Game preview #5: Canadiens-Flyers
TV: VERSUS (HD), CBC (HD), RDS
(Philadelphia leads best-of-seven series, 3-1)
Big story: One more win. That is all that stands between the Flyers and their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1997. If Philadelphia can beat Montreal in Monday’s Game 5 at the Wachovia Center, it will claim the Prince of Wales Trophy and represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.
But when it comes to the Canadiens, that is a big "if." The East's No. 8 seed has been a tough out this postseason. Just ask the Capitals and Penguins. Those two superpowers had a combined five opportunities to send Montreal into the summer. Five times, Montreal rebuffed their attempts and stayed alive for another game. Now, Montreal must find a way to win three more do-or-die games to keep its hopes alive for a Stanley Cup Final berth.
Canadiens -- Montreal was dominated in Game 4 at the Bell Centre, losing 3-0 and being shut out for the third time in this series. How bad are things for Montreal? Well in their long -- and mostly glorious history -- history, the Canadiens had never been blanked three times in a series. In the second period of Sunday's game, they managed just one shot and that was by grinding winger Maxim Lapierre in the final three minutes of the period. In all, Montreal went almost 19 minutes between shots during a span that bridged the end of the first period and most of the second period.
Yet, the Canadiens insist they are not frustrated lot.
"We haven't been a frustrated group all playoffs," leading scorer Michael Cammalleri told NHL.com. "It's kind of a familiar feeling for us. They have to beat us again and we seem to play our best hockey in that situation."
For now, the Canadiens have just one thing in mind: winning Game 5. They do not want the debacle that was Game 4 be their farewell to the Montreal fans. They want a chance to play Game 6 back there and put the pressure on Philadelphia, which is fully aware that the hard-to-kill Canadiens have already wiggled their way out of 3-1 and 3-2 series deficits this postseason.
"We know we have done it before and we still believe," Tomas Plekanec said. "Until they get the fourth win, they are not going anywhere else. We'll go out there, we'll regroup tomorrow and we’ll win the game."
Flyers -- Philadelphia dominated all but the first 10 minutes of Game 4 by using a smothering defensive effort and a deadly counter-attack. The first two goals Sunday came off Montreal turnovers in the neutral zone, which resulted in breakaways for the Flyers. Claude Giroux, who scored the first of those breakaways, also added an empty-net tally.
The dominating defensive effort in Game 4 was in stark contrast to the struggles Philadelphia's back line experienced in Game 3. In that game, Montreal got the puck deep, forced the Flyers' defensemen to turn and retrieve it and then used a buzzing forecheck to create turnovers. Chris Pronger, a rock throughout the playoffs, was a minus-3 in that game. His partner, Matt Carle, was a minus-4.
But Sunday afternoon, Pronger was once again the man, dominating the game in his zone and firing off the outlet pass that set up Ville Leino's back-breaking goal late in the second period. Pronger played a little more than 31 minutes, blocking three shots and finishing a plus-1.
"There weren't enough minutes in the game for him," coach Peter Laviolette said. "He wanted to play the whole game."
Pronger's dominance was a testament to the Flyers' mindset in Game 5. After getting pushed around and taken out of their game in Game 3, the Flyers did what was necessary to win Game 4 and paid the price necessary to be the superior team.
"Our guys responded with a better effort," Laviolette said. "We were on our toes, ready to play hockey. That makes a big difference. Like I said, the biggest adjustment we needed to make was attitude."
Who's hot -- Michael Leighton is the first goalie in Flyers' franchise history to record three shutouts in one series. He needs just one more to tie the single-postseason record, which is held by legend Bernie Parent. Leighton has stopped 70 of the 75 shots he has faced in this series and is 6-1 in his seven starts since replacing the injured Brian Boucher in Game 5. Giroux, an unsung hero throughout these playoffs, had two goals Sunday afternoon. He has 8 goals this postseason and has 5 points in these 4 games against Montreal.
Injury report -- Tom Pyatt, who had a goal and an assist in Montreal’s Game 3 win, did not play in the third period of Game 4 after suffering an upper-body injury. He will be re-evaluated Monday and is questionable for Game 5. … Philadelphia got a huge boost Sunday when both forwards Ian Laperriere and Jeff Carter returned. Carter, who missed a little more than a month with a broken bone in his foot, had a big return with four shots and four hits in 13 minutes of action. He also won three of the four faceoffs he took. Laperriere played a little more than nine minutes on the checking line and had a hit and a blocked shot.
Stat pack -- Philadelphia dominated Game 4 in two key areas -- blocked shots and faceoffs. The Flyers won 38 of the game's 56 faceoffs, a 68 percent win rate. Giroux led the way with 11 wins in 16 attempts. Philadelphia also blocked 27 shots, almost double Montreal's 14. Carle had 6 of those blocks. … Montreal had just one shot in the second period of Game 4, tying franchise records for both teams. Montreal had been limited to one shot twice before the postseason, most recently in 1994 against Boston. Philadelphia, meanwhile, tied the record for fewest shots allowed in a full period. Montreal has not scored a goal in 9 of the 12 periods in this series.
Puck drop -- Despite the overwhelming dominance Philadelphia has enjoyed in the first four games, the Flyers know they have not accomplished anything yet. In fact, all they have to do is look back to last round when they erased a 3-0 series deficit by winning four straight against a Boston side that felt it had already booked passage to the next round.
Plus, the Flyers are well aware of Montreal's propensity to get its hackles up most when it is facing a life-or-death situation.
So Philadelphia has designs on finishing this series at home Monday night. They know that any delays in extinguishing Montreal's dim hopes can only spell danger.
"Before we leave this rink we have to dismiss (the Game 4 win)," Laviolette said. "We need to get rid of it and start focusing and getting ready because too much is at stake."