Flyers at Canadiens
7:30 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live at 6:30
The Flyers’ mettle will be tested this week with a stretch of five games in seven days.
That’s a lot of pucks.
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia Flyers and their rivals in the NHL from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
It starts Monday night when the Flyers (2-2-1) visit the hot-starting Montreal Canadiens (4-0-1) at the Bell Centre.
Let’s get you set with five things to know for the matchup:
1. Goals, goals, goals
There should be an abundance of them Monday night.
The Canadiens are scoring an NHL-most 4.00 goals per game while the Flyers, coming off a six-goal outburst, are third at 3.80.
Montreal has been scary good through five games. Not only are the Canadiens lighting the lamp at a league-best clip, but they’re also allowing the fewest goals per game at 1.60 a night. They have hockey’s No. 1 goal differential (plus-11) and No. 8 penalty kill, having thwarted 23 of 25 opponents' power plays (92.0 percent).
The Canadiens' offseason additions of defenseman Shea Weber and backup goalie Al Montoya have paid instant dividends. Weber, acquired in a blockbuster trade that sent P.K. Subban to the Predators, has one goal, four assists and leads all NHL blueliners with a plus-8 rating. Montoya, who filled in early for a flu-stricken Carey Price, is 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .962 save percentage. Price, the 2014-15 Hart Memorial Trophy winner (NHL MVP), looks in form after playing just 12 games last season because of a knee injury.
2. A fresher Ghost
Shayne Gostisbehere went off for three points (one goal, two assists) in the Flyers’ 6-3 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday, his biggest output of the season.
It just so happened to come in a game in which Gostisbehere registered his lowest ice time of the season at 16:45, a significant drop from his previous low of 20:57. Before the defenseman’s three-point game, Gostisbehere played an average of 23:14 over the prior three games while totaling one point and a minus-3 rating.
Is it a coincidence Gostisbehere’s best game yet was in far less ice time? Maybe, but the 23-year-old is playing the Flyers’ most minutes (21:29 per game) after undergoing offseason surgery and finishing the longest year of his hockey life.
Defensemen Mark Streit (22:45), Nick Schultz (19:44) and Brandon Manning (18:41) all played season highs in minutes on Saturday, and there’s no way that was by mistake.
If head coach Dave Hakstol can manage Gostisbehere’s ice time and not rely so heavily on the second-year blueliner, it can only help the Flyers. A more rested Gostisbehere is a better Gostisbehere — and we all know how vital the 2015-16 Calder Trophy runner-up is to the Flyers’ power-play success, as well as defensive coverage.
3. Stop and start
Speaking of defensive coverage, while the Flyers are scoring quite a bit, they’re not stopping anyone. The orange and black are surrendering 3.80 goals per game — tied for fifth most in the NHL — which is exactly what they score on average.
The Flyers can’t consistently bank on winning goal-fests.
Starting fast will be critical against the Canadiens, who close games as well as anyone. Montreal is outscoring its opposition 17-6 through the second and third periods. The Flyers have just one goal in the first period.
Facing this Habs team, it’ll be problematic if the Flyers fail to get going early.
4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Matt Read, why not? With five goals, the 30-year-old is astoundingly tied for second in the NHL with Maple Leafs phenom Auston Matthews. Last season, it took Read 29 games to score five goals. The previous season, he needed 56 games. This year, just five. Until he comes back to Earth, Read will be worth watching as much as any other Flyer.
Canadiens: The 22-year-old Alex Galchenyuk racked up career highs last season in goals (30) and points (56). To start this season, the 2012 No. 3 overall pick has a goal and four assists in five games. Young and offensive-minded, Galchenyuk has given the Flyers trouble in the past with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 11 career games against them.
5. This and that
• Steve Mason has played in the Flyers’ last four games with three starts and one relief appearance. Michal Neuvirth has not played since last Tuesday. He is 6-4-2 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 13 lifetime games against Montreal.
• Price is 11-9-0 with a 2.61 GAA and .916 save percentage in 21 career games against the Flyers.
• Jakub Voracek leads the Flyers in points with seven but is third in the NHL in penalty minutes with 24.
• The Canadiens have won three straight games by a combined score of 13-4.
• Defenseman Michael Del Zotto (knee) and forward Scott Laughton (knee) returned to practice on Sunday.