Ranked ninth and tenth, respectively, in the Eastern Conference, a win on Tuesday for either team would be a huge boost to their playoffs hopes.
Here’s what you need to know about the Habs vs. Flyers matchup:
The Montreal Canadiens spent most of the 2018-19 season exceeding expectations in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season. Thanks to head coach Claude Julien’s system and a record-breaking campaign from goaltender Carey Price, the Habs were in a playoff spot for much of it. In recent weeks, however, the wheels have come off.
No matter how hard Price tries to carry the team on his shoulders, the Canadiens are flailing. A lack of offense coupled with a porous defense and questionable coaching decisions have the Habs 4-6-0 in their last ten games and coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders last week and a worrisome 2-0 shutout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, a game they needed to win. A once healthy goals-for differential has dropped to zero.
Now, with 81 points and ten games remaining, the Habs rank ninth in the East and their playoff hopes are dwindling by the day. They will be tested this week with a rematch against the Islanders on Thursday and visit from the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday before they visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, the team just ahead of them in the standings. It won’t be easy but they can’t afford a string of losses.
The Flyers are moving in the opposite direction from the Canadiens. After spending time in the Conference basement this season, they have found their stride thanks to some solid goaltending from rookie Carter Hart. With that, they have somehow propelled themselves to within reach of a postseason berth.
The Flyers are 6-3-1 in their last ten games and are coming off a hard-fought 2-1 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. They also somehow managed to score 6 goals against the offensively gifted Toronto Maple Leafs in Friday’s 7-6 losing effort.
Also with ten games remaining, the Flyers are three points behind the Canadiens and six points behind the Hurricanes who hold the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, making Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens crucial if they are pushing for a return to the playoffs.
After their four-point game against the Habs, the Flyers visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday before gruelling back-to-back contests against the Islanders at Wells Fargo on Saturday and the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Sunday.
Canadiens vs. Flyers
This is the third and final meeting between the Eastern Conference rivals, all played in 2019. With a tied series, each team scored five goals in their winning effort with the Flyers taking the first matchup 5-2 at the Bell Centre on Jan. 19 and the Habs taking the February rematch, also in Montreal, 5-1.
With their seasons on the line, expect this game to be a low scoring goaltending battle with Hart facing off against the now legendary Price. Both teams will try to avoid mistakes at all costs. It may not be the most exciting game of the season but it’s the one that counts the most.