Shrouded by the after effects of questionable game-changing referee decisions, a simple fact breathes hope for the future of the Flyers in their uphill battle against the top-seeded Canadians: They outplayed Montreal on the road with little to no rest.
Aside from the almost laughable — physics bending — decision to allow Alexei Kovalev’s high stick goal to count, and the kneeless kneeing call on Mike Richards with less than a minute to play, the Flyers skated with, bashed on and proved that flawless supertender Carey Price is by far not impenetrable.
The Flyers defense snuffed out almost every second chance attempt while winning a majority of the puck battles in the defensive zone. Led by Darian Hatcher, the combination of winning battles and congesting passing lanes kept the potent Habs offense from getting set up for long periods of time in the Flyers’ zone. The ability to stop the Canadians from controlling the puck is the biggest factor in keeping them and their number one ranked regular season power play off the board.
All three of Montreal’s regulation goals were somewhat fluky, and though playoff goals tend to be that way sometimes, it doesn’t mean the Flyers or Biron were 100-percent at fault. In fact Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen — the Flyers best defensemen — were both a minus-2 with Biron making playoff-style saves the entire first and second period.
On the offensive side, after playing the much larger and stronger Capitals in seven games, it was apparent the Flyers’ forwards enjoyed the space and ability to cycle the puck on the smaller Canadians. The smallish Steve Downie showed a complete turnaround over his messy playoff debut in game seven, likely due to being not overwhelmed by the size of the Canadians. Flyers’ analyst Bill Clement said during the pregame of game seven that Downie was simply too small to compete against the Capitals’ size and would struggle with puck control. He was right, but has so far shown he can be a factor against Montreal.
Marty Biron – Despite what looked to be two soft goals he let in (the first and second), Marty made some ridiculous saves. Highlighted by a leg save with no time on the clock in the second period, he stopped 30 of 34 shots even with the entire Canadians crowd chanting BIRON with perfect French pronunciation — BEEE ROHHH
Steve Downie and the fourth line – With scoring from the depth lines being a huge factor in who wins the series the Flyers should be happy with what their fourth line did. Downie looked dominant as ever, Patrick Thoresen was a beast, contributing on two goals and Jim Dowd from Brick, New Jersey had a jaw dropping slap shot for the Flyers’ second goal.
Scottie Upshall – Playing his tail off and giving his team the best chance to win. If the Flyers make it past the Habs, he will be a huge reason why.
Wasting the beer (probably a Molson) that a Canadians fan threw at Mike Richards in the penalty box – If the game were in Philadelphia the media would be going insane over ” The beer that almost killed a Canadian” but it wasn’t. But then again if it were in Philadelphia the Philly fans probably wouldn’t have wasted a beer missing the player completely (Lindy Ruff is still toweling off). You also don’t read anything about the riots that happened when Montreal advanced past No. eight seed Boston, where police cars were torched. Really Habs fans? Rioting over a FIRST ROUND win? Has it really been that long for you guys?
Vinny Prospal – He was an absolute dynamo early in the Capitals series but really trailed off. Was leading the playoffs in assists, he still moves well without the puck getting into scoring position, but his puck control has been poor and I don’t think he’s gotten a pass or shot through a defender in three games.
Jim Dowd’s Shout Out – During the first intermission after Dowd put the Flyers up 2-0, he was being interviewed by Flyers’ analyst Steve Coates. During this exchange Dowd gave a shout out to his kids, his wife and said happy birthday to a guy named Anthony. Although it is kind of humorous that a veteran of the NHL still needs to give shout outs, he made it seem like it was the first time he’s ever been on tv and the game wasn’t even nationally televised. But I’ll speak for the entire Flyers fan base and say this — Jim, if you keep scoring like you did in game one, you can have the entire intermission to say hi to everyone you know and we’ll all sit and listen.