Every single Flyers and Canadiens site is going to break down all of the little plays—all of the turning points in Games 1 and 2. People who have been following both teams for the entire season know the intricacies of their own team like outsiders wouldn’t understand. It’s like getting in your car and driving down the road when you hear a funny noise. Your passenger might not know anything is wrong, but you would because you drive your car everyday. Same principle.
But the other side of that coin is that sometimes fans are so involved in their team, they can’t be objective. Nor do they see the obvious things that everyone else seemingly sees. It’s the whole “Can’t see the forest for the trees” syndrome. Fans can go ahead and try to explain how the Habs lost because of a left wing failing to pick up his man in the zone, or Montreal was the toast of the postseason with their upsets of the Capitals and Penguins. But two games into their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Flyers and those 8 wins are seem as distant as the next Maple Leafs draft pick.
So what the hell happened? Did they just wake up on Sunday and start sucking? Well, not exactly.
More than any magical statistic, Montreal is running into a stylistic problem. It’s not sexy, nor terribly original to talk about players going to the net—but that’s the major story through the first 2 games. Neither the Caps, nor the Pens had many players willing to do it. On the other hand, it’s the Flyers bread-and-butter. Put them together and we can see why the Habs were able to escape their first 2 series, yet are getting crushed to begin the Eastern Finals.
People swooned over how great Jaroslav Halak was playing to start the playoffs. There’s no doubt that a goaltender has to be on top of his game to stone the types of players that make up the Pens and Caps. But it’s not like either of the opponents made life difficult for Halak. He wasn’t dealing with the same kind of traffic that guys like Roberto Luongo or Evgeni Nabokov were forced to handle. He was able to see almost every puck shot in his general direction—and made the saves accordingly. He was solid—spectacularly solid (if that makes sense).
One of the biggest question marks around the Flyers was Michael Leighton and how he’d be able to bounce back from injury. We’ll, we’re 120 minutes into the series and it looks like Leighton has answered those questions pretty loudly.
There has to be more, right? Yep, there is—but again, don’t expect any earth shattering smoking guns here.
The Habs have been carried offensively by one line. They played two teams that lacked a serious shut-down defender. In this series, Chris Pronger is the type of lockdown guy that the Habs haven’t faced thus far. And now they’re entering Game 3 and they’re still looking for their first goal of the series.
Like I said—it’s not exactly earth-shattering. This just in: To be successful in the playoffs, you need to crash the net and have scoring depth. If I was a consultant and these were my expert opinions, my client would look at me and just wait for me to get to the good stuff. Unfortunately, in this series, that IS the good stuff. If you look any deeper, you’re missing the point.
Look, it’s not like we’re dealing with one of the elite teams in the leagues here. I’ve loved watching the Habs run of success as much as anyone, but the fact of the matter is they are an 8th seed that only managed 88 points this season. That would have been good enough to tie for 12th in the Western Conference.
The Flyers have an entire team that crashes the net and have a shutdown defenseman. For all of their accolades, you can’t say the same thing for either the Caps or Pens. You know the old saying, “The harder you work, the luckier you get?” The Flyers are working harder than the Penguins or Capitals ever did—and they’re getting all of the bounces that the Canadiens were getting in the first 2 rounds. They’re out Habbing the Habs.
Is it really that simple? Something to think about.
With all of that being said, the Habs have only lost the first 2 games on the road. Technically, that’s kind of expected, right? Optimists can tell you that they just need to take care of the games at home and win a single game on the road. Could be Game 1 or 2. But then again, it could be Game 5 or 7. But (pessimists) realists will tell you that Games 1 and 2 could NOT have gone any worse.
So what do you think? Is there anything the Habs can do to reverse Flyers’ style of play? Or should Flyers fans start scouting the Sharks and Blackhawks? Let us know in the comments!