Normally, a preview comes prior to Game 1. But then again, normally the 7th and 8th seeded teams aren’t the ones battling it out this late in the playoffs. As the Flyers and Canadiens have shown, these playoffs are anything but normal. Will the Flyers get a chance to break their 35 year dry spell, or do the Habs go to the finals to add to their record number of Cups? As always, here’s the breakdown:
Centers: Richards, Briere and Giroux have been monsters on offense. Defensively, Richards, Giroux and Betts have also been stable. Briere has done his part pretty well. The wings have been feeding off of these guys and also lighting the lamp. Gagne has been a beast from the moment he rejoined Richards, and Hartnell and JVR are starting to heat up. Gomez, Lapierre, and Metropolit are pretty solid bunch. I know Gomez and Metroare pretty solid defensive guys and are pretty good at winning the draw. Faceoffs have been a huge problem for the Flyers, but obviously something they have overcome. Anyway, aside from Gomez, none of the Canadiens are established offensive powers. I give the Flyers a pretty big edge in this department.
Goalies: Halak’s numbers are better in the regular season, and he played almost 20 more games. In addition to that, he’s been incredible during the playoffs, leading Montreal to a pair of major upsets. Meanwhile, Leighton has been pretty incredible too, but he’s only played in 3 games. The Flyers completely lit Halak up in Game 1, but again, it’s only one game. That can happen from time to time. Heading into the series, the edge definitely goes to Halak.
Defense: The Flyers top 4 guys are active on both ends of the ice. They played solid defense, consistently, and were a huge reason why the Bruins fell apart. They have done a great job in keeping shooters to the outside, and making Boucher and Leighton’s lives a bit easier. But Montreal’s boys aren’t too shabby either. Hamrlik is pretty forgotten guy, but he has a great slapper, and has been a pretty good d-man for a long time. Hal Gill is another big, tall monster. The loss of Andrei Markov is huge, but PK Subban looks pretty comfortable out there. He’s quick, and in Game 1 was used predominantly in all situations. At this point, I don’t really know which unit is better. I might have to say Montreal just because of what they have had to go through. Stopping the high powered Caps had to be more than only Halak.
Wings: Cammalleri has been the playoffs most dangerous sniper, and Gionta’s12 points in 15 games aren’t too shabby either. But with Gagne back, and Hartnell picking up, this is a pretty even matchup.
System: I don’t understand what Montreal is doing at all. I think I’m going to name their strategy the Armadillo Offense. They pretty much collapse on their goalie, and dare shots to get through. Then, once they get the puck, they try to strike quickly, and then retreat. Seems to me that this plays right into the Flyers hands. They don’t have to be too physical on defense, and they can use their size to keep the puck on offense. Are they really going to sit back and let the Flyers fire away? The Flyers thrive when they are aggressive and take charge. If Montreal really wants to sit back and wait, then I’m fine with it. As long as the Flyers don’t get caught too deep, they’ll be ok.
I’m not a supporter of how Montreal plays, and I can’t believe they have gotten this far. I don’t see Halak continuing to play they way he has lately. I’m going with the Flyers in 6.
Oh yeah, I forgot mention, Jeff Carter might be back pretty soon.
Thanks for reading!
You can follow me on Twitter by visiting www.Twitter.com/BroadStreetBuzz