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  • Writer's pictureLe Bo

Thoughts on the First Three Games of the Canadiens-Flyers Series

C’était une série intéressante jusque là.

The Canadiens, funnily enough, have outscored the Flyers 6-3 in the first three games, yet they find themselves down 2-1. This is just one of the many weird aspects of this first-round matchup.

The Canadiens and Flyers opened the series on August 12, with the Flyers walking away with a 2-1 win, despite being outplayed for the second half of the game. The next day, it was announced that the Canadiens’ coach Claude Julien was admitted to hospital for chest pains. Julien required a stent in his coronary artery, and is now back home in Montreal, recovering. The Canadiens, with Kirk Muller now behind the bench, delivered a perfect performance for Claude on August 14. They made short work of the Flyers and beat them 5-0. Their forwards finally woke up, with Tatar and Kotkaniemi each getting two goals. Joel Armia got the other goal. The Canadiens took that momentum and laid a massive goose egg in game three on Sunday. Carey Price played great (as usual) but the Canadiens couldn’t find the back of the net, and they lost 1-0. On the list of the most frustrating games to watch, that one ranks high. The Canadiens play today at 3:00 EDT, and then tomorrow at 8:00. Any games after will depend on how these two games go.

Here are some thoughts on these last three games:

Nice to See a Functional Power Play

Of the six goals that the Canadiens have scored so far, three have been on the power play. The power play was absent against the Penguins, but it really started clicking when the coaches put Shea Weber and Jeff Petry on the same unit. This means the opposition has to respect two potential clappers from the point. Putting Weber and Petry on the same unit also has lead to more pucks on net meaning more rebounds. This led to Weber’s power play goal in game one, and surely will lead to more in the future. The Flyers’ penalty killing has been excellent, which makes it all the more impressive that the Canadiens are producing on the power play. If I were coach, I would make one small adjustment. Kirk Muller currently has Victor Mete taking Petry’s spot on the second power play unit. I would switch him out for Ben Chiarot. Mete is a good skater, but it took him two seasons to score an NHL goal and he doesn’t have a great shot. Opposing penalty killers can be aggressive on Mete because they know that he won’t shoot, so they only cover the passing lanes. Ben Chiarot has a cannon of a shot, and he can pass to the forwards by the sideboards. Unlike Mete, opponents need to give Chiarot space, and respect the shot. The first power play unit has looked better than the second, and I think that Chiarot would balance the two units out.

Offence Needs to Be More Consistent

The offence did not show up in game one, despite a barrage of shots on Carter Hart. They exploded in game two, and chased Hart after four goals. In game three, the Flyers stifled the Canadiens’ offence, clogged the neutral zone, and made things very easy for Hart. If the Canadiens want to survive the next two games, they need offence every game. I understand that the Flyers are a tough team defensively, but the Canadiens proved that they could produce against the Flyers when they shelled them in game two. Now they need to bring that offensive A-game consistently. Carey Price has been stellar in every game this series. He’s letting in only one goal per game. The offence must step up and help him out.

Weber and Chiarot Are Dominant

Ever wondered why the Flyers