A sizeable challenge
As practice was winding down on Saturday morning, Jacques Martin huddled several veterans at center ice for a little pow-wow. True to form, the tight-lipped coach wasn’t about to reveal what he, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Michael Cammalleri, Josh Gorges and Hal Gill we're chatting about.
Unfortunately for Martin, his star centerman sang like a canary for the media.
“We were talking about much we would have preferred to face Boston,” divulged Gomez with a smirk. “I mean the Celtics are still in the playoffs. I had no idea Jacques was such a basketball fan. Plus, Hal is from there and said that everything would be cheaper because he knows the city inside out.”
Once he was done toying with the media, Gomez unveiled his own scouting report on the Flyers.
“They may not quite have the finesse players like the Penguins and Capitals, but the Flyers have some really talented players; guys like Briere, Richard and Gagne,” warned Gomez. “Chris Pronger is still one on the best in the game and let’s just say that me and Gio and about to outmuscle him. We’re just going to have to be even quicker out there.”
Don’t talk to Gill about quickness. He knows all about what it’s like to face a player like Gionta, even though they will never truly see eye-to-eye.
“When Gionta arrived in the NHL, I spent two years trying to stop him,” admitted the giant defenseman of the pint-sized winger. “At some point I smartened up and realized that it was a waste of time and energy.”
Despite standing at 6-foot-7, Gill could never be accused to selling the smaller players in the league short.
“Guys like Gionta, Cammy and Pleky know how to use their size as an advantage,” said Gill. “It's all about playing to your strengths. They find ways to lean on bigger players. I have trouble playing against guys like them.”
Aware the identity of their third round opponent for only 12 hours, the Canadiens still know what to expect from the Flyers. All too comfortable battling it out in the trenches and in the darkest corners of the rink, the Flyers will be hell bent on slowing down the speedy Habs.
After facing heavily-favored teams in the two opening rounds, the Canadiens will now be looking in the mirror when the puck drops on Sunday. Staring across from them will be a team which has also proven the critics wrong and played the underdog role to perfection.
“They’re like us in that they’re better than they look on paper,” continued Gomez. “They’ve also shown how much depth they have. This is going to be a real challenge.”
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com.
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