Dictionary.com defines the word nemesis as follows:
1. something that a person cannot conquer, achieve, etc.: The performance test proved to be my nemesis.
2. an opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
3. Classical Mythology, the goddess of divine retribution.
4. an agent or act of retribution or punishment.
If ever the Montreal Canadiens had a nemesis, the Philadelphia Flyers would be that team.
The Flyers and Canadiens have played each other in two playoff series since 2008, with Montreal losing both series four games to one. In addition, the two teams have faced each other three times already this season with the Flyers winning two out of three.
Moreover, Philly has been able to physically dominate the small, fast Canadiens forwards and, as such, it has been a long time since Montreal has had any real answer for what the Flyers bring.
So tonight's fourth and final meeting is sure to be a high intensity match between these two teams whose rivalry seems to grow with each encounter. Not only because of the bad blood between the two teams but, with a week off for the All-Star break starting tomorrow, both teams are sure to leave it all on the ice.
The Flyers are the No. 1 team in the league with 69 points in the standings—tied with the Canucks for points but ahead of them by virtue of their 32 wins to Vancouver’s 30—and look like the odds-on favorite to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Montreal, on the other hand, has had its ups and downs this season. In addition, the Canadiens are decimated by injuries, having lost both Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges to season-ending knee problems. In addition, top sniper Michael Cammalleri continues to be sidelined with a separated shoulder.
Yet, despite its losses, "Team Clinic" is 6-1-3 over its last 10 games and only two points out of first place in its division. A win tonight by Montreal would put it in a tie with the Rangers and the Bruins—first place in the Northeast—with 61 points. In addition, it would leave the Canadiens only two back of Washington and three back of Pittsburgh, fifth and fourth, respectively, in the Eastern Conference.
Needless to say, Montreal wants this win really badly.
Another source of motivation is that neither team wants to go into a one-week break on a loss, so expect a playoff atmosphere tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly.
Claude Giroux and Mike Richards are the two hottest players for the Flyers, with five points in two games and five points in three games, respectively. For Montreal, the defense is bringing the heat with James Wizniewski's 12 points in his last 11 games and P.K. Subban having six in his last six.
Max Pacioretty has also been heating things up lately with four points in his last two games.
Tonight's game is one that will feature a nice goaltending matchup with Carey Price—24 wins—going head-to-head against Sergei Bobrovsky—20 wins.
Montreal will be getting a much-needed boost to its lineup with the return of Jeff Halpern in favour of Andreas Engqvist, who was sent back down to Hamilton yesterday.
Game time is at 7:30 p.m. with the puck dropping around 7:40 p.m. for what should be one heck of a game!
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