An old rivalry is revived. The Broadstreet Bullies against the Flying Frenchmen. The City of Brotherly Love against the Capital of Poutine. Bernard Parent against Ken Dryden. Bobby Clarke against Guy Lafleur. André ‘Moose’ Dupont against Larry ‘Big Bird’ Robinson. Intimidation against speed and finesse. Only this time, we’re talking about two teams much more similar is style and stature, meeting for the coveted COVID Cup.
While the 70’s rivalry is well behind us, there will still be a few interesting stories to watch for in this series.
Perhaps the most interesting story of this renewed rivalry will be at the coaching level. Two former Montreal Canadiens head coaches are running the show in Philly. Alain Vigneault has coached the Canadiens from 1997 to 2000 while his current assistant-coach with the Flyers, Michel Therrien, took over from him from 2001 to 2003, before returning to coaching the Habs from 2012 to 2017. Amongst them, they coached Montreal for 788 regular season games, counting 375 of the franchise’s wins. Julien is also in his second stint with the organisation and has been Montreal’s bench boss for 418 regular season games with just short of 200 wins. Combined, the three men account for over 1,200 games and 567 wins for the Montreal Canadiens.
French Canadians Influence
We know how French Canadian players like to be a pain in the butt of the Habs and the Flyers count two players on their roster, both of whom capable to stick it to their home province team. While they won’t be able to perform at the Bell Centre in front of their friends and family, Sean Couturier and Nicolas Aube-Kubel will be on a mission to be a torn on the side for les Habitants. Couturier is one of the three finalists for the 2019-20 Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward. Many in the hockey world, particularly in Montreal, feel like Phillip Danault should have been a finalist as well, but Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly beat him in the votes.
Seeing that his team wasn’t going to make the playoffs, Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin unloaded his pending UFAs at trade deadline. When doing so, he sent a very popular player in the Habs’ dressing room to Philly. Nate Thompson, who was often nicknamed ‘Uncle Nate‘ by the younger players on the team, was great for the dressing room. The veteran centre has gone through some challenging times in his personal life and he found a home in Montreal since coming over in a trade from Los Angeles. How can we forget the ‘Shimmy‘?
Hart Wearing Price PJ’s
The Flyers’ young goaltender Carter Hart grew up idolizing Carey Price and will get to face him for the first time in a playoffs’ series. He has played one regular season game against him and felt ‘starstruck’ that game.
Hart is a good young goaltender with tons of potential and he’s just coming into his own. Many around the league see some similarities between him and his childhood idol, including former Habs’ Nate Thompson. I’ve been watching him for some time and here are my ‘not so expert’ notes on him.
Youppi! vs his cousin on meth, Gritty
The Canadiens’ mascot – and former Montreal Expos’ mascot – Youppi! recently became the very first NHL mascot to be inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame. The Flyers will be able to count on one of the league’s most popular mascots in their corner in Gritty, so the battle should be tight between the two!
I will spare you all the regular numbers and matchups out there, as every other blogger and sports journalist will be inundating you with that. Can the Canadiens cause yet another upset by eliminating the Flyers? I believe that they have it in them. But they are no match to the Flyers’ depth so in order to do so, they will have to remain relatively healthy. Go Habs Go!