The little Canadiens that could (or so they thought) came into Philadelphia hoping to steal a game, maybe even two. Instead, the Flyers shut them out for the second straight game, and are halfway to the Stanley Cup Finals. Last nights 3-0 win was not the result of a dominating effort, but at least we got the results we needed. More importantly, Halak has not lived up to the expectations that he built up during the first two rounds.
With a packed house the fun started early with a few video highlights that covered everything from the playoff clinching shootout up until Game 1 of this series. After some respectful applause for the Canadian Anthem, we were once again treated to a God Bless America duet by Lauren Hart and Kate Smith. With the way things had gone for the last week and a half, you knew things had to go well. Unfortunately the team came out a bit flat, and were nailed on an early penalty on Krajicek. That lasted a minute though as Gomez went to the box on a hooking call. So after some 4 on 4, the Flyers finally went a man up. Giroux carried it up and dished to Briere. He took the puck up the middle, did a little hesitation move, shifted to his right and fired. GOAL! Halak got a small piece, but not enough as the Flyers took an early lead. The Flyers had two more penalties in the first, and it helped the Canadiens build a nice lead in shots. They kept the puck in the Flyers zone for long stretches, and it was hard to imagine that this kind of play would be good enough to win.
But just like the last game, the Flyers held on and took the one goal lead into the first intermission. Most of the second period was pretty quiet. Montreal controlled the play a bit more, but things were not as lopsided. As Montreal’s shot total grew, the Flyers did a good job of making sure Leighton had a clear view of everything. He was lined up well, and never had to launch himself or make any highlight reel saves. Late in the period, Gionta was called for holding and the Flyers had their second powerplay. And once again, they made Montreal pay. Richards flipped the puck to the front of the net where Leino shot it. The rebound came to Gagne, who scored his 6th goal in 6 games, and more importantly gave the Flyers some cushion.
By the time the 3rd rolled around, the Canadiens were pretty much done. They didn’t have the same spring in their step as they had throughout most of the game. The Flyers hit them a lot in Game 1, and nothing had changed in this contest. There were a few times in the 1st and 2nd periods that Gomez carried the puck with speed and tried to create some chances. That was mostly gone by the third. Same thing with rookie PK Subban. His effort seemed to decrease as the Flyers crashed into him a few times. Halfway into the third, Leino introduced the icing to the cake. On what looked like an innocent looking play, he carried the puck towards the Montreal zone. He was by himself, and there were four guys back on D. He knew he wouldn’t do much damage taking it to the middle, so he shifted to the left. Now I figured he’d take it to the corner, try to kill some time, or maybe try to pull a move and get to the middle at the last second. Instead, he fires a shot from a terrible angle. Halak waved at it with his glove, and it somehow got past him. I’m still not sure if he got a piece, but either way, he should have stopped it. That was a sure sign of a goalie that had given up and wasn’t really focused anymore. We hadn’t even settled back into our seats when the Flyers all of a sudden started getting chance after chance. After the goal Montreal had no fight left in them, and the Flyers could have easily tacked on another pair. The final horn went off, and we are now another step closer.
As the series shifts back to Montreal, things are going to get harder. As dead as the Habs look, they’re not close to done yet. They came back from 3-1 against Washington, and they play in a great home building. This is not a city where they can go home to quietly die. Their media and their fans will put a ton of pressure on them, and I expect them to respond. While I think Halak played a bit over his head in the first two rounds, he’s not a complete bum. His crappy play in Game 1, and lapses in focus in Game 2 are not something the Flyers can completely rely on. If we hope to complete the sweep, or at least get a split once we cross the border, we’re going to have to play a bit better. The defense is fine, because although they give up a bunch of shots, they don’t really look like great scoring chances. I want the offense to keep the puck in the Canadiens zone, wear them out a bit more.
Also, there were quite a few missed calls last night against Montreal. Not a ton, nothing too horrible. But I’d still like the refs to keep a closer eye on things. Especially in the next few games, where refs have been accused more than once of playing favorites with the home side. Just keep things even, let the players play. They didn’t spoil the game last night by making bad calls on the Flyers. Keep it consistent for the next few games though. Make the obvious calls, let the little stuff go, keep things under control. As they say, the best reffed games are ones where you don’t really notice the ref.
One final thought: After Game 1, a 66 year old reporter from Montreal made his way back to his car close to midnight. The poor guy discovered the thing covered in beer, with his license plates ripped off, and a tire slashed. I know there are incidents that happen all over the world. There are fans of every team that do ridiculous and stupid things all of the time. But unfortunately, in America, the spotlight always focuses on Philadelphia. Lately, there have been a few events that make our fanbase live up to it’s poor reputation. I’m all for heckling and booing and all that fun stuff, but let’s not cross the line. It’s not funny when you hurt people or mess with property. STOP DOING THAT STUPID SHIT.
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