There were many descriptions about the amusing way the Flyers’ 6-5 shootout win over Boston ended on Jan. 13, the last time the teams met.
The Muted Breakaway.
All followed one of the most bizarre finishes in NHL history: The Flyers clinched the win when Boston’s Brad Marchand, inexplicably, overskated the puck after gently touching it but leaving it at center ice as he was trying to score in his shootout attempt.
It will be difficult to match that stunning finish when the teams play again Tuesday night at the suddenly electric Wells Fargo Center, where the Flyers will aim for their 10th straight win, which would vault them past Washington and into first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Boston (43-14-12), coming off Saturday’s 5-3 loss to visiting Tampa Bay, leads the NHL with 98 points but has lost in a shootout in both its games against the Flyers (40-20-7) this season.
“We have the best team in the NHL coming into our building,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said after practice Monday at the Wells Fargo. “They just played a real emotional game against Tampa at home. I’ve been watching highlights of the game. They’re the best in the league, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. They’re good in all aspects. They have no weaknesses.”
Defenseman Ivan Provorov also praised the Bruins.
“They’re very well-rounded. They play hard,” Provorov said. “They play a skilled game. They forecheck well. They check well. But we have to focus on our game. For most of the games, when we came out with the right mentality and played the right way and got going right away, we were able to dominate and win games.”
The Flyers have some of the Bruins’ characteristics, Provorov said.
“Definitely some similarities,” he said. “Hard on the forecheck, tenacious on pucks. It’s going to be a good game, and whoever wants it more is going to win.”
The Bruins “have a deep team like we do,” defenseman Justin Braun said. “You can’t have guys taking nights off. They have a [dangerous] top line that’s always going. You have to know when that top line is on the ice or they’ll make you pay.”
Boston’s top line has Patrice Bergeron (30 goals) centering Marchand (86 points) and David Pastrnak, who has a league-high 48 goals.
The Flyers have more balance and have 10 double-figure goal scorers compared with the Bruins’ six.
In one of the game’s subplots, Sean Couturier will probably be matched a lot against Bergeron. Both are strong contenders for the Selke Trophy, given to the league’s best defensive forward. Bergeron is a four-time winner.
“Two of the best five-on-five centermen in the league,” Vigneault said. “They both play the game the right way. Everybody who plays with them seems to play well, so you have two of the elite centermen who do it on their hockey sense and both play penalty-killing , five-on-five, and power play, so very useful players on their teams.”
Bergeron has 55 points (30 goals, 25 assists) and a plus-22 rating while averaging 18 minutes, 46 seconds, and Couturier has 59 points (22-37) and a plus-22 rating while averaging 19:48.
“They have arguably one of the best lines in hockey,” said Flyers goalie Carter Hart, who has a 20-2-2 home record and will aim for his eighth consecutive win overall and his ninth straight at home. The key, he said, is to “shut down their top line and play our game.”
Boston has won four of its last five games.
“We’re playing the best [team] in the league and we’re going for 10 in a row, so there’s a lot on the line,” said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who will be in the lineup and replace Phil Myers (leg injury). “It’s a good test for us to show we can beat the best team in the league.”
The Flyers are 7-1-1 against the four teams that lead their divisions entering Monday play: Boston, Washington, St. Louis, and Vegas.
“Our last game wasn’t pretty,” said Braun, referring to the 3-1 win Saturday over Buffalo, “but we seem to come together against the top teams this year, so hopefully this is no exception.”
“Every time we play a big team, we seem to get up for those games and come out flying,” Provorov said. “I think maybe mentally everybody’s sharper. Everyone knows those teams have players who can punish you for making one mistake, and that’s why I think sometimes we play such great games without giving up a ton of chances.”