Has lady luck abandoned the Montreal Canadiens? After barely getting a spot in the playoffs, it seemed like the mighty hand of destiny had anointed the Habs with the playoffs run of their lives. Beating out Washington and Pittsburgh in two seemingly impossible contests, surely it should have been a more evenly matched series with the 7th seeded Philadelphia Flyers? Surely you jest.
Philadelphia’s historic comeback from a 3 game deficit in their series against Boston made them a team of destiny to be reckoned with as well. While beating Boston may not be as considerable a feat as taking out both Ovechkin and Crosby, you can’t argue with Philadelphia’s compete level. They didn’t back down in their series, even with the loss of their star players to injuries and a tenuous goaltending situation with Boucher and Leighton. And ever since they managed to persevere through that, they’ve just kept gaining momentum and strength. The Flyers could be a serious contender and their win yesterday afternoon pretty much cemented that with a 3-1 lead in the series.
The Battle of the French
It has be to said because it’s so darn ironic: the Montreal Canadiens, a French Canadian team in Canada, being beaten by a US team that’s more French than they are. Instead of the usual suspects, Briere and Gagne, inflicting this painful brother on brother damage, it was Claude Giroux who delivered two deadly blows against the Habs with an ecstatic mother in attendance. Scoring the first goal of the game and finishing off with an empty netter to cap the game at 3 and nail the last coffin in the Habs game, Giroux was the unexpected hero of this game.
You’d think that in a shut out loss, this title should be awarded to Leighton. But the honest truth is, a shut out win, as impressive as it looks on paper, can hardly be considered a triumph when all he had to face was 17 shots in the game. 17 measly shots. The Western Conference gets more shots than that in a single period, let alone a full game. What in the world happened?
The Montreal Canadiens slumped back to the same game level that they were playing in games 1 and 2. They weren’t capitalizing on their speed, and they weren’t getting in the right spots in front of the net. The Habs aren’t great shots, but they are fantastic opportunists in these playoffs, getting into the zone in the right places at the right times. Cammaleri, the highest scoring Canadien in the playoffs, has said that he tends to score better when he doesn’t think about it. It looks like someone’s going to have to take their thinking cap off if they want to come back at all in this series.
Despite the loss, the best player on the ice for the Habs remains their goaltender Halak. He can hardly be blamed for those goals and it was a risky decision to pull Halak so early in the third period to try and gain the offensive advantage. The advantage clearly backfired and there were probably quite a few people who thought to themselves that this risk was not worth taking.
It’s not just the risk itself that is problematic. On the one hand, you put enormous pressure on your forwards in that type of situation, pressure which is unnecessary because they already know what it is they have to do. On the other hand, by taking such a risk in the game at that stage, you’re clearly showing the opposition that you’re scared of them and are willing to throw the kitchen sink at them in order to shut them down in a situation where you’re clearly at a disadvantage and playing catch up. So not only is is a risky move, it sends the wrong message to everyone on the ice. Your own team feels the pressure ten times worse and it feeds your opponent’s sense of confidence.
The Flyers are still playing their game and they’re still dictating the pace of this series. They’re winning a lot of the puck possession battles and their defense is playing tight. It may just be a matter of time before the more physical and assertive style of play of the Flyers takes down the Habs and proves once and for all that they are the true team of destiny this year.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.