Montreal Canadiens-Philadelphia Flyers: Unprepared Habs Gift Wrap Game One

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IMay 17, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 16:  Ville Leino #22 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes a shot on goal against Jaroslav Halak #41 and P.K. Subban #76 of the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wachovia Center on May 16, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Montreal 0 Philadelphia 6 (Wachovia Center) Flyers lead the series 1-0.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -- George Santayana

It was an ugly game, the worst of the playoffs for the Canadiens.

It's no big deal. Hey, it's just one game. We'll bounce back, we always do. It's better to lose 6-0 than 1-0. It was just an off night, we'll get them next time. The Habs were going to lose tonight, no matter who was in the line-up. Now that we have this game out of our system, we're ready to start the series.

Did I miss any cliches? If any of those phrases help you sleep at night, have them embroidered on your pillow. With respect to tonight's hockey game, they are pure gibberish.

Each win in the playoffs is precious. No team can afford to give one away as the Canadiens did in this game.

Jacques Martin's NHL coaching career began in 1986. This is only his second time his team has advanced to the conference finals. Opportunities like these are rare and should not be squandered.

The Canadiens were simply unprepared. How many times this season in the post-game presser did coach Martin say, "Well, I didn't think we were ready to compete." Tonight was no different.

The Habs looked lost, disorganized and caught off guard. For that, the coach must be accountable. How bad was it? The loss is the worst to start a series for the Canadiens since 1919.

Granted, the Montreal coach was playing the part by looking concerned and taking copious notes. But Martin didn't need scribbles to remind him of lessons that should have already been learned in the playoffs.

We only have to think back to the first game of the Pittsburgh series for an example of a team that looked baffled and trying to make it up on the fly. At that time, we gave the team the benefit of the doubt that coming off a difficult series with Washington, there was no time to prepare for the Penguins.

What is the excuse this time, coach? Your team hasn't played since Wednesday.

In addition, do we remember that the Capitals were causing havoc in front of the net for Jaroslav Halak in the first round? From game four on, it was a non-issue. For whatever reason, it took three games for Martin to realize that his defense was better, and his goaltender safer with Ryan O'Byrne on the ice rather than in the press box.

In this series the Flyers game plan, as if it was any secret, was to create traffic in front of the Canadiens goal and screen Halak, not unlike Washington. So O'Byrne, the Canadiens' only physical defenseman, being in the line-up is a no-brainer, right? With O'Byrne being a healthy scratch to start this series, what does that say about the coach?

With all the talk about physical superiority of the Flyers, the Canadiens were beat in all aspects of the mental game taking dumb penalties and committing unforced errors. These are further indicators of an unprepared team.

Coach Martin's assessment sounded familiar, "What brought us success in the first two rounds was our ability to compete and tonight we didn't compete at the level we're able to."

At times in the playoffs, P.K. Subban has excited fans with glimpses into the player he might become in the future. But tonight, the exaggerated comparisons to Doug Harvey came crashing to earth. Subban tried to play an individual game and was awful.

Subban was on the ice for four goals against, including, most importantly, the first three. The Flyers seemed to be targeting him and took advantage of Subban's blunders. Subban was not only on the ice but made mistakes that led to all four goals.

If there was a worse defenseman on the ice, it was Marc-Andre Bergeron. He is supposed to excel on the power-play but even had trouble with the basics tonight. Keeping the puck in the offensive zone was even an adventure.

It's getting harder to rationalize Marc-Andre Bergeron being in the line-up. He has one goal in 15 playoff games, and has a minus-10 rating. To provide some perspective, of the 341 players from 16 teams involved in the playoffs, Bergeron is tied for the worst plus-minus rating (with Vladimir Sobotka of Boston).

So let's be honest. Bergeron is the worst defensive player in the playoffs and a liability every time he is on the ice.

Hats off to Hal Gill. He is a true warrior, but is clearly laboring and needs to be spot-played. Jaroslav Spacek was the Canadiens' best defenseman this night.

Scott Gomez and Maxim Lapierre were both guilty of taking dumb penalties.

Philadelphia made the Habs pay for their undisciplined play scoring two goals on the power-play, and one shortly after a Canadiens' penalty expired. With the man advantage, the Habs' looked anemic against aggressive Flyers penalty-killers.

The loss can't be attributed to bad goaltending but Halak didn't resemble his press-clippings by allowing four goals on 13 shots. He was pulled in the second period and replaced with Carey Price.

"We have no concern about our goaltending," said Mike Cammalleri. "Jaro's had pucks go in on him before and come back and played spectacular. Carey's someone else we have confidence in. I don't think he's let in a goal in practice in two weeks. We love our goaltending."

At the other end Michael Leighton recorded his first career playoff shutout without being tested. At times he looked shaky and his puckhandling was rusty. While the Canadiens had 28 shots on goal, there wasn't more than one memorable save.

Not only did the Canadiens hand the Flyers a victory, it was an easy win. Philadelphia was able to rest some players. For the first time in the playoffs, the Habs showed signs of quitting when they were down.

"You have to stay grounded. It's just one game," said Daniel Briere. "We know they're going to come back a lot better, a lot stronger in the next game."

And the Flyers will be stronger too. Reports say that one or both of Jeff Carter and Ian Lapierriere may be back as early as Game Three.

If you sensed more than the usual emotion in this critique, it is because the Habs wasted an opportunity with a lackluster effort. Watching Cammalleri in his post-game interview, his tight jaw, cold eyes, and restrained tone masked a similar anger.

"Our game wasn't as sharp as it needs to be," said Cammalleri, who was doing his best to control his inner volcano.

The Canadiens obviously have a number of things to work on when they practise tomorrow: going to the net, discipline and special teams to name a few. Given that the coach announced it will be an optional workout, I expect that O'Byrne, Ben Maxwell, and Sergei Kostitsyn will have a full plate.

Game Two will take place on Tuesday at the Wachovia Center.

Rocket's three stars

1. Ville Leino
2. Braydon Coburn
3. Claude Giroux

Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.

follow All Habs on Twitter
and add us on Facebook

This article is available for your listening convenience via All Habs OUT LOUD. Use the player below or download to take it with you from the link in the sidebar.


    Importance of NHL Captains Is Changing

    NHL logo

    Importance of NHL Captains Is Changing

    via USA TODAY

    Players, NHL Haven't Talked Yet About New CBA

    NHL logo

    Players, NHL Haven't Talked Yet About New CBA

    Eddie Chau
    via Toronto Sun

    In the Habs' Room: Bell Centre gets loud for Jesperi Kotkaniemi

    Montreal Canadiens logo
    Montreal Canadiens

    In the Habs' Room: Bell Centre gets loud for Jesperi Kotkaniemi

    Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette
    via Montreal Gazette

    Preseason: Canadiens come alive in third period to defeat Devils 3-1

    Montreal Canadiens logo
    Montreal Canadiens

    Preseason: Canadiens come alive in third period to defeat Devils 3-1

    Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette
    via Montreal Gazette