Montreal Canadiens-Phialdelphia Flyers: Power(play) Failure Ousts Habs
Montreal 2 Philadelphia 4 (Wachovia Centre) Flyers win the series 4-1.
“Although we've come to the end of the road, still I can't let you go, it's unnatural, you belong to me, I belong to you.”
There are many different types of reactions to what happened tonight. There were tears, a good deal of anger, and disbelief.
Some fans quickly moved into problem-solving mode, speculating about possible offseason changes. Others preferred to savor a successful season.
I'm not ready to go there yet. I feel empty.
My good friend Veronica said it best. "I'm old enough (and deluded enough?) to still think that only the Cup is acceptable, every year. Still, I am proud of the Habs."
Within a few days, we will start looking back at the season, and the just-completed playoff run. You know that All Habs will be here as we discuss potential personnel moves, the amateur draft, and free agency.
What about the players?
"I think in a few days' time, when this all soaks in, we'll be able to realize some of the steps that we made and the progress that we made as an organization," said Josh Gorges. "Right now, it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. All we're thinking about is the loss."
I agree with Josh. My mind is on tonight's result. So, for now, as we have done, for the preseason, 82 regular season games, and 19 playoff games, we'll review the happenings on the ice. There's plenty of time for the rest in the days to come.
The prescription for Game Five for the Habs was to score first and score early. A soft goal only 59 seconds by Brian Gionta filled the bill. It quieted the crowd, put another hole in the Leighton-for-MVP campaign, and restored confidence for the Canadiens. The team scoring first had won every game in this series.
Two minutes later, Scott Gomez delivered a solid hit to Kimmo Timonen knocking him to the ice. Timonen was not amused and took a roughing penalty when he retaliated.
The Canadiens power-play had been their Achilles heel in the Eastern conference final, and provided the turning point of the game. Not only did the Habs fail to score with the man advantage, they gave up a demoralizing short-handed goal.
Let's take a closer look at the power-play.
Tomas Plekanec won the face-off, but Marc-Andre Bergeron failed to keep the puck in. The Canadiens retrieved the puck and dumped it into the Flyers zone. Braydon Coburn cleared it past Bergeron and out of his end.
Bergeron retrieved and slapped the puck back into the zone. Hamrlik set up Bergeron for a one-timer but it was blocked by Coburn. Chris Pronger ringed it around the boards.
Bergeron tried to keep it in but was knocked to the ice by Mike Richards.
Claude Giroux picked up the puck and set up Richards for a scoring chance. After a Jaroslav Halak save, Bergeron carried the puck and dumped it in. Glen Metropolit lost a puck battle to Giroux who cleared it down the ice with Bergeron caught at the blueline.
Richards and Roman Hamrlik raced for the puck. They were met at the circle by Halak, who collided with Hamrlik. Halak lost his stick and the puck. Richards backhanded it in the empty goal.
The Flyers short-handed goal resulted from an an obvious puckhandling blunder by Halak. But, the descriptive analysis reveals that there were a handful of errors leading up to it. It was Flyers' men versus a boy. Bergeron is simply not an NHL-caliber defensemen, offensively or defensively.
Late in the third period, the Canadiens had a chance to tie the game with a four minute, man advantage, but couldn't mount any attack with only one shot on goal. Glen Metropolit ended the advantage early by taking a tripping penalty.
If looking for a single culprit for the loss, it is the power-play that was 0-for-6 tonight, and 1-for-22, in the series. (The single goal was meaningless and scored at the end of Game Three with a 5-on-3 advantage.)
The Canadiens have struggled all season to score 5-on-5 and relied on one of the best power-plays in the league. With it floundering against Philadelphia, the Habs could not compete. Credit should also be given to Fortress Flyers (borrowing a page from Montreal) who prevented the Canadiens from exploiting Philly's goaltending deficiencies.
Montreal spent far too much of their time in the defensive zone and had trouble generating scoring chances on transition.
Some will be quick to knock Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Scott Gomez. Plekanec has shut down opposition top forwards and is the key to Canadiens' penalty killing. Kostitsyn has a hard time getting in a groove when the coach is playing yo-yo with his line assignment and ice-time.
Gomez played well tonight making the game close with a goal in the third period. Gomez and Gionta each had a goal and an assist. Gionta led the team with seven shots on goal. Hal Gill was the star on defense with eight blocked shots.
While Halak could only be faulted on Philadelphia's first goal, his save percentage in the game was .880 which is close to his series' statistic. That's not close to his performance earlier in the playoffs or what was required for the Canadiens to advance.
It should also be mentioned that the Habs just didn't have the proper personnel in the line-up or in the right spots. Mathieu Darche wasn't up to the pace or the challenge of playing on the first line.
The loss brought an abrupt end to a playoff run that was tantalizingly close to the Habs competing for the Stanley Cup. The only disappointment is that it has taken 17 years to get back here. In a 30 team league, with salary cap constraints, one wonders when the Canadiens will get their next chance.
"This hurts," defenceman Josh Gorges said as he fought back tears. "To work this hard to get to where we are and then to come up short is tough to swallow because we know how close we were to where we were going.
Again, Josh is right. This hurts.
But Canadiens fans can be proud of their team who did not give up right to the end.
"We played hard for each other, we played hard for the organization, we played hard for the fans back in Montreal. There was no quit in us," Gorges said.
Rocket's three stars
1. Mike Richards
2. Arron Asham
3. Jeff Carter
Special mention: Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Hal Gill
Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.
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