The Montreal Canadiens have to score more goals. It sounds simple, admittedly. After all, you cannot win a hockey game if you don’t score more than the other team. The Canadiens, after losing game one to the Philadelphia Flyers, now know what it’s like to play against themselves.
The Flyers are a better version of the Canadiens. They roll lines, they have speed, and they have a goaltender that they can trust behind them. They force you into mistakes and then they take advantage of them. Their methods are not exactly the same, but their philosophies are. Montreal beat the Pittsburgh Penguins by out-defending them. They will need to beat the Flyers by trying to outscore them.
Against the Flyers, and specifically against Carter Hart, you need to force the issue a bit more in order to score. The Canadiens played a very good version of their game on Wednesday, but one mistake right after they tied the game was the difference. They showed that they are competitive against the Flyers, but they will need to be better than they were in game one in order to beat the top seed.
The second period of game one may have been the best the Canadiens played since hockey restarted. They even scored a power play goal. However, they only generated six shots in the third period when they needed a goal.
One way to get more offence is to dress a more aggressive lineup. Against Pittsburgh, you wanted defensively responsible players throughout the lineup, however it wouldn’t surprise me to see a change on the fourth line. Dale Weise and Alex Belzile played around a minute each in the third period. Max Domi had over five minutes, taking Joel Armia’s place. Armia alone had four shots in the second period, and six in the game but didn’t play a shift in the final 7:21 of the game.
If the Canadiens had players with a bit more offence in the lineup, such as a player like Jake Evans (if healthy), or even Charles Hudon or Ryan Poehling, there would be an opportunity without leaving yourself vulnerable.
Pouncing on mistakes and opportunistic scoring is how the Canadiens made the playoffs, but they will have to change their methods in order to beat the Flyers.
Is it a risk? Absolutely, especially with Claude Julien not able to make the adjustments himself. Staying with the same system as in the opening game is also a risk. As we saw, playing a very good game is not enough with the status quo.
No matter what the Canadiens choose, they will need to score more than one goal per game to win the series.