Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens: Round 1, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens NHL Playoffs Round 1
Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens

It was certainly a grip-and-hold situation for the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 against the Montreal Canadiens. The Flyers took the lead just 28 seconds into the game and doubled it before the contest was six minutes old. From then onwards, it was Montreal who dominated the play, but a weird bounce off a defenseman gave the Flyers the goal that ultimately proved decisive. Montreal held a 33-17 shot advantage and had 21 other chances rebuked by the Philadelphia defense before it reached Carter Hart, how made 31 saves in the victory.

Philadelphia Flyers win 4-2

The Montreal Canadiens did all they could to push the Philadelphia Flyers, but those consecutive shutouts in Games 3 and 4 proved to be decisive. Montreal looked far more dangerous than Philadelphia in the final two games of the series, but it was the Flyers who finished their few chances to finish off the elimination. It was a season to build on for the Canadiens, who weren’t going to be in the playoffs without the pandemic, and one they can use to crystal a good team around its young core. Philadelphia now has to lick its wounds and get ready to face the Islanders, arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference since the season resumed in Toronto.

Game 1

August 12th, 8 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

The NHL playoffs are finally officially underway as the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers battle the 12th-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The season series between these two teams was hard-fought with Philadelphia winning twice in overtime and Montreal grinding out one victory in January.

This should be a battle of the goaltenders with the Flyers’ Carter Hart and the Canadiens’ Carey Price both coming off strong performances in the early games in the bubble. Hart started two games and stopped 57 of the 59 shots he saw, while Price had a .947 save percentage in four games against the Penguins. Even though Price pitched the shutout in the decisive Game 4 against Pittsburgh, it was Montreal’s defense that limited the Penguins to just 22 shots. Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s defense shut down three of the highest-scoring teams in the league during the round-robin round.

What differentiates these teams is the offense and scoring potential. Philadelphia scored 11 goals in three games against the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and Montreal scored 10 times in four games against defensively-shaky Pittsburgh. The Flyers had eight different goal scorers and 15 players with points in the three games, led by three goals and two assists from a surprising source in Scott Laughton. The Canadiens have limited scoring depth, which could be a problem if Philadelphia scores early like it did in its last two games.

The Flyers are heavy favorites to win the series on the NHL betting sites in New Jersey and were listed at -240 to advance to the next round. Yet this feels like a series that will take six games to decide, which can increase the payout on the bet to +400 if the Flyers do in fact wrap it up in six.

Montreal will need to get a strong start in this series if it has any chance of advancing to the next round. However, it’s hard Philadelphia brings a defensive strength that Pittsburgh didn’t have, which could present the Canadiens with some issues. Ultimately, I’d pick the Flyers to win the first game Wednesday in regulation at -103 odds.

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Game 2 (Philadelphia Flyers lead 1-0)

August 14th, 3:00 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

The Philadelphia Flyers took advantage of a poor clearance from the Montreal Canadiens to score what would ultimately be the deciding goal of Game 1 in the second period. Those are the little plays that will matter in this NHL playoffs series with both teams playing as well as they are defensively. Both Montreal’s Carey Price and Philadelphia’s Carter Hart were equal to the challenge in goal as well with Price stopping 29 shots and Hart stopping 27.

Montreal took advantage of the one power it had, but it was lucky Philadelphia only scored once on its three power-play opportunities. Special teams is always an important part of a series, but it’s even more important when scoring is at a premium like it is in this series. The Canadiens will need to be more disciplined if they want to prolong this series or the Flyers will dispatch of them quickly.

The defensive nature of this series does open up plenty of interesting betting possibilities at the NHL betting sites in New Jersey. The standard over/under for goals is set at 5, and you can easily bet the under for +102 and score big in this series. There aren’t going to be 4-3 type games in this series because Montreal doesn’t have the offensive firepower to crack through Philadelphia for that many goals. These will continue to be tight-checking, low-scoring affairs.

Philadelphia is once again a favorite in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series on Friday at -165 odds. I’d love to say the Flyers will get it done in regulation to get the extra odds boost up to +104, but it’s safer to bet them just to win the game. Montreal has the defensive structure to make life difficult for Philadelphia, and that just might mean more overtime in the Toronto bubble.

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Game 3 (Series tied 1-1)

August 16th, 8:00 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

There definitely was a buzz around the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night, likely due to the added motivation of playing for their coach, Claude Julien, who will likely miss the rest of this NHL playoffs series after having a stent put in his coronary artery after Game 1.  Montreal scored twice in the first period to assert control, added two more in the second to effectively seal the game then added one more in the third to complete its destruction of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Realistically, it’s unlikely the Canadiens can continue with this offensive surge, but it was an important change in dynamic that they never showed against Pittsburgh. Montreal sent 32 shots on the Philadelphia goal and had 25 other attempts blocked by the Flyers defense. It scored twice on the power play, marking the second consecutive game the Canadiens capitalized on the man advantage. Carey Price made an even 30 saves for his second shutout of the playoffs.

Philadelphia can easily write off this game as an anomaly, its worst effort of the first five games in Toronto. But there are some concerns for the Flyers, who still aren’t getting production from their top players and couldn’t score on five power-play opportunities. Perhaps the loss will be a wake-up call for the Flyers to re-focus them in this series, but it could also be a sign that Philadelphia is facing a more difficult series than maybe it anticipated.

It will certainly be a fascinating Game 3 on Sunday between these two teams, and the pressure is on Philadelphia to respond to Montreal’s push. The Flyers are well-equipped to handle what the Canadiens are doing, but Montreal is playing with a different purpose right now. Price is confident in goal, his teammates are playing their best hockey of the season, and I think it continues Sunday as Montreal pulls off the upset at +123 odds at the NHL betting sites in New Jersey.

