As impressive as the Flyers’ success was in winning the Eastern Conference round robin, perhaps even more attention-grabbing was Montreal’s upset of Pittsburgh.
After all, the Penguins still have much of their cast left from a pair of Stanley Cups a few years back while the Canadiens would not have even made the playoffs in a normal year.
So the Flyers know not to take the Canadiens lightly when their best-of-seven series gets underway on Wednesday, 8 p.m., at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
The Flyers outscored Boston, Washington and Tampa Bay by an 11-3 margin, allowing each of the higher-seeded just one goal apiece. Which is why Philadelphia is considered a prohibitive favorite against the “rouge, blanc et bleu.’’
The Flyers’ Claude Giroux acknowledged the Canadiens were in a tougher do-or-die situation than his team was, all the more reason not to disrespect Philadelphia’s opponent.
“Just watching the other (qualifying) games, you could see the level of intensity was maybe higher for the play-ins,’’ Giroux said during a Zoom call on Monday. “Their (Montreal’s) games against Pittsburgh were very intense.
“Maybe they will be a little bit more ready than us early on. It will be interesting to see.’’
Travis Konecny recalls the Canadiens playing the Flyers tough during three regular-season games (the Flyers went 2-1).
“They’re the underdogs,’’ Konecny said. “But they have a lot of confidence right now. It’s something we shouldn’t take lightly just because they’re the bottom seed.
“I think they are a good hockey team. Their back end is strong. . .they have a lot of big guys, tough guys to play against. And some skilled forwards up front. So by no means is this an easy task; we’re taking it very seriously. It should be a fun series.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault was asked his opinion as to why the Canadiens looked so much better against Pittsburgh than they did during the regular season.
Or maybe the regular season results were a bit misleading.
“My recollection is we had some really challenging games against Montreal,’’ he said. “They’re a good, quick team and they just beat a team that has a couple superstars (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin) and finished one point behind us.
“We’re expecting a real tough opponent, a real tough series. And we’re preparing ourselves accordingly at this time.’’
Kevin Hayes can see both sides of the debate. Yes, Montreal played in a tougher situation but the Flyers also got their game together in the round robin.
“Their (Canadiens’) games were a little more important than our games,’’ he said. “But we were the fourth seed and we jumped to the first seed. I think we took our games pretty seriously.
“They played the same team every single night and we didn’t. I don’t think it should be a problem for our group.’’
>Voracek skates but status unknown
Vigneault said Jake Voracek, who missed Saturday’s win over Tampa Bay due to “unavailable’’ status, skated on Monday but declined to offer any thoughts on his playing status for Wednesday.
Likewise Michael Raffl, who was injured in the preseason game against Pittsburgh and has not skated since.
Also, Vigneault is keeping his line combinations private and because the media can’t attend practices, those units will remain a secret until game time.
“I think everyone understands that once playoffs come, we’re a little bit more private in that matter,’’ Vigneault said.
>Hart vs. Price offers great goalie matchup
Carter Hart has said on several occasions he grew up idolizing Montreal goalie Carey Price, which is what should make this matchup so compelling.
The Flyers figured out how to beat Price in the 2010 playoffs (Eastern Conference finals) but that was a long time ago.
“He (Price) is obviously a premier goaltender in the league,’’ Vigneault said. “He gives the Canadiens a chance every game.’’
Added Giroux: “Any time you have a chance to play against somebody you looked up to, it’s always exciting. The playoffs are even better. Two good goaltenders and it should be a treat to watch.’’