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.