Canadiens-Flyers: Haven't We Seen This Movie Before?

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Canadiens-Flyers: Haven't We Seen This Movie Before?
Al Bello/Getty Images

Montreal 0 Philadelphia 3 (Wachovia Center) Flyers lead the series 2-0.

posted by Rocket
All Habs


“I went to a fancy French restaurant called "Deja Vu." The headwaiter said, "Don't I know you?"” Stephen Wright


Two special occasions so close together. What to buy? Well, when you have given the perfect gift the first time, why not give it again?

The factors that handed Philadelphia a gift-wrapped victory in Game 1 were again problematic for the Canadiens tonight: special teams, goaltending and discipline.

The first periods of the two games were almost a carbon copy of each other.

In each game, the Flyers took an early penalty, before the game was two minutes old. Scott Gomez negated the Canadiens' power-play with a penalty before the three minute mark. Philadelphia scored a power-play goal approximately four minutes into the game.

That's a remarkable similarity.

It continues. Philadelphia only managed six shots in the first period of each game, yet took a 1-0 lead to the dressing room. In both games Montreal dominated using their speed, had plenty of shots, but could not generate dangerous 5-on-5 scoring chances.

Jacques Martin's mantra all season long was that the Canadiens need to win on the backs of goaltending and special teams. In the Eastern Conference finals, both are failing the team.

Coming into the third round, the Habs have the worst penalty-killing and power-play efficiency of any of the remaining teams. The coaching staff has not done enough to make adjustments and design new schemes tailored to exploit the opposition's style of play.

The Canadiens are 0-for-8 on the power-play in this series. By contrast, the Flyers had only two shots on the first two chances with the man advantage tonight, but scored twice.

The power-play woes have been apparent for some time. It is predictable, deliberate and lacking a quarterback.

The popular school of thought is that Marc-Andre Bergeron's playoff worst minus-11 rating is tolerated because of his contribution to the power-play. However, Bergeron has only one goal in the playoffs with the man advantage, and a total of two in the calendar year 2010.

Bergeron's play at the point can generously be described as casual. His passes are intercepted, shots don't hit the mark, and is guilty of turnovers at the blue-line. Yet Bergeron played more than 18 minutes tonight.

On many occasions this season, coach Martin has said one thing and done the opposite. Prior to the game, Martin said that his primary responsibility at this time of the season was to have the best players in the lineup to win.

Ryan O'Byrne should be in the line-up every game. His play in the regular season on the top two defense pairings, often leading the team in hits and blocked shots, has earned him a place. O'Byrne could be particularly useful in this series being strong around the net where the Flyers like to play.

Bergeron or Mathieu Darche wouldn't be missed with O'Byrne filling the spot.

Martin did make one line-up change. Sergei Kostitsyn replaced the struggling Benoit Pouliot. It was only a token change, as Kostitsyn was relegated to the fourth line and received less than five minutes of ice-time.

Kostitsyn should have been reunited with Dominic Moore and Travis Moen who were an effective combination during the month of March.

It's also puzzling that Martin continues to use Tom Pyatt on the top line. Pyatt is a smart player and works hard but just doesn't have the offensive skill and creativity to be effective.

With the Canadiens offense sputtering, Michael Leighton is playing the role of an NHL goalie on TV. No one has had an easier path to back-to-back playoff shutouts.

In the usual exaggerated comparisons, Leighton's name is being used in the same sentence as Bernie Parent. At age 65, Parent could likely have similar success against a weak offensive effort.

Much has been made of the fact that the Canadiens are not going to the net allowing Leighton to see all the shots. While that is true, the players who could play that role like Pouliot, and Darche are struggling. It's unlikely that will change soon.

But there's more than one way to score. It's probably fair to say that a journeyman goaltender's lateral skills aren't top caliber. But given the lack of crisp puck movement by the Canadiens, Leighton hasn't been tested going cross-crease.

While the Flyers' defense is making life miserable for the smaller forwards trying to screen in front, the Habs haven't had much of a presence in the slot. That seems to be the favorite landing spot for Leighton's juicy rebounds.

Better puck movement and second-chance opportunities should lead to a dam burst, and most likely the appearance of Philadelphia backup Johan Backlund.

While many will jump to the defense of Jaroslav Halak to fend off any criticism, the truth is that he hasn't been sharp in either game of the series. It's reasonable to counter that the Canadiens can't win if they don't score. Granted. But neither can they win if their goaltender has a save percentage of .806, his current third round statistic.

Halak has been struggling with the small-ice game of the Flyers which creates close-in chances and capitalizes on his lack of rebound control. Also, it's rather clear that Philadelphia has figured out that Halak can be beat up high.

The Habs have dug a huge hole. When the Flyers are up 2-0 in a series, they are 16-0. In the modern NHL, when a team has won the first two series in seven games as the Canadiens have, none has won the third series.

With two games at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens can tie up the series. To make adjustments to the line-up and special teams, the Habs need coaches Martin, Muller and Pearn to deliver their very best efforts of the season. So far Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is winning the battle hands-down.

Game 3 will take place on Thursday at the Bell Centre.


Rocket's three stars

1. Ville Leino
2. Simon Gagne
3. Danny Briere

Special mention: Brian Gionta

Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.

(photo credit: Getty)


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