Since the NHL expanded to 12 teams more than 40 years ago, only once has a team gone from being the worst in the league to playing in a conference final.
And unless either Montreal Canadiens No. 1 goalie Carey Price rediscovers his game in a hurry or backup Jaroslav Halak rides to the rescue, history will finally repeat itself with the Philadelphia Flyers. After losing 3-2 to the Flyers in Game 3 of their second-round series, the Canadiens find themselves trailing in a series for the first time because Price has not even been close to the equal of Martin Biron.
Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau didn’t call out Price by name after the game, but you don’t have to be a mind reader to understand what he’s saying when he says, “We played two really good games the last two games and we lost both of them. We’re frustrated.”
Just throwing this out there, but do you think Price might have an injury to his catching hand? Either that or maybe he’s breaking in a new catching glove and it’s not going well at all. In any event, Price appears to have forgotten how to keep the puck in his glove and his rebound control has gone out the window, as well.
Canadiens apologists can talk all they want about how Price, perhaps, didn’t have a clear view of the Flyers’ first two goals, but the fact remains the Canadiens are simply not getting the kind of goaltending they need to win this or any other playoff series. You outshoot a team 34-14 and all your goalie has to do is not lose the game for you. Price lost the game for the Canadiens, simple as that.
Of course, he’s not alone in accepting blame for the Canadiens troubles, since the passenger car seems to be accepting more and more occupants as the playoffs go on. And the Flyers deserve boatloads of credit for being opportunistic and being able to overcome boneheaded plays from the likes of Steve Downie and Derian Hatcher.
They’re looking more and more like a team of destiny. Since 1967-68, only the 1985-86/1986-87 Detroit Red Wings have gone from dead last to final four. And prior to that, dating back to the inception of the NHL in 1917-18, only six teams have ever finished last and then participated in a semifinal, which at that time basically entailed qualifying for the playoffs.
That should give you an idea of just how difficult it is to do what the Flyers are on track to accomplish. The only cloud to the silver lining is that no team in NHL history has ever gone from worst to Stanley Cup champion.
THN.com’s Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.