Playoff hockey is always more fun when it’s contested against an old, contentious rival.
And when you’re talking about historical feuds, they don’t get much better than the Philadelphia Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens.
When they meet again in this week’s Stanley Cup playoffs, it will mark the seventh time they’ve faced off against each other in postseason action.
After 47 years, the matchup stands dead even at 3-3.
Each side has claimed emotional victories – the Flyers in 1987 after the infamous Brawl in Montreal and again in 2010, when they somehow found a way to solve the wizardry of goaltender Carey Price in the Eastern Conference finals.
Canadiens fans would point out their team swept the Flyers in the 1976 Stanley Cup Finals, thus denying Philadelphia’s Broad Street Bullies a chance at a three-peat.
There was also that nasty 1989 Eastern Conference finals series when Montreal defenseman Chris Chelios knocked Brian Propp unconscious with a questionable check, culminating with Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall going after Chelios as the series was about to end in a Flyers defeat.
Throw in the fact Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault began his NHL coaching career with the Habs and you have all the makings of must-watch TV (which is all you can do during the pandemic).
Flyers goaltender Carter Hart grew up idolizing Price and now he gets to play against his hero. How cool is that?
“Definitely really cool,’’ Hart said via Zoom call after the Flyers knocked off the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-1, to secure top seed in the East and the chance to play low seed Montreal. “He was my favorite goalie growing up.’’
Hart turns 22 this week. This is only his second year in the NHL so it wouldn’t be surprising if he sought advice from his goalie inspiration.
“I just had the chance to meet him the other week and talk with him for the first time,’’ Hart said. “That was something pretty cool. For your first playoff series, playing against Carey Price will definitely be a lot of fun. I look forward to it. He’s obviously a really good goalie and they got some really good players on their team. We’ll just prepare and be ready.’’
The Canadiens were not expected to even be in the playoffs. They finished the regular season out of a playoff spot but thanks to a revised 24-team format got in and surprised a lot of people by upsetting the touted Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in the best-of-five qualifier.
Montreal doesn’t have a star-studded lineup.
They have future Hall of Famer Shea Weber on defense and a bunch of quick, skilled forwards like Thomas Tartar, Phillip Danaault, Max Domi and Brendan Gallagher.
Price, of course, also will be in the Hall of Fame someday.
The Flyers were 2-1 against Montreal this season.
Back on Nov. 17, the Flyers won 3-2 at the Wells Fargo Center with Phil Myers, James van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier scoring. The power play went 0 for 6. Hart was in goal for that one.
The Flyers won 4-3 in Montreal on Nov. 30. The game was noteworthy because one of the Flyer goals was scored by Oskar Lindblom, his last goal before he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in mid-December.
The Canadiens’ only win came on Jan. 16 in Philadelphia (4-1). Joel Farabee scored the only goal for the Flyers. Alex Lyon was in goal for the Flyers.
In the alltime series, Montreal is just one of two teams to hold an edge over the Flyers (minimum of 50 games). Philadelphia is 79-83-30-7 vs. the Canadiens.
Vigneault began his NHL career in Montreal. In three seasons, Vigneault compiled a record of 104-105-33-4. His teams made the playoffs only one time in those three campaigns.