Canadiens-Flyers: Listless Montreal Steamrolled by Philadelphia
Yep, that was horrible. Absolutely abhorrent. And, like the team that ran hot and cold during the regular season, the Habs last night disappointed in a major way.
From the drop of the puck, the Habs seemed disengaged and disinterested. Their collective team play that had made them so successful during the first two rounds of the playoffs, was replaced by a bunch of individuals playing as individuals.
It was a thing of pure ugliness to behold as the Habs fell all over themselves, turned the puck over, failed to sustain much of a forecheck, got no secondary scoring chances, took bad penalty after bad penalty, and hung Jaroslav Halak out to dry.
Halak was pulled in favour of Carey Price when the score was 4-0, but that didn't change the complexion of the game at all.
The Flyers got goals from Braydon Coburn, James Van Riemsdyk, Daniel Briere, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell, and Claude Giroux.
Final score: Flyer 6 - Habs 0
1. The goaltenders had opposite nights
While Halak was being crowded by the big, burly Philadelphia players all night, his counterpart, Michael Leighton, had an easy breezy time on the other end of the rink.
The Flyers, to their credit, crowded Halak's crease, drove to the net, and screened him on almost every single shot they took. Two or three of the Flyers goals were scored from the "dirty" areas: the lip of the crease or on a goalmouth scramble.
That is a formula for success in the NHL and the Habs needed to try a little of that themselves last night. Instead, Montreal was limited to shots from 30 or more feet away, with little to no secondary scoring chances.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: you just do not score many goals in the NHL off of first scoring chances. The Canadiens didn't win any battles last night and the result was a relatively easy night for Leighton.
2. Scott Gomez led the Habs down the drain
Whereas the veteran core has to a large degree been responsible for helping the Habs to win over the first two rounds, last night, they had a bit of a meltdown.
Scott Gomez was the worst of the bunch, taking a stupid, selfish roughing penalty with the Habs on the power play early in the first.
The result was a Flyers power play goal and a 1-0 lead.
Maxim Lapierre followed suit and took a terrible roughing penalty early in the second. While the Flyers didn't score on the power play, they did put the puck in the net one second after it had expired. So, in effect, that was a power play goal, too.
Gomez was at it again in the third, taking a useless retaliatory slashing penalty on Chris Pronger who, wisely, skated away. That is what a veteran should do and Gomez should know better.
3. Special teams were a factor
The Flyers special teams were effective, and the Habs weren't. The Flyers went 2-for-6 on the power play—and 3-for-6 if you include the Briere goal scored one second after Lapierre's penalty expired.
The Habs, on the other hand, went 0-for-4 on the power play and struggled to keep the puck in the Flyers end.
4. What was Jacques Martin thinking?
With all the talk of the physical play that the Flyers were sure to bring, it is a mystery to me why Coach Martin had Ryan O'Byrne as a healthy scratch again.
Instead, he had Marc-Andre Bergeron playing in a defensive pairing with Jaroslav Spacek. MAB simply is not an NHL caliber defenseman as is evidenced by his league worst minus-10 rating.
Bergeron, who is in the lineup because of his booming shot from the point, made defensive zone turnover after turnover, missed assignments and was constantly turning the puck over at the Flyers blueline.
Even on the power play, where Bergeron is supposed to be a boon, he failed to keep the puck in the Flyers zone on several occasions, forcing the power play unit to regroup and waste time.
Just to be clear, this is supposed to be a power play guy, and at last check, he has one goal and three assists over his last ten games—one goal and two assists on the powerplay—so he is hardly tearing it up.
That is just not good enough and Martin needs to bring O'Byrne into the lineup and let MAB play on the fourth line in Mathieu Darche's spot.
Darche plays around five minutes per game and is generally a non factor. Get him out and minimize the number of times MAB sees the ice, otherwise this could become short series.
5. Reality hit P.K. Subban
Yesterday's game was Subban's worst so far. It was bound to happen too given that he just turned 21 last week. This does not take anything away from Subban as you will always have mistakes that come with young defenseman.
I think Subban's horrible play—turnovers, missed assignments, bad first passes—were a result, at least in part, of the horrible play of his teammates around him.
Not to worry, he'll rebound.
Look out Ahead!
Sadly, last night's blowout loss by the Habs was almost predictable. I had feared that the four-day lay off between series' would not work in the Habs' favour. I was also concerned that maybe they would start reading and believing their press clippings and that it would negatively affect their play.
Well, it looks like this is exactly how things played out last night. And you know what? That's a good thing. I'm glad that it wasn't a close game, because the Habs would still have a false sense of security. The way the game played out, last night, will serve as a wake up call to this team.
And, just like after getting blown out by Pittsburgh in Game One of that series, I believe that the Canadiens will rebound in Game Two.
Look for O'Byrne to be reinserted into the lineup and MAB moved back to the fourth line. I, personally, would also sit Benoit Pouliot—who is completely useless—and let Sergei Kostitsyn take his place but knowing Jacques Martin, there is no way that is going to happen.
Both teams have the day off before getting back at it tomorrow night for Game Two in Philadelphia.
Will the Habs be able to tie the series and come back to Montreal with the split? Will the Habs fall into a 2-0 hole? We'll find out in a few days, but suffice it to say that the Canadiens have shown the ability to bounce back from bad games so far in the playoffs.
Moreover, if the fall down 2-0 to the Flyers, I believe that this thing will end in five games. If that Habs can pull it out tomorrow, I think this series will go long, six or seven.
What do you guys think? Will the Habs rebound? Will they rediscover their winning form? Will the Flyers put them down on the mat? Let's hear what you think.
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