Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault no doubt is aware of the pedigree of Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens goaltender his team will be facing in a first-round playoff series beginning Wednesday.
Price, after all, has won the Hart and Vezina trophies, and last week the 32-year-old seemingly found a fountain of youth and served as a key to Montreal ousting Pittsburgh in the qualifying round, including shutting out the Penguins over the final 94 minutes of the four-game series.
That doesn’t mean Vigneault wants to continue to hear about how right Price is.
“I really believe everything’s been said about Price,” the Flyers coach said. “Obviously a premier goaltender in the league. Gives the Canadiens a chance every game. So I’m not sure there’s much more I can add to where he is, how well he plays and what he does for that team.”
Vigneault was more open to talking about his counterpart for this series, Montreal coach Claude Julien. The two French-Canadians played together in the minor leagues for the Salt Lake Golden Eagles in the early 1980s and remain friends.
“There’s a deep bond, a deep respect,” Vigneault said. “But at the end of the day at this time, there’s no friends in coaching.”
The Flyers-Canadiens matchup has some similarities to that Canadiens-Penguins series. That is, it looks like a mismatch, even though mismatches can be deceiving.
The Flyers earned the top seed entering the Eastern Conference first round in Toronto by winning all three of their round-robin games. Montreal was the 12th and last seed in the East and upset the fifth-seeded Penguins in the qualifying round.
Pulling off a second straight upset will be even tougher, Julien said.
“We have to prepare to play, in my estimation, the best team in the Eastern Conference right now by their play,” he said. “I’ve seen them … and they’ve played extremely well. They’re solid, and they’re confident.”
The Flyers also could be getting winger Jakub Voracek back after he missed the final round-robin game, against Tampa Bay, because of an undisclosed injury.
Some of Philadelphia’s offensive mainstays could use a breakout game. Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny had no goals among them in the round-robin games.
That was partly masked by the play of goaltender Carter Hart, whose 2.42 goals-against average ranked eighth during the season and who gave up two goals total in two round-robin starts.
While Montreal undoubtedly will need Price to remain steady, the Canadiens also could use offense from its top line of Tomas Tatar, who was their leading scorer during the season, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher. Tatar had no points against Pittsburgh.
“Our job was to play against (Sidney Crosby’s top) line,” Tatar said. “I think overall the whole team did very well, and that’s why we advanced. We’re playing all together, all in one boat. I think if everybody will sacrifice like we did (against the Penguins) we have a chance to go to the next round, too.
“I think I had my chances. I was just a little unfortunate not to put the puck in.”
As effective as the goaltending has been, the power play for both teams has been sputtering. Montreal was 0 for 12 against Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia was 0 for 11 in its three round-robin games.
“Definitely, our execution was off,” Vigneault said of the Flyers’ power play.
–Field Level Media