Flyers hope to catch slumping Canadiens at right time

Ivan Provorov

Because each game for the Flyers now is like the final countdown by NASA at Cape Kennedy, the No. 10 is getting extreme scrutiny because it belongs to the Montreal Canadiens.

The Flyers have only 10 games left to make up a six-point deficit in the Eastern Conference wild card standings and one of the teams above them, Les Habitants, visits Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

Maybe the Flyers are catching their northern rivals at the right time because the Canadiens are looking tired and they are slumping.

In fact, according to esteemed Montreal Gazette beat man Pat Hickey, the Canadiens have looked lethargic since the NHL All-Star break way back in January.

Starting in early February, the Canadiens were in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Coming out of weekend action, they are ninth and are three points out of the second wild-card spot. They have a 9-10-2 record since the break and have gone 4-7-0 in their last 11 starts.

Montreal coach Claude Julien says there are two things to explain the recent skid.

One, some players might be feeling the pressure of trying to turn things around. And two, the Canadiens are giving effort but “the only thing missing is for our game to be at its best and it’s just not there right now.’’

The Flyers would like to get a little revenge for the 5-1 licking they took the last time they played the Canadiens, which was up in Montreal back on Feb. 21.

At the front of that line for redemption is rookie goalie Carter Hart, who was lit up pretty good in that loss, possibly because he suffered an ankle injury in pre-game warm-ups that ended up costing him three weeks.

Hart is coming off perhaps his best game of the season in Sunday night’s thrilling 2-1 overtime win in Pittsburgh.

The Flyers got a tying goal from James van Riemsdyk with 18.8 seconds to play, then the winning goal from Sean Couturier with 3.4 seconds to play.

That win, combined with the Flyers’ OT win over the Penguins in the Feb. 23 Stadium Series game at Lincoln Financial Field, made the Flyers the first team in NHL history to score a tying goal against the same team twice in the same season with less than 30 seconds to play and go on to win both of them.

>Quenneville: No hurry to return to coaching

This next item would not be much of a big deal in the Philadelphia area if not for rumors practically every day that Joel Quenneville could be the next coach of the Flyers.

Take what you want from his comments in a story by writer Tracey Myers, telling people he’s not sitting by the telephone and waiting for it to ring after he was dismissed back in the fall despite winning three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks in this decade.

“No hurry right now,” Quenneville told WGN-TV (Chicago) on Sunday during the St. Patrick’s Day Blackhawk Alumni Charity Classic in Willowbrook, Ill., about 25 miles southwest of Chicago. “We’ll see how things transpire in the offseason. We’ll have to think about it. And we’ll see.’’

If it sounds like Quenneville is hedging his bets, he probably is. No doubt he’s on Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher’s radar screen and why wouldn’t he be? He’s by far the best potential candidate out there, short of dragging Scotty Bowman out of retirement.

The 60-year-old Quenneville has 890 victories, second all-time to  Bowman (1,244). Quenneville led the Blackhawks to Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

Would he move East after so many years in the Western Conference? Stay tuned.

>Frequent driving miles

Justin Bailey has been shuttling back and forth between the Flyers and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms so often he probably knows every billboard on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Northeast Extension.

But for a guy like Bailey, it’s not such a bad thing. He’s seeing some NHL action and for a journeyman, it might open the door to other opportunities. His career was kind of stalled in Buffalo.

In the past 13 days, he’s been called up three times and sent back three times, including a trip to Allentown on Monday.

The guy never complains, perhaps because the Flyers use a car service to cover the 90-mile commute. “Hey, limo driver, let’s pull over at the next exit and hit the diner.’’

>Provorov’s season saver

You know, the Flyers could very well have seen their season go up in smoke if not for Ivan Provorov’s brilliant dive play to prevent Pittsburgh’s Nick Bjugstand from hitting an empty net with 1:15 to play in Sunday night’s game.

Provorov’s great effort kept the score 1-0 and allowed the Flyers to go on to a crucial win.

Afterward, Provorov joked that the extra effort was a product of last summer’s conditioning program.

“He saved the game,’’ Gordon said.

Provorov timed his lunge perfectly and figured the outcome would be a positive one.

“I had no doubt in my mind,” Provorov said. “At that point, you’re giving everything you have and for the team a lot of guys did that.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2452 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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