The roads both of these teams took to get here were not exactly the easiest ways to do it. Waiting till the end of the season before clinching a playoff berth, and playing two series against quality Eastern Conference teams; the Flyers and Habs are 4 wins away from the Stanley Cup Finals. Never before has a 7th and 8th seed met in the playoffs, so history has been made yet again. Tonight they start their series off in Philadelphia as both teams are fresh off of a seven game series. Here are what I believe the two most important keys to this series:
The Canadiens are a small team. They don’t carry a gritty physical style like Boston and we do. Boston could play tough with us shift for shift, yet I think this will be a big factor this series. The Habs have played 14 playoff games already, and they’re probably feeling a little tired. Wear their small bodies down with big checks and don’t give them anything easy. If we bring the lumber early, they should be feeling some wear and tear by Game 3 at least, which sets us up for good things the rest of the way. They’re a trap team and frustrated the finesse and skill of Washington and Pittsburgh. Best way to beat the trap? Dump the puck in and establish your forecheck and play physical. Our forecheck is all about pressure, and I think this will favor us in the end. The last two teams they faced didn’t want to do the yeoman’s work, but we will. Crowding Halak’s crease and getting to loose pucks is going to make the difference.
If there is one constant in playoff hockey, it is goaltending. Every round it has come down to Boosh outplaying Brodeur or Rask, and now that Leighton is back in net he needs to step up. His rebound control has to and should get better. The Habs, unlike the Bruins, have a good amount of offensive talent led by NHL post-season leading scorer Cammalleri. Rookie defenseman PK Subban has also been a big part of their offense, along with veteran forwards like Glen Metropolit and Brian Gionta. Leighton has to make key saves to keep us in it, but I don’t think he necessarily has to steal the whole series for us to be successful.
The main problem with the Canadiens right now is the sensational play of Jaroslav Halak for the past few months. He has been absolutely amazing in net but I think the Flyers grit and determination to win position in front of the net will lead to quite a few goals. We crash the net like it’s our job, and I think that will ultimately win us the series.
Who to Look For:
James VanRiemsdyk finally scored his first playoff goal, and I think with that comes some confidence and hopefully more goals. The kid works hard, just gotta see if he can continue that.
Scott Hartnell rectified all the criticisms he received all year by scoring some important goals in the series and by being a key offensive contributor and helping out his line. He’ll need to keep it up and be a force in front of Halak. If he plays a Scott Hartnell type of game, I don’t see why he won’t put up at least 2 or 3 goals this series.
Danny Briere was a scoring phenomenon last series and is playing against his home’s team. How will he respond to the boos? Last time he played in Montreal he got a hat-trick. Hopefully he keeps earning that contract of his by winning this series.
Braydon Coburn has been the victim of many of my frustrations and criticisms this year, and for good reason. However, he played a hell of a series starting in Game 4 and I believe he finally may have gotten his legs going and playing like the Coburn we saw two seasons ago. He, along with the other top four defensemen need to play well and limit the time for Krajicek and Parent.
The Flyers last played the Habs two seasons ago in the semi-finals, the Flyers beat them in 5 games to advance. I have my “Crush the Canadiens” t-shirt on right now from that series, and I think they can do it again. I’ve been wrong so far, with Flyers in 6 which they did in 5, and Flyers in 6 which they did in 7. I’m not changing it up this time because good things have happened… Flyers in 6 although I wouldn’t be surprised if it went the distance to 7 games.