There is a tendency, when writing a game preview or game blog to over-state the importance of a single game. If I look back at the game blogs that I’ve written in the past year it is difficult to find one in which the words “huge”, “important”, or “critical” aren’t used. This can be at least partially attributed to league-wide parity: given that on any night you’re just as likely to see a “weaker” opponent beat a “strong” one than at almost any point in the history of the NHL. Mainly however, this grave sense of importance can be attributed to our own desire to see our team move un-inhibited to the top of the standings.
The Flyers have been remarkably good to start the season. Anyone who watched last night’s contest against the Ottawa Senators watched a very confident team systematically dismantle a club that had recently regained it’s confidence. They were that good. They are getting solid contributions from every part of their lineup – not to mention outstanding goaltending from the previously unknown Sergei Bobrovsky, the Russian goaltender who speaks no English except apparently: “Get that S#%@ outta here!”. Bobrovsky went 9-22-3 with Novokuznetsk of the KHL last season. Where the hockey sticks is Novokuznetsk you might wonder? Pick a part of Russia half way between Moscow and Siberia and its sorta there-ish. The 22 yeear old, 9 game winner from last season is currently leading the world’s best hockey league in wins – with 2 more than he got in all of his 35 starts in the KHL last season. To say he came from no-where is the understatement of the year.
Do not underestimate the Flyers. They are riding high. They are scoring all kinds of goals – 19 more than us through 18 games. They are getting fantastic goaltending – from their 22 year old goalsky with a .934 save percentage. They are being responsible – allowing only 2 more goals than your Canadiens though having played 1 more game. They’re like Washington – with goaltending and defense. That is a scary thought.
So how important is tonight’s game? At the beginning of this post I almost wrote that this game was the biggest of the year so far for the Canadiens. Optically it is immense. Realistically though? Its game 18 of 82+. What tonight is might just be a fantastic test against a very good opponent. A measuring stick maybe. The Bell Centre will be rocking with 22,000 strong looking for a measure of revenge for last year’s playoffs.
One thing it should be is fun to watch.