Monday, May 17, 2010

Canadiens-Flyers: Listless Habs Steamrolled by Flyers in Game One

Yep, that was horrible. Absolutely abhorrent. And, like the team that ran hot and cold during the regular season, the Habs last night disappointed in a major way.

From the drop of the puck, the Habs seemed disengaged and disinterested. Their collective team play that had made them so successful during the first two rounds of the playoffs was replaced by a bunch of individuals playing as individuals.

It was a thing of pure ugliness to behold as the Habs fell all over themselves, turned the puck over, failed to sustain much of a forecheck, got no secondary scoring chances, took bad penalty after bad penalty, and hung Jaroslav Halak out to dry.

Halak was pulled in favour of Carey Price when the score was 4-0, but that didn't change the complexion of the game at all.

The Flyers got goals from Braydon Coburn, James Van Riemsdyk, Daniel Briere, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell, and Claude Giroux.

Final score: Flyer 6 - Habs 0

Game Notes
1. The goaltenders had opposite nights.
While Halak was being crowded by the big, burly Philadelphia players all night, his counterpart, Michael Leighton, had an easy breezy time on the other end of the rink.

The Flyers, to their credit, crowded Halak's crease, drove to the net, and screened him on almost every single shot they took. Two or three of the Flyers goals were scored from the "dirty" areas: the lip of the crease or on a goalmouth scramble.

That is a formula for success in the NHL and the Habs needed to try a little of that themselves last night. Instead, Montreal was limited to shots from 30 or more feet away, with little to no secondary scoring chances.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: you just do not score many goals in the NHL off of first scoring chances. The Canadiens didn't win any battles last night and the result was a relatively easy night for Leighton.

2. Scott Gomez led the Habs down the drain
Whereas the veteran core has to a large degree been responsible for helping the Habs to win over the first two rounds, last night, they had a bit of a meltdown.

Scott Gomez was the worst of the bunch, taking a stupid, selfish roughing penalty with the Habs on the power play early in the first.

The result was a Flyers power play goal and a 1-0 lead.

Maxim Lapierre followed suit and took a terrible roughing penalty early in the second. While the Flyers didn't score on the power play, they did put the puck in the net one second after it had expired. So, in effect, that was a power play goal too.

Gomez was at it again in the third, taking a useless retaliatory slashing penalty on Chris Pronger who, wisely, skated away. That is what a veteran should do and Gomez should know better.

3. Special teams were a factor
The Flyers' special teams were effective, and the Habs' weren't. The Flyers went 2-for-6 on the power play—and 3-for-6 if you include the Briere goal scored one second after Lapierre's penalty expired.

The Habs, on the other hand, went 0-for-4 on the power play and struggled to keep the puck in the Flyers end.

4. What was Jacques Martin thinking?
With all the talk of the physical play that the Flyers were sure to bring, it is a mystery to me why Coach Martin had Ryan O'Byrne as a healthy scratch again.

Instead, he had Marc-Andre Bergeron playing in a defensive pairing with Jaroslav Spacek. MAB simply is not an NHL caliber defenseman as is evidenced by his league worst minus-10 rating.

Bergeron, who is in the lineup because of his booming shot from the point, made defensive zone turnover after turnover, missed assignments and was constantly turning the puck over at the Flyers blueline.

Even on the power play, where Bergeron is supposed to be a boon, he failed to keep the puck in the Flyers zone on several occasions, forcing the power play unit to regroup and waste time.

Just to be clear, this is supposed to be a power play guy, and at last check, he has one goal and three assists over his last ten games—one goal and two assists on the powerplay—so he is hardly tearing it up.

That is just not good enough and Martin needs to bring O'Byrne into the lineup and let MAB play on the fourth line in Mathieu Darche's spot.

Darche plays around five minutes per game and is generally a non factor. Get him out and minimize the number of times MAB sees the ice, otherwise this could become short series.

5. Reality hit P.K. Subban
Yesterday's game was Subban's worst so far. It was bound to happen too given that he just turned 21 last week. This does not take anything away from Subban as you will always have mistakes that come with young defenseman.

I think Subban's horrible play—turnovers, missed assignments, bad first passes—were a result, at least in part, of the horrible play of his teammates around him.

Not to worry, he'll rebound.

Look out Ahead!
Sadly, last night's blowout loss by the Habs was almost predictable. I had feared that the four day lay off between series' would not work in the Habs' favour. I was also concerned that maybe they would start reading and believing their press clippings and that it would negatively affect their play.

Well, it looks like this is exactly how things played out last night. And you know what? That's a good thing. I'm glad that it wasn't a close game, because the Habs would still have a false sense of security. The way the game played out, last night, will serve as a wake up call to this team.

And, just like after getting blown out by Pittsburgh in Game One of that series, I believe that the Canadiens will rebound in Game Two.

Look for O'Byrne to be reinserted into the lineup and MAB moved back to the fourth line. I, personally, would also sit Benoit Pouliot—who is completely useless—and let Sergei Kostitsyn take his place but knowing Jacques Martin, there is no way that is going to happen.

Next Game
Both teams have the day off before getting back at it tomorrow night for Game Two in Philadelphia.

Will the Habs be able to tie the series and come back to Montreal with the split? Will the Habs fall into a 2-0 hole? We'll find out in a few days, but suffice it to say that the Canadiens have shown the ability to bounce back from bad games so far in the playoffs.

Moreover, if the fall down 2-0 to the Flyers, I believe that this thing will end in five games. If that Habs can pull it out tomorrow, I think this series will go long, six or seven.

What do you guys think? Will the Habs rebound? Will they rediscover their winning form? Will the Flyers put them down on the matt? Let's hear what you think.


I'm disappointed to say the least. Add in a heavy dose of frustration. I don't mind taking a beating, but when there's no effort to fight back, it's truly disheartening. Cammy and JM are disappointed too, and deny frustration, but how can you not be after that embarrassment?

I've never been a huge Price fan - not because of his game play, but because of his attitude. I take it back. That boy has matured and turned into a team player. Hard to do when you're being asked to mop up after someone else's mess, and by that I mean the whole team, not just Jaro.

All year Habs have failed to crash the crease and go for the dirty goals. They never go into the blue paint - except for Gio - and they never screen the opposing goalie. I don't see that suddenly, magically changing this series. Also, the one time Pleks tried it on a PP, he got nailed to the ice. Meanwhile, we let 2 or 3 Flyers stand in front of Jaro and literally hack away at the puck until they get it past him. We're not big enough to clear our own crease, let alone crash theirs. I think the size thing is going to matter this time, in which case this is going to be a short series after all, but not in the Habs favor. Not sure what they can do to counter it, but they need to figure it out fast.

Also, they need to stop trying to set up so pretty on the PP. Just take shot after shot at the net already. One shot per PP? MAB is too scared to get past the blueline even with a man advantage for crying out loud. If JM is that in love with him, sit Darche and play MAB as a forward, and bring back OB, who at the very least is less likely to panic when he sees a Flyer bearing down on him.

Habs can bring all the effort they want next game, but if they don't figure out how to compensate for the size factor, and if they allow the Flyers to keep them to the outside and taking bad shots on Leighton, effort won't cut it. Coaches need to figure out something here, Muller especially, cause their PK has turned back to crapola.

Of all the bad players last night, it was Gomez who was the worst of the lot, not even MAB. For the money he's getting, and the leadership role he plays, that kind of performance is unacceptable on every level.

I felt good going into this series. Now the Flyers will be riding high after their 5th straight, have all the momentum, and a goalie that is posting better stats than Jaro and is dissing our small guys and our PP, so Leighton now feels invincible. Hard to overcome that kind of a psychological advantage, especially if you're afraid, which is what the Habs looked like last night for much of the time. Pouliot is a prime example of being psyched out, and I'm worried the rest of the team is starting down the same path.

Yep, horrible, horrible, sad performance by Les Boys.

Sucks when they come out and throw a stinker like that.

No question re: Price...he has grown up and ate a HUGE slice of humble pie.

Problem is that he is still down on his knees too early. No matter, this year is a write off for him.

Yep, the Flyers size is and will make a difference. What the Habs need to do is to use their speed through the neutral zone to cause the Flyers to take penalties.

The Flyers are not a slow team, but they can't skate with the Habs. If the Habs start remembering to move their feet again, they will have a chance to do some damage.

Agreed re: MAB. He sucks. Our PP sucks, and we need size. Bring in OB and put MAB on the fourth line.

Gomez WAS horrible. I have noticed a few times when he has lost his mind. I think it's his latin blood that boils over sometimes. No good do your team NO good in the penalty box.

I really do think the Habs will bounce back in game two and bring a lot more speed. If they can use that element of their game, the Flyers physicality won't be a factor.

You can't hit what you can't catch.

I'm not sure their speed is enough actually, Kamal. They need to figure out a way to keep the Flyers out of their crease, and find a way to maintain the puck despite constantly being forechecked. I'm not sure what they can do to counter it really. They're clearly afraid to tangle with the Flyers - especially MAB who will not get benched ever for whatever reason.

Getting the Flyers to take penalties will be useless if they can't work their PP. Most of the time, even with the man advantage, they failed to gain the offensive zone, and when they did, they allowed themselves to get pressured into turning over the puck and then had to chase down a rush on their own net. I kept waiting for a shorty. The PKers are almost as bad.

Hey Kamal, when you didn't have a live chat during the Pens series, didn't this exact same thing happen? Pens 6-3? I'm pretty sure this is all your fault! ;)

LOL! Good point, Tyg. Let me check with the boys to see if they're into doing another one.

And you're right re: strategy....while the Habs MUST engage their speed, I too am not sure it will be enough.

I am interested to see what JM does because as much as you are I both have not been fans of his over the season, he has been excellent at between game adjustments.

Let's see what he has in store for game 2!

I feel better. Les Boys are today admitting they didn't bother to show up last night, and are vowing to show up on Tuesday. For whatever reason - perhaps just to drive their fans crazy - they insist upon playing their best when their backs are against the wall. Oy. This team!

Hehe....there is no question that this team has shown so far in the playoffs that they tend to play their best when things matter the most.

Hopefully that trend will continue tonight because if the Habs go down 2-0 to the Flyers, I fear this thing will be over in a hurry...say, 5 games.

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