The Flyers’ centers are taller, have a longer reach, and have a weight edge over their Montreal counterparts. They also have a decided advantage in experience, both in the regular season and the playoffs.
Will it be a factor? Can the Flyers exploit that advantage? Will the Canadiens’ young legs make a difference?
The Flyers and Canadiens meet Wednesday night in Toronto in Game 1 of their first-round series.
The Flyers’ centers and their sizes: Sean Couturier (6-foot-3, 211 pounds), Kevin Hayes (6-5, 216), Derek Grant (6-3, 206), and Nate Thompson (6-1, 207).
The Habs’ centers are Nick Suzuki (5-11, 201), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (6-2, 198), Phillip Danault (6-1, 201), and Max Domi (5-10, 192).
The Flyers’ centers have a combined 142 games of playoff experience, compared to Montreal’s 22 games. Three of the Habs’ centers had no playoff experience until their recent upset in the play-in series against Pittsburgh.
In the regular season, the Flyers’ centers have a 2,128-900 advantage in games played on their resumes.
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault downplayed the advantage, noting Pittsburgh had veteran centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and was unable to capitalize.
“At the end of the day, players have to come out and play,” Vigneault said in a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday afternoon from Toronto. “For me, it’s going to be a battle. Playoff hockey is hard; it’s tight and it’s competitive and it starts tonight.”
How important is Game 1 in a best-of-seven series?
The numbers don’t lie.
In the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs, teams have a 478-219 record (68.6%) after winning Game 1.
Montreal coach Claude Julien said he was impressed with all aspects of the Flyers’ game.
“They’re just a good team overall. Like I’ve said, they’re the most balanced team I’ve seen since we got here,” Julien said Wednesday. “They’re playing with lots of confidence; they seem to be pretty solid in all areas. Again, we’re just going to have to play hard like we did against Pittsburgh, and that’s how we intend to approach this series.”
The Flyers will be the designated home team in Games 1, 2, and, if necessary, 5 and 7. ... The Flyers had 18 more points than the Habs in the regular season, but Montreal had 15 fewer points than the Penguins and whipped them, three games to one, in the play-in round. The Flyers won two of the three games against the Canadiens in the regular season, with both of their victories being secured in overtime.
Vigneault would not divulge his lineup for Game 1. Here are the projected lineups: