Friday, May 21, 2010
Disappointing Loss for Flyers Allows Montreal to Storm Back into Series
By: Tim Brennan
The way in which Philadelphia dominated the first two games of this series showed that these guys were the real deal and not just some fluke who somehow mustered a 3 games to none comeback to beat the Bruins. The only problem was that that same team didn't show up for Game 3.
Montreal flipped the series upside down by taking it to Philly the exact same way the Flyers took it to the Canadiens in the previous two games. One of the major components for the Flyers success has been the support of the fans on home ice, who create plenty of noise and encouragement for the team so they can feed off of the energy to get them going. Montreal decided to come out with an enormous buzz at home, with the home crowd chanting "Leighton" to try and throw the goaltender off his game along with booing Chris Pronger, Danny Briere and Mike Richards to no end. The Canadiens also needed a strong effort from Halak similar to what Michael Leighton had done in his last few starts.
Along with that, the Canadiens needed to make a few adjustments heading into their first home game in this series. They inserted 6'5 rugged blueliner Ryan O'Byrne to defend against the large forwards from Philly instead of 5'9 Marc Andre Bergeron, who instead played as an extra defenseman and occasionally on the 4th line wing. Montreal also switched out Mathieu Darche and Sergei Kostitsyn for Bergeron and Benoit Pouliot.
If Montreal was going to be able to take advantage, they needed to score a goal and take it to the Flyers physically. The Canadiens had no problem with that as they scored twice in the first period. Mike Cammalleri finally got on the board in this series, creating room for himself near the net and buried a rebound that bounced off the back boards right to his stick. Then close to ten minutes later, the Canadiens best forward in the first two games, Tom Pyatt, gave Montreal a 2-0 lead as he drove to the net and deflected a pass off his skate past Leighton. The goal came as a result of a costly turnover by Chris Pronger, who's errant pass went right to Dominic Moore, setting up the eventual goal.
Philadelphia could not have played any worse in that first period. Every single player seemed to have trouble keeping up with Montreal's speedy forwards and they certainly didn't have their legs under them. Their brains must have been sluggish as well because the Flyers couldn't make a breakout pass to save their lives. The majority of their attempted breakouts were chips out of the zone that went directly to a Montreal player. Defense wasn't something the Flyers did well in that period as well, with confusion over defensive coverage and lackadaisical attempts at clearing the zone.
The Flyers didn't fare well in the second either as they continued to turn over the puck and get out muscled in every puck battle. The combination of Maxim Lapierre's bone crushing hits and Montreal's defense stepping up to take the body caused the third goal of the game. The Flyers went out of their way to make a huge hit but put themselves out of position and allowed Dominic Moore to carry it in, pass it off to Pyatt and take a shot from the high slot that beat Leighton five hole.
Brian Gionta made it a 4-0 lead two minutes into the third when a chip-in went over Matt Carle's outstretched arm and landed right near Gionta as he went in alone and slid the puck low underneath Leighton's left pad. But the Flyers were able to break Halak's possible shutout bid at 8:22 when Simon Gagne scored his 7th of the playoffs and kept his 4 game goal streak alive. A back handed no look pass from Dan Carcillo hit Gagne right on the tape and he whipped around and fired one over Hal Gill and past Halak.
Frustration settled in for the Flyers as with a 3 goal lead, the Canadiens were taking liberties with Philly's star players and a brawl ensued. Scott Hartnell and Roman Hamrlik tussled and eventually fought while Danny Briere got speared by Jaroslav Spacek and went back at him along with Mike Richards. The Flyers would be shorthanded however because Chris Pronger committed interference with the goaltender pulled. The Canadiens would add another goal before the game ended, with Marc Andre Bergeron's powerplay tally with 30 seconds left and allowed Montreal to get back into the series with a 5-1 victory.
Although the blame could be thrust completely on the Flyers defense, the offense didn't help out much either, only 26 shots on Halak and struggling to make plays in the offensive zone once they crossed the opposition's blueline. The team altogether looked slow and sluggish throughout the contest. Any form of offense didn't come to fruition and defense was a struggle all night. The Flyers top pairing of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle combined for a -6 rating and committed 3 turnovers, one of which led to Tom Pyatt's first period goal.
If not for Michael Leighton turning aside 33 shots, the Flyers could have lost this game even worse than 5-1. Montreal missed the net on 13 opportunities with 10 of those from 30 feet or closer. The defense was a main area for concern for Philadelphia in this game and needs to work on that to prepare for Game 4.
The Flyers also need to make sure that Montreal doesn't run all over them in the next game. Maxim Lapierre was a non factor in the first two games but came alive in Game 3 and tormented the Flyers all night long. The Canadiens also resorted to some cheap tactics, like when after Pyatt scored, Lapierre blatantly ran over Flyers forward Darroll Powe on purpose after the puck had been in the net. Another incident was a missed call on Josh Gorges in the 2nd period as he came across and elbowed Claude Giroux in the face. Giroux was bleeding and lost a tooth but no call was made. Then of course there was the battle between Briere and Spacek near the end of the game that led to a gathering of players.
The Flyers should be amped up for the next game after what Mike Richards and Chris Pronger had to say during post game interviews and the anger at not playing well along with laying down in an important game. Dan Carcillo stated that the Flyers will come out strong and with a ton of emotion and seemed quite peeved at an incident where he got into a shoving match with Mike Cammalleri who stuck his tongue out at him.
The Flyers might have Ian Laperriere back for Game 4. The man affectionately known as "Lappy" practiced with Blair Betts and Darroll Powe today and appeared to be good to go. He has been cleared by the medical staff to play after sustaining a brain contusion and facial laceration while blocking a shot from Paul Martin in the Conference Quarterfinals. His return would help spark the Flyers as the rugged role player logs big minutes on the team's shut down line and penalty kill and provides plenty of energy with his well known ability to muck it up with opposing players. Laperriere would replace Andreas Nodl if he is able to be inserted into the lineup for Game 4.