Flyers teach Habs tough lesson
There's no textbook that explains how to play a perfect postseason road game.
But, as anyone who watched the Flyers dismantle the Canadiens Saturday afternoon can attest, there might now be a video.
Rebounding from a disappointing performance in Game 3, Philadelphia put the Habs in a 3-1 headlock with a convincing 3-0 victory at Montreal's Bell Centre.
Their goaltending was good, as you might expect from Philly's third whitewashing in four contests, but stopper
The Canadiens had dominated Game 3, thanks to a lethal combination of team speed, a ferocious forecheck and a timely presence in front of Leighton. Going by the opening minutes of this contest, it looked like the Flyers were up against more of the same. The Habs fed off the energy of the raucous crowd -- is there a better atmosphere for playoff hockey than the Bell Centre? -- and had their legs moving early, banging the boards and crashing the net and creating havoc in the Philly zone. For a moment, it even looked as though
That might have been their one chance. It wasn't long after that the momentum shifted decidedly in Philadelphia's favor. And the trick was adopting Montreal's successful Game 3 approach. Instead of the Canadiens chipping it in, chasing it down and creating chances off the forecheck, it was the Flyers who began to hem the Habs in their own zone, dictating the tone with their hustle and physical play.
They also dominated in the face-off circle, with
"That seems to be the key when it comes to playoff hockey," Flyers coach
And the big things, too ... like cutting back on the turnovers that killed them Thursday night. "We definitely made better decisions with the puck," said
By the time the second period started, the Flyers were in complete control. They silenced the home crowd with the methodical style that led to a 13-1 shot advantage and kept the Habs pinned in their zone. The Canadiens' defenders, so effective in transition in Game 3, were reduced to banging the puck off the glass or worse, coughing it up under pressure.
That's what led to the only goal Philly would need.
That was just part of Subban's rough afternoon. The rookie turned the puck over at several inopportune moments and struggled to hold the line on the power play.
"He's a young kid who wants to do well," coach
Meanwhile Pronger offered up his most complete game of the postseason, soaking up more than 31 minutes of ice and establishing a dominant physical presence in his own zone. It was the sort of performance that highlights the boldness of his acquisition last summer, and leaves Canadiens fans to wonder how different things might have been if their own No. 1 defender,
So now the Flyers are one game away from the Stanley Cup Final; the Habs are one loss away from summer vacation. There's been little evidence on the ice to suggest Montreal has a comeback in it, but this is a team that battled back from a 3-1 series deficit against against Washington in the first round and a 3-2 hole against Pittsburgh in the second.
Despite his frustration, Martin believes his team has at least one more miracle in it.
"We know how we have to play," the coach said. "We just need certain areas of our game to be better."
It won't be easy to make those adjustments going into the Wachovia Center, where they failed to score a goal in Games 1 and 2. But there's one bright side to needing to win their next game on the road.
They've seen first-hand how it's supposed to be done.