The Montreal Canadiens have had their heads handed to them in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals. Cinderella's slipper has been dropped and smashed by a Chris Pronger lead defense and big, career third string goalie, Michael Leighton.
The Canadien's, who seemed to get every break in the first two rounds, have found the Philadelphia defense and Michael Leighton notoriously stingy with chances. Montreal's power play that was potent versus Washington (6/30) and productive against Pittsburgh (5/22) has been stopped in the first two games in Philadelphia (0/8).
More disturbing has been the quantity of penalties (10) and power play goals (4) the Habs have given up themselves in the first two games.
Montreal has been relying on what has been dubbed a rope a dope tactic. For Ali in Zaire against George Foreman, it was unbeatable. He simply waited for Foreman to punch himself out and then finished him.
In hockey there is no knockout. It's not, generally, last goal wins. A Flyer team tired from all the scoring and skating they've done is not likely to be beaten by a goal late in the game.
Montreal scored the first goal in nine of the fourteen games they played in the first two rounds. They won seven of those games. When you've got a lead in hockey you can fall back and play defense. That's when a rope a dope tactic will work for you.
They've only won once in the playoffs when they didn't score first, and obviously they haven't scored at all against the Flyers yet. Coming from behind, Montreal is giving up a lot more top quality chances, and Philadelphia's depth at forward is capitalizing.
During the first two rounds Montreal did a good job on minimizing the offensive contributions of Pittsburgh's and Washington's big stars Crosby and Ovcehkin. So far in this series they've held Phialdelphia's best forward Mike Richards to one assist.
Has anyone noticed?
Philadelphia is showing a depth of scoring that Washington and Pittsburgh couldn't manage against Montreal. They've gotten contributions from Briere, Gagne, Giroux, Hartnell, and Leino. Even Van Reimsdyk has a goal.
Game three at home is huge for Montreal. They haven't had a lot of success at home going .500 so far these playoffs. They need to score the first goal.
Montreal also needs to stay out of the penalty box and get their power play going. A pressing Montreal team is a vulnerable Montreal team. Even if they give up the lead early they have to play the game tight and keep it close.
Hopefully at home Mike Cammalleri can get away from the match-up with Chris Pronger and get untracked. Someone on this Montreal team has got to score.
I'll never blame the goalie for a loss when his team fails to score. If Montreal gets a lead though, Halak and his defense has to be able to hold it.
Montreal has looked overmatched before in the playoffs. After four games with Washington, they'd lost three games in a row where they'd given up 17 goals. Against Pittsburgh in game one they came up against a power play and a team that beat them handily 6-3 and looked unstoppable. They came back despite that and this team and it's goalie has shown a lot of resilience.
Montreal needs to win game three to stay in the series. I don't envision them as the fourth team ever to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the NHL playoffs. It will help to score first.
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