There’s an old saying in hockey that you aren’t in trouble in a playoff series until you’ve lost a game at home. However, though that theory may be sound in many cases, it is hard to argue that the Montreal Canadiens aren’t in trouble after dropping the first two games against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Losing the first two games of a series on the road is one thing, but losing both games and not scoring a single goal in either of those games is another matter altogether. So far the Habs haven’t been able to solve Flyers’ goaltender Michael Leighton, despite outshooting Philly in both game one and game two. This is something of an ironic development, considering that in their first two match-ups against the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal was the team staging the highway robbery, winning despite being badly outshot in several games.
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak has been a shadow of the goaltender that stoned Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in the first two rounds, giving up one weak goal after another. Either Halak’s hot hand has gone cold, or the Flyers have discovered a weak spot in his game that neither the Caps nor the Pens were able to find. If Halak can’t get his mojo back this battle between the 7th and 8th seeds in the Eastern Conference might end up being surprisingly short.
The Flyers, for their part, have played solid, if unspectacular hockey. Though they’ve been outshot, they have been driving the net hard, and have been rewarded for their willingness to go to the tough areas to recover loose pucks. Their powerplay has been deadly, and their penalty kill has been perfect so far through two games. Special teams generally play a huge part in any team’s post-season success, and so far the Flyers clearly have a wide edge in that department.
Perhaps the biggest reason for Montreal’s troubles has been a disturbing lack of leadership. Neither their highly paid stars like Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri nor their former Stanley Cup winners like Hal Gill and Travis Moen have stepped up to provide a spark for their club. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ledger Mike Richards, Daniel Briere, Simon Gagne and Chris Pronger have been stepping up on a regular basis. Somebody from the Habs needs to take note and make an impact in the series before it is over.