The Montreal Canadiens are in need of a few traffic cops for the remainder of their series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers took advantage of the space they were allotted in front of Carey Price in Game 1 of their opening-round-series victory over the Habs on Wednesday, placing men in front of Price in the hopes of getting better chances of scoring.
The Habs’ penalty kill aims to cut down on opposing teams’ shooting lanes, much like we see above. Puck-handlers on the opposing power play are met by a Canadiens player or two who don’t give the attacker much to work with, forcing them to pass to the teammate next to them.
All the while, another attacker is able to go through the Habs’ four-man box and rest in front of the net. It can work if the penalty kill prevents a shot from going through. In this case, Price finds himself double-screened by two Flyers, Sean Couturier and eventual goal-scorer Jakub Voracek.
You can see in this screenshot that Paul Byron is late to cover Ivan Provorov near the blue line. The defenceman is not only free to shoot from the point, but he has two Flyers in front of him who can deflect the puck in front of Price. The netminder is already having trouble seeing through Voracek’s legs.
Xavier Ouellet was the closest defender to Voracek, and he probably wishes he could’ve been more aggressive with him before the puck went off him and into the net, rather than after the fact.
Ouellet, of course, has to be careful with moving players away from Price as he wouldn’t want to screen Price himself. But even if he were to move toward Voracek, he could still maintain his team’s form when down a man.
The Flyers’ eventual game-winner came after a mistake from Ben Chiarot, who couldn’t properly clear the puck from his own zone. But Philly’s ability to get the goal came from Joel Farabee following one of my favourite hockey parables: good things can happen when you go to the net. Farabee crept in behind Brett Kulak and was easily first to the puck after Travis Sanheim’s point shot hit him.
It was simple for him to turn around after the initial shot and put the puck past Price. It was a goal that came seconds after Shea Weber, probably the team’s best defenceman at keeping opposing forwards out of the blue paint, tied the game for the Habs.
Price has been nigh unbeatable in this year’s post-season, which is great news for the Canadiens’ hopes of making a deep playoff run. But he’s much more effective when he’s able to see the pucks he’s supposed to stop. The Canadiens will need to devise a proper strategy to keep Flyers forwards from taking real estate in front of him.