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Game 4 (Philadelphia Flyers lead 2-1)

August 18th, 3:00 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

Carter Hart deserved the shutout he pitched Sunday in Game 3 for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Montreal Canadiens. He didn’t face many shots – only 23 – but he made several big-time saves to preserve the 1-0 lead the Flyers were clinging to the entire game. That lead came courtesy of a Jakub Voracek deflection early in the first period, and Carey Price didn’t have much else work to do for the Canadiens the rest of the way.

Philadelphia excellent defensively Sunday in limiting the Canadiens to just 23 shots on goal by blocking 24 other attempts. But the Flyers were once again dismal on offense against Montreal’s defensive structure. They only had 20 shots, Montreal only had to block 10 other attempts, and Philadelphia only had three shots on six power plays in the game. Yes, the NHL playoffs are about goaltending and defense, but you also need to show a pulse on offense, and right now, the Flyers are weak with the puck on their stick in the offensive zone.

Montreal has to be feeling good about its chances in this series, though, despite losing two of the first three games. The Canadiens have effectively shut down Philadelphia’s offense the past two games and have combined to attempt 104 shots on goal over the past two games, only 55 of which have actually made it to Hart in goal. Montreal isn’t known for its offense, so if it can continue to control possession and create chances for itself, good things are bound to happen for the Canadiens around the goal.

It makes sense that the NHL betting sites in New Jersey have made the Flyers the favorite because they have won five of their six games in the bubble. But this series is being played at Montreal’s pace and style, which is very problematic for Philadelphia. The Canadiens might have only put 23 shots on Hart, but they had 24 attempts blocked before they reached the goalie. Montreal looks like the more dangerous offensive team at the moment, and that is why I’m picking them to even the series Tuesday in regulation at +185 odds.

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Game 5 (Philadelphia Flyers lead 3-1)

August 19th, 8 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

For the second straight game, Carter Hart played out of his mind to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a win over the Montreal Canadiens. Unlike in Game 3 when the Flyers defense gave Hart some help with blocked shots and physical play, it was Montreal who dominated the game physically and didn’t let Philadelphia block many attempts. Hart had to make 29 saves for his second NHL playoffs shutout and he was on top of his game to keep the Flyers in the lead.

Philadelphia has a major scoring issue all of a sudden, but Hart has done enough to cover up the problem. The Flyers have scored just five goals in four games and they’ve been outshot in three of the four games in the series. Their best scorers have been very quiet in this series and it’s been a very defensive-oriented effort. Philadelphia could easily be losing this series if not for Hart’s outstanding play.

Montreal played a more physical game in Game 4 by out-hitting Philadelphia 37-26 in the contest, and that seemed to work well for the Canadiens. Yet the lack of an offense is still a massive issue for Montreal, which has scored just once in the three games it’s lost while only conceding five goals. The Canadiens need to find scoring quickly, but no one seems to be stepping up and finishing shots, and that is going to cost them the series.

There is a large part of me that believes Montreal should win Game 5 after being the better team in two straight games and being shut out in consecutive games. There is a larger part that understands the Canadiens squandered two chances to take control of this series and Philadelphia will be eager to close out the round Wednesday. It is the latter thinking that convinces me that Philadelphia will win, but the NHL betting sites in New Jersey will make the Flyers the favorite, so I’m staying away from betting on them.

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Game 6 (Philadelphia Flyers lead 3-2)

August 21st, 7 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

The third period was a microcosm of what we can expect for the next 60 (or maybe more) minutes of hockey in this series. The two teams have clearly built up a healthy hatred of each other and it boiled over in a big way with several brawls forming in the last 10 minutes of Wednesday’s Game 5. The desperation from the Montreal Canadiens mixed with the frustration of Philadelphia Flyers to ratchet up the emotions in this series, and create the atmosphere of the NHL playoffs. Once Montreal got rolling early in the game Wednesday, Philadelphia had a hard time stopping the Canadiens by its own free will.

It was a bad start for Montreal to take a penalty so early in the game, but the Canadiens scored shorthanded within the first three minutes, and that set the tone for Game 5. Montreal welcomed the physicality with a 39-28 advantage in hits and seemed to bully the Flyers off the puck at times. Most importantly, the Canadiens found a way to break through Carter Hart early and often, which changes the dynamic of this series. The Canadiens missed bodies with their shots, forcing Hart to make saves as opposed to his defensemen altering shots.

Philadelphia’s offensive explosion is this game is a bit misleading because the Flyers scored all three of their goals on the power play, including two on a five-minute major in the second period. The Flyers had just 16 of their 29 shots in the game at even strength and didn’t look strong skating five-on-five against a hungry Canadiens team. Philadelphia also allowed that early shorthanded goal that gave Montreal the confidence it needed to survive another day and potentially make this series interesting again.

Montreal understands now that it can’t get into a battle of defensive structures with Philadelphia and it needs to chase the game more to have success. Philadelphia had success in this series by keeping the offense to a minimum and grinding out victories, but the Canadiens forced the issue Wednesday and the Flyers couldn’t keep up. The Flyers need to match the Canadiens’ desperation and intensity Friday, and I’m not sure they can at the moment. Yes, the emotions will run hot for Game 6, but I still don’t trust the Flyers to be able to do much damage offensively at even strength. So despite the fact they are underdogs according to the NHL betting sites in New Jersey, I’m picking the Canadiens to force a Game 7 with a regulation victory at +170 odds.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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