Flyers Place Habs Backs To The Wall

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This is a very hard game to write about. It started out with these four paragraphs you see below, and they were stared at for a good long while. I stepped away from the computer countless times, went next door to my tenants to help them install a new toilet, came back to work at it, disatisfied and bummed a second time. I kept coming back to reread these four paragraphs, thinking each time, "is this it?"

After supper, I tackled things again, trying to narrow in on exactly where I felt the game got away from the Habs. I hate it when all that consumes me has to do with the officiating flow of a game. It bugs when that is what I see and can't get away from it. I agonize greatly on such points, but I never deny what it is I feel when putting thoughts down. I'd rather risk being dead wrong about a game than put down words that would feel dishonest.

I tried a half dozen times Saturday night to tap into different emotions that would lead to composing a more suitable summary. In the end, I gave in and let it be what it was going to be. I've italicized the earlier attempts, the second of which still doesn't sit well. 

Thanks to a second period in which the Canadiens made more costly errors than they had shots on goal, Montreal now find themselves in a round facing elimination for a third time this post season.

The Flyers, undone by the Canadiens in Game Three, tightened up their neutral zone coverage and kept the Canadiens at bay during a tide turning second period. In doing so, Philadelphia clipped the Canadiens wings, and Montreal not able to use their speed against the Flyer defense they terrorized on Thursday responded with a paltry 17 shots on goal for the game, including only one in the middle frame.

After a scoreless first period which saw the Canadiens best chances, the Flyers smartly clogged the neutral zone, frustrating their opponents. The middle frame, with the Montreal bench further away for line changes, has been problematic for the Canadiens at times this season.

Mistakes by Josh Gorges (an undone plastic boot guard) and P.K. Subban (a reckless pinch) helped the Flyers go up by two, and with the lead, shut the Canadiens down, blocking 27 Montreal shots in the process.

 

It is depressing to countinue exploring this game that got away, with thoughts that got away.

We were all expecting a different game yesterday with a different result. We all saw the Canadiens seemingly solve the Flyers on Thursday. We all figured Montreal had gotten it rolling and the series would play itself out into an exciting crescendo.

It's nice and fine when you can take a hockey game, look at it whole, and compartmentalize it into a cut and dried analysis that is succinct and correct.

It's even tougher to accomplish when the highs of Game Three are so positively inspiring that the goodness of that result wants to live on for days and instead collides with the realities from a game that went impossible in the complete opposite direction.

Is it the Canadiens who misfired, or is it the Flyers who threw a monkey wrench into the Habs plans.

Before the game, Canadiens assistant coach Perry Pern clearly outlined what the Habs needed to do in Game Four in order to win. Pern stated that the Canadiens were going to go flat out and press the Flyers with an energized puck pursuit game that would not relent.

Getting pucks behind the Philadelphia defense was key to the strategy and it seemed to be working for the first half of the first period.

 

A penalty call for holding on Marc - Andre Bergeron at the 11:24 mark of the first period began to turn the tide the Flyers way.

Now I've mentioned this many times about the Canadiens this season. I've noted that when certain types of calls go against them and others do not go their way, they become a very tentative team. It's as though in such instances they either become wary of repeating a mistake or they become confused as to the fine line that calls sit upon.

Without a doubt, the calls on Bergeron, and later in similar fashion to P.K. Subban, both for holding were definitely by the book. The trouble is, that from a Canadiens point of view, they look like singled out calls, especially considering what generally gets missed in a game.

Prior to these calls, a couple that went AWOL were a stick slashed right out of a Canadiens player's hand while he was not the puck carrier, and the double roughing minor to Roman Hamrlik and Ian Laperriere at 5:32 of the first period.

I don't get that call at all. Laperriere lays on Hamrlik's stick, belly flat and refuses to get up, while the Flyers rush the puck the other way. Hamrlik tugs and pulls on his stick, but Laperriere never makes an attempt to get up. Shoving ensues, it goes on for fifteen seconds and both players are nabbed for roughing.

But the trade off sucks - a fourth line forward for a top pairing defenseman. It is a tradeoff that does little to hamper the ensuing two minutes of four on four for the Flyers, but it does affect it for Montreal, as Hamrlik is a player normally on the ice in that situation.

Of course, it is beside the point that I have an issue with such things and more to the point that Montreal - hell I'll even say all players in general - have an issue with refs when calls get this chintzy.

In the playoffs, penalties are best assessed for infractions on scoring chances and obstruction that eliminates them.

So here, the first three calls of the game are a double roughing minor one hundred feet behind the play that has penalized Montreal long before the whistle sounded, and regardless of two players hitting the box together, penalizes the Habs going forth, and two holding calls on Canadiens defensemen behing their own net, when no more harm was done in the infraction than a hand being placed on a torso for position purposes.

Yeah it pretty lame. The echoes of Habs fans sighing "ah come on!" in unison were heard.

The trouble is, that's hockey. That's a hockey game and its variables in a nutshell. Officiating is part of that wheel spin, and there's no getting around it.

Now I'll surely hear a word or two for this little personal diatribe, but save your fingerprints because the calls, errant or not, is not what I am getting at. The point is all about the Canadiens psyche, and how they seem to deal with it. Maybe you pick up on this happening to them and maybe you do not. But I have seen it play out so many times that I can predict the oncoming doom instinctively.

I see the calls. I see the non-calls. I see the Canadiens back off and back down.

The Habs have to be mentally tougher in light of these realities of the game, because they do ever go away. Contrarily, backing off hurts as much, as the Canadiens stop forcing the play, causing the Flyers to take no penalties.

In saying the Habs have to be mentally tougher, I'm fully aware that this is a team that is 5-0 when facing elimination this post season. These Canadiens are a conundrum at times, unable to adjust during games but great at doing so in between them.

So getting back to the game at hand, the question is, were the Flyers after being soundly defeatled 36 hours earlier, able to make all the right adjustments that caused them to win Game Four, or was it simply a case of the Canadiens going off the rails at a pivotal point in the game, unable to get through what the Flyers put up once they had the lead?

 

And that my good friends, is the dilema that ate at me all day long, trying to figure heads or tails.

The two Flyer goals came on unforced errors. Giroux looked great going around Gorges, with a clear plastic boot guard dangling from his skate. Subban, a high risk and high reward player got burned on goal number two, setting up an odd man rush.

Once the Flyers had a lead, they executed the perfect road game. It was impressive in the sense that it gave the Canadiens very little in the second period.

Of course, the neutral zone obstruction on players without the puck was insane, but that's how it goes.

It will now be up to the Canadiens to play the perfect road game and enable their further survival.

It will require a great deal of patience to beat Philly in their rink, but Montreal will have to devise a game plan capitalizes on the notion that the Flyers will be going all out to win this one.

If they try to take it to the Flyers in their own domain, the game and series will be over as quickly as Game One was.

As an opponent, the Flyers have barely resembled the Capitals or Penguins in any game this series. Philadelphia did not attack Monteal as did the other teams. Instead, they set out to play the Canadiens and confront the Habs strengths and weaknesses head on. The Flyers are up three to one in games because of that.

In game five, it might just happen as the game wears on, that Philly will come to resemble thte anxiousness of those Caps and Pens teams.

Can the Canadiens sit back patiently waiting in the weeds, or will the repeat previously mistakes?

For the only the second time in these playoffs, I have to admit I am not very confident.

Is it too late to blame that toilet for the game and how I feel?

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