Philadelphia (1) vs Montreal (8): That Was Pathetic!
The Montreal Canadiens came into this tournament looking like a new team… the team that Marc Bergevin had envisioned; one with a solid group of veteran leaders in key positions and young stars pushing their way up the depth chart. Regrettably, the Canadiens look to have returned to the form that saw them barley make this tournament; a team that is devoid of a true difference maker and a goaltender who is over the hill. The game started fairly evenly, until the first goal was scored and all Habs fans realized they had seen this nightmare before.
Carey Price has looked like an all-world goaltender again in this restart; today he looked like the goaltender we have been watching for the past two years… A goalie who lacks the focus to stay concentrated for a full 60-min game. Just over 6 mins into the game, with Montreal scrambling around their own zone, Price lost the net behind him. Leaning to his left, he left the right side of the net open; a streaking Michael Raffl picked his corner past an outstretched Price and made the game 1-0. This effectively ended any chance Montreal had at winning this game even though Muller was looking to shake things up, changing the lines from game 3.
Still, Montreal couldn’t produce a decent shift until 13 mins into the game; the newly formed lines didn't look to be working for the Habs as Philadelphia was controlling the play. The Flyers locked up the middle of the ice and looked content to sit on this one goal lead. Brendan Gallagher, the heart and soul of this team, looked to be overthinking his plays; the only players who looked to be making the difference offensively were Kotkaniemi and Suzuki. This made it all too familiar for Montreal fans as they could feel the repeat of game 3 starting to take place. Alex Belzile got a fantastic chance in the slot and proved why the Canadiens should have left him in the AHL. With no one around and all the time he would need to deke or pick a corner, Belzile rips a shot wide and off the glass, underscoring the reason that he shouldn't be in this lineup.
With the second period starting 1-0, the way the Flyers wanted, they were more than happy to limit Montreal to the outside and take the chances Montreal gave them. With few exceptions for the Habs, they seemed to lack the confidence to push the play and were more focused on defending a laid-back Flyers team than creating their own chances. Playing right into Philadelphia’s hand, the play got sloppy, chances were limited, and when Montreal got chances against Hart, he seemed to be in the heads of the Montreal shooters. The perfect example comes when Drouin shot the puck 2-feet over the net from 4-feet out. Drouin has looked like the player many fans have given up on.
With play grinding down to the end of the second period, Philippe Myers threw a puck towards Price. With the puck bouncing towards him, Price attempted to kick the weak shot to the boards, but failed miserably. He missed the puck completely and allowed it to slip past his arm, allowing the Flyers to go up 2-0 and have more than they need to lock the game down against an offensively challenged Habs team.
The third period brought an early surprise as Montreal bench boss, Kirk Muller shook up his top 3 lines completely, creating formations we have yet to see with this Habs team. Unfortunately, he failed to realize that leaving Joel Armia on the fourth line is a critical error; the big Fin should be playing in the top nine over a player like Drouin (who has looked horrible in the restart). The deja-vu continues. These line combinations didn’t produce much and with the game winding down, Muller got impatient and changed his lines up again, showing his rookie status. With the lines being juggled from period to period, no real chemistry was formed and his players looked disjointed in the offensive zone. The Flyers couldn't be happier to keep them on the outside as they attempt to get organized and form some semblance of an attack.
The clock hits zero, the score reads 2-0, the series is 3-1, and all hope is being sucked away from what could have been a magical run. Price has crashed back to Earth; the kids are no longer going under the radar, while the rest of the team looks like they have never won a hockey game in their careers. With opposing teams keying in on Montreal’s young players, some of these veterans are going to need to step up. If they don't realize that they need to skate faster than the bigger stronger Flyers, they will suffer the same fate in game 5, making this the quick series that many expected.