The Montreal Canadiens were hoping to take the series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers but now their focus is to keep themselves from going down 3-1.
Games 2 and 3 in this series against the Philadelphia Flyers was a battle of shutouts. The Montreal Canadiens started things off getting the 5-0 win that saw their power play and new 5v5 configurations find the scoresheet. Unfortunately, Carey Price didn’t have the best of birthdays and the Flyers came back winning 1-0 to take the 2-1 series lead.
That’s not to say the loss was on Price. When you don’t score any goals, it’s hard to look at the goaltender and wag the finger of blame at them. Philadelphia was probably telling themselves the same thing after Game 2 and although they didn’t score a lot, they scored enough and defended enough to keep the Habs out of it.
The top line found the scoreboard via Jakob Voracek, but besides that, it was a very low-event game.
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The Flyers had the ever-so-slight edge in expected goals at 5v5 (1.42 vs. 1.33). However, the Montreal Canadiens controlled the majority of the game possession-wise with another good start to the game. It was just that first goal that got through and it wound up being the game-winner.
Price was steady in the third when the Flyers started to come back stopping all eight of their scoring chances. Carter Hart, on the other hand, wasn’t challenged as heavily as Montreal would like to admit.
Philadelphia got a lot closer to Price than the Canadiens did. Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny and Michael Raffl were getting in those danger areas while the Habs’ closest shot on Hart was a Jesperi Kotkaniemi shot 16ft from the net in the final frame of the game (per Money Puck)
Special teams, at least the attacking side of them, weren’t any good for the Montreal Canadiens either. The power play was 0/3 which should be a lightbulb to Alain Vigneault that what Kirk Muller said after Game 2 was justified. That said, the penalty kill was solid stopping all six of Philadelphia’s opportunities.
It was more than just stopping them. The Habs didn’t allow the Philadelphia Flyers to get any shots on Carey Price while they only had one shot that was directed to the net that was fired wide.
That’s something the team can ride and use for confidence heading into Game 4, but what the Montreal Canadiens need to start doing is pushing the pace. As much as Game 2 was the Habs taking advantage of the Flyers’ breakdowns, they were also doing a better job fighting for ice and getting to the front of the net.
Kotkaniemi and Tomas Tatar‘s goals should be one of the golden standards of how the team should be moving and positioning in the offensive zone. And because Montreal can’t rely on their power play at the moment, generating at 5v5 must be their focus ahead of puck drop.
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The Montreal Canadiens are a good team when they inject some desperation into their style of play. If they lose this game, they go down 3-1 in the series and face the possibility of elimination for the first time. If that doesn’t make them desperate, I don’t know what will.
Acknowledgements: Money Puck and Natural Stat Trick.