The Montreal Canadiens learned first-hand that the ‘Broad Street Bullies’ are a different beast than they’re used to facing in these playoffs.
The Philadelphia Flyers flexed some offensive muscle in the first game of the Eastern Conference final, taking a 1-0 series lead by pumping Montreal 6-0.
Some might look at the score as evidence the Canadiens are about to go up in a cloud of smoke, having already gone well beyond where anybody expected they would make it this post-season.
The Habs have certainly surprised many by going three rounds deep, but despite a first-game blowout, there’s no reason to believe they can’t hang with the Flyers, provided Montreal makes a few adjustments.
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak will have to be better in Game 2, but with all he’s done for his team to this point, we’re more than willing to give him a free pass on one wonky contest.
The Canadiens actually outplayed Philly in the first period of Game 1, but trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes thanks to a power play goal from Braydon Coburn after Scott Gomez took a completely selfish roughing penalty on Mike Richards.
If that doesn’t happen – and the Habs cash in on one or two of their chances – the contest has a different complexion.
But let’s not let them off the hook that easily. I assumed because Montreal is the East’s eighth seed and was such an average outfit in the regular season, there was no chance the Canadiens would lose sight of the fact they must claw and scratch for everything they get.
That wasn’t the case in Game 1, because when you’ve got one of your leaders taking a dumb penalty early in a game, it does nothing to advance the all-important notion that a team like Montreal still has zero margin for error at this stage of the playoffs.
Where Philly differs from the Habs’ past two opponents is the depth of scoring the Flyers have. It’s not the same at the high end, but the orange and black can crush you by throwing waves of competent offensive players on the ice. That means no letdowns for the Habs in terms of intensity and, even more importantly, no mental lapses that leave the team a man short.
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Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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