Sunday, May 23, 2010

Canadiens-Flyers: Michael Leighton's Third Shutout Pushes Habs to the Brink

Wow, was that the Habs from the playoffs or from the regular season?

While I know that yesterday's Game Four 3-0 loss by the Habs was a playoff game, that sure looked like the Jekyll and Hyde team that I remember from the regular season.

As has been the case all series long, the Habs came out of the gate determined to win.

Their speed was engaged, they were forechecking and taking the play to the Flyers. The problem, for the Habs, is that they didn't score during the first ten minutes.

Marc-Andre Bergeron took a holding penalty at around the mid-point of the first, that while the Flyers didn't score they grabbed the momentum.

From that point out, it was all Philly as they outshot the Habs 13-1 in the second period and 25-17 overall.

As the Flyers took the lead, the Canadiens became a panicked bunch: rushing passes, going to low percentage shots, and struggling to get the puck into the Flyers' zone.

While Michael Leighton earned another shutout, he was not tested very much except for early in the first period.

The Flyers got two goals from Claude Giroux—one into an empty net—and one from Ville Leino.

Final score: Flyer 3 - Habs 0. The Flyers lead the series 3-1.

Game Notes
1. A tale of two goalies
Once again, Michael Leighton earned a shutout—his third of this series—and Jaroslav Halak got no offensive support for his team.

While Leighton made some good saves early in the first period, he wasn't really tested. As much as the Habs drove hard to the net in Game Three, they completely avoided the dirty areas yesterday and were rewarded with no goals.

As for Halak, he did what he had to do, stopping all but two shots by the Flyers. The problem, once again, was that his team did not score in front of him.

This is something we have seen far too often this season and the Habs have to try and correct it going into Game Five.

2. In a game of inches, two mistakes was all it took
Yesterday's Game Four was the most tightly contested match between these two teams so far.

Every inch of the ice was under dispute and, until the Flyers opened the scoring, it was an outstanding chess match.

Ultimately, two mistakes did the Habs in and changed the complexion of the game.

The first was a terrible neutral ice giveaway by Maxim Lapierre that led to the first Claude Giroux goal. There was some bad luck on the play too, as Josh Gorges skate strap had come undone and he was unable to skate properly as a result.

The second was an offensive blueline turnover by P.K. Subban leading to a Leino breakaway and a 2-0 score.

From there, the Flyers hermetic defense kept the Habs to the outside and shut the door to earn the win.

3. Speaking of P.K., that was his worst game yet.
He's a kid. Young, exuberant but with a lot to learn. While Subban has shown periods of sheer brilliance, we all know that he will make mistakes given that he is a rookie.

Well, last night, was unfortunately one of his worst games in the NHL so far. P.K. made mistake after mistake, made poor decisions with the puck, and ultimately caused a turnover leading to the second Flyers' goal.

As Subban skated to the Flyers' blueline he failed to dump the puck in and opted to try for a deke instead. The result was a turnover that Chris Pronger fired down to Leino for the breakaway.

That second goal really was the final nail in the Habs coffin as the whole team seemed to slump after it.

4. Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta are great, but...
The Habs can't score.

It's been their problem all year long and their success so far this playoff season has been on the backs of Cammalleri and Gionta's scoring prowess.

Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Scott Gomez have now gone a combine 42 games without a goal between them.

That is simply not good enough.

While they do other good things on the ice, that is three out of the top-six players who aren't scoring. Throw Benoit Pouliot's scoring droughts into the mix, and you only have two out of your top-six forwards who are scoring.

With stats like that, it is a wonder that the Habs have gotten as far as they have.

5. Philly ain't no Caps or Pens
You've got to give credit to the Flyers. They simply have a crushing amount of depth up front and the most solid top-four defensemen the Habs have faced so far in the playoffs.

Couple that with a coach—Peter Laviolette—who is outstanding at making in-game and post-game adjustments, and you have what looks like a team that is destined for the cup finals.

Not to mention that with the additions of Ian Laperriere and Jeff Carter last night, they are getting healthy at exactly the right time.

Their own potential problem is the problem they have had for a decade, and that is suspect goaltending.

The Habs exposed Leighton in Game Three by going to the net, putting traffic in front of him, and generally making his life difficult. While the Habs have only done so in one out of four games, the Chicago Blackhawks—if they meet the Flyers in the final—will not return that favour.

Look Out Ahead!
How can you predict what we will see in Game Five on Monday from a team that is largely unpredictable?

You can't.

The way the Canadiens have played, I would not be surprised to see them put in their best effort of the season and pull out the win, forcing a Game Six in Montreal.

If the Habs can do that, anything can happen.

With the veteran leadership on this team, I can't see them throwing in the towel and I think, like all of the game so far, that whoever scores the first goal will win the game.

Next Game
The teams now fly back to Philadelphia for Game Five on Monday night. The Flyers hope to close out the series and, not wanting to come back to Montreal for a Game Six, are sure to bring their best effort yet.

What kind of game will the Canadiens bring? Can they force a Game Six? Do they have anything left in the tank?

In a little more than a day, we will find out.

NOTE: The Habs are currently 5-0 in elimination games. Let's see if they can keep the streak going on Monday!


I think we saw the game the same way Kamal. Hard to produce offensively when 4 of your 6 forwards on the top 2 lines have become snake bit. The time for that is not in the playoffs, and the 3rd line cannot pick up all the slack. The PP has gone belly up without its quarterback, and that coupled with the strong Flyers D means another gift-wrapped shutout for Leighton.

The Habs need to fix their offensive problems in the off season, and a great way to start doing that would be to promote JM from behind the bench into upper management. I've been screaming all year that his stupid system would hamstring his own offense, and while the team managed to capitalize on its chances in the first two series, its just not an effective strategy when you're up against a team like the Flyers. I've never gotten off the I-hate-JM bandwagon, despite the fact that the team is in the ECF, and this series is just another glaring reminder of why.

Also, not sure what it is - lack of urgency, fatigue after 2 series that ran their full lengths - but the Habs don't look like the same team to me that had the never-say-die mantra during the first two series. Hope I'm wrong about that though.

Hey Tyg!

Yep, you're bang on. While the Habs have had some success in the playoffs this year, it has exposed their paramount need for size up front...and especially down the middle.

Can you imagine Jeff Carter as the Habs 1st line center?

As much as Plek, and Gomez are great on the defesnive side of the puck, they are being paid to put up points...and they just are not doing it.

That Habs need to add some meat to theri top six and, if Guy Boucher is still around, send Pouliot down to play for him for half a season.

He will come back a different man, imo.

JM is JM. He is a known commodity and his style does not mesh with the style of hte players he has.

On the few occasions when this team attacks, they are frighteningly dangerous.

Too bad they don't do it more often.

The worst example was to see JM drop his team into a 1-2-2 defensive shell yesterday when trailing by 2 goals.

WTF? That is ridiculous.

Game Note #6. Sandgate:

Habs = Cheaters = Losers!:

Hey there anonymous....not sure what Sandgate means, nor the Habs, cheaters, losers thing.

Some kinda code I guess. :-)

Thanks for your comment anyway!

Are you that dense?

Habs = Cheaters = Losers!

It's that simple. There's no code. It's pretty straightforward, especially if you visit the previously provided URLs.

Habs = Cheaters = Losers!

If you can't easily figure that out, as well as what I mean by "Sandgate", then there's no hope for you.

You're welcome.

@Anonymous - is there a point to this, other than to be rude for the sake of being rude? It's people like you that give Flyers fans a bad rep. What is it you expect to accomplish here? Do you need to make yourself feel better somehow? May I suggest diet, exercise and perhaps some therapy instead? Surely that would be more constructive than trolling on a message board. If you really have nothing intelligent to say, then what is the point of saying anything at all? You are doing a disservice to yourself and fellow Flyers fans, and while you may deserve it, I doubt very much that the rest of the fanbase does.

(Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?)

Dear Tyg,

In the words of the immortal Walter Sobchak: "Oh please, dear? For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint."

Why would you assume I'm a Flyers fan? (Je suis merely a hockey nut.) I was responding directly to Mr. Panesar's queries, and I thought I was pretty polite in my honest directness.

Besides, accusing somebody of being rude and in the following statements suggesting that I need a diet, exercise, and therapy is nothing short of being a hypocrite. (I'm one of the few combined professional trainer-dietitian/nutritionists-licensed therapists in the country, but that's besides the point.) So who's being the troll here? If you have nothing better to do than just point an accusing finger at other posters, then maybe you do a disservice to other Sabs fans yourself. And from the sound of it, you need to grow a thicker skin. At the very least, you should be able to take it just as much as you dish it out:

As a hockey fan in general, I thought I was being straightforward with my utter disgust at the Sabs (they deserve the name change). They they would stop at nothing to gain an edge on their opponents (by literally taking the edge off their opponents skates). This game is too sacred to allow shenanigans like that go overlooked and unpunished. So if there is a Hockey God, and I hope there is, the Sabs must atone. At least Karma intervened in a small way and leveled the playing ice by causing the broken strap on Gorges skate. But that's not enough.

It came across as rude, and I gave back what I got in the same spirit. Your reply has only confirmed it really. "Are you that dense?" were the words you used. That's hardly going to generate an intelligent response worthy of discussion. And in that same spirit, have a great day. Clearly you are in need of one.

Since a majority of it is already over, I've already had a great day, and I expect it to continue.

It'll be greater still if justice is met and someone in the Canadienne's organization takes care of their own by exposing the saboteur so they can be put up on charges, in order to preserve the integrity of the sport.

At least in Philadelphia, the Law is about to arrest the guy who vandalized Mr. Hickey's car, and that act didn't even affect the outcome of any game (although vandalism is just as indefensible as sabotage, no matter the circumstance):

By the way, I was only asking a question. I wasn't deliberately making assertions, like you are at me. I don't know you from Adam. So let's stick to the issue: That the Sabs are Cheaters!

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