What’s wrong with the Canadiens?

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

The magical Montreal Canadiens are bewildered.

After dropping games one and two, 6-0 and 3-0, to the seventh-seeded Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, the hockey world is wondering what went suddenly wrong with the same eighth-seeded team that dispatched the potent Washington Capitals and experienced Pittsburgh Penguins in consecutive rounds.

Well, according to Montreal’s playoff statistics the answer is easy — the Flyers are simply out-Habbing the Habs.

The key to the Canadiens’ successful post season is easy to pinpoint.  They score first, play rope-a-dope in their zone leading to lopsided shot count, then counterattack with precision.

But the key is owning an early lead.

So far this post season, Montreal has trailed first in seven games.  It lost six of those seven.  When the Canadiens lead first they win, collecting a 7-2 record when receiving the opening score.

In both games one and two of the ECF, Philly jumped out to a an early first-period lead and both times the Canadiens could not get in their counter-punch comfort zone.  Montreal was forced to push the attack and the Flyers were able to counter, punching in back-breaking second and third unanswered goals.

When having the game taken to them and being out-shot by the opposition in the playoffs, Montreal is a very successful 8-3.

But when the Canadiens are the ones forced to push the offense they do not fare well, owning a pitiful 0-5 post season record when they out-shoot their opponent.

Montreal out-shot the Flyers in game one, 28-25, and in game two, 30-23.

Clearly, the key to the Flyers’ stranglehold on the series has been their ability to take and extend an early lead.  And not being the Comeback Kids when it comes to on-ice play, it will be up to Montreal to start doing what got them there if they want any chance of climbing back into contention.


Filed under 2009-10 season

3 responses to “What’s wrong with the Canadiens?

  1. Carl

    Nice article. I’ve talked to a bunch of people, stolen some ideas, and added my own and the puzzle that I’ve put together is this:

    The Flyers play a 1-2-2 system that can be beaten by dumping the puck and winning board battles. Especially against teams that have a solid team defense that can block up the neutral zone when playing with the lead.

    However, the Montreal forwards don’t have the size and grit to win board battles against guys like Pronger. And even Kimmo, who isn’t all that big, is simply too skilled to be embarrassed. Nor can the Habs stay in front of the net. Leighton has yet to be screened effectively and, to be honest, he has a size advantage over many of Montreal’s forwards. The shots he is facing are either hurried, from bad positions, or both outside of a few instances where he came up pretty big.

    Additionally, even though the Flyers have struggled against solid teams that played variants of the trap during the regular season, the neutral zone against the Habs is, if not a highway, then definitely far less contested than it was in Montreal’s first two series. Laviolette is outcoaching Martin badly.

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