By JAY BOEHMER
Staff Writer — email@example.com
Many teams would have suffered a letdown in this opening game so soon after the Flyers emotional comeback on Friday. This Philadelphia team didn’t let off the gas one bit.
They had a fast, aggressive start, yet faced some early woes in a Chris Pronger cross checking penalty. Fortunately, the captain Mike Richards took it upon himself to draw Scott Gomez into an undisciplined penalty. As the Flyers started on an abbreviated power play of their own, Ville Leino made a terrific play next to the Habs net before firing a shot that left Jaroslav Halak sprawling. Braydon Coburn recognized the opportunity, jumped up on the play, and buried the first playoff goal of his career to put the Flyers up early.
Despite being outshot by a 2-to-1 ratio, the Flyers seemingly dominated the first period. They didn’t slow down as the second period opened up, either. Claude Giroux was able to tap a puck forward through the Canadiens defenders off a faceoff to Halak’s left, and James van Riemsdyk took the puck around him for a 2-0 lead 30 seconds into the period.
Back on the power play, the Flyers gained control, setting up Danny Briere along the half boards. He stepped into the slot at the top of the circle, fired a slap shot through the screen of Scott Hartnell, and beat Halak for Philly’s third of the night. Simon Gagne closed the frame out with another PP goal off a wicked wrister through traffic. This goal, halfway through the game, saw Jaroslav Halak pulled from the goal in favor of Carey Price.
With the game more or less in hand, the Flyers simply wanted to play a solid third period, not fall into any bad habits, and keep the Canadiens from finding any signs of life or producing anything worth building off of.
Led by the defensive play of Chris Pronger and the hard pressing forecheck of Laviolette’s system, the Flyers had no trouble doing just that.
Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux contributed during the final frame to polish off a six goal thrashing to take control of this series right from the beginning.
Plenty of positives can be drawn from this win. The Flyers, still exhausted from a marathon run against the Bruins, played on pure adrenaline in this game. Fortunately, the lopsided score allowed Peter Laviolette to give his key players a break whenever they needed it. Chris Pronger, a perpetual team leader in ice time, was fourth among defenseman as he played more than ten minutes less than he did in Friday’s dramatic contest.
The Flyers match up well against this Montreal team, who has yet to face a team with such dominant defenders as Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen. Their small stature left them at the will of the 6’6” Pronger, in some cases even refusing to go in the corner to take the puck from him. Going back to the midway point of Game 4, Philadelphia has only allowed a single 5-on-5 goal in the past four and a half games. This kind of dominance, along with a relatively disciplined showing in penalties, makes the Flyers a tough team to come back against.
Another key to this series is the Flyers home ice advantage. For the first time in these playoffs, they have the ability to kick a series off on the right foot in front of their home town fans. This marks their fifth home win of the post season, along with only one loss.
The boys in orange and black step back onto the ice on Tuesday for Game 2 at the Wachovia Center looking to take a 2-0 series lead and maintain home ice advantage before making the trip north to Montreal.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Balanced Scoring: The Canadiens, with their success against Washington and Pittsburgh, simply had a small handful of players to shut down to pave the way to victory. Players like Alex Ovehckin, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin. As the Flyers showed last night, they have scoring threats on every line. Six goals from six players, ranging from shots through traffic to scrambles in front, are a testament to this.
Forecheck: The Flyers played a more aggressive style than the Canadiens are used to as well. This left them on their heels and vulnerable to turnovers. One broadcaster describedit perfectly; Philadelphia comes at their opponents with a “guerilla” offense, jumping on them fast and hard, and then retreating just as quickly to quell any threat as the opponent looks to catch them in transition. This shuts down the Habs most potent form of offense, as they’ve spent the early portions of these playoffs capitalizing on opponents’ turnovers.
Michael Leighton: Despite the quality play by every player on this Flyers roster in such a dominant win, it was Michael Leighton’s effort that kept them off the board completely. His most impressive play of the night was a breakaway save on Scott Gomez with only a few minutes left in the first that kept their tenuous one goal lead alive before the offense truly woke up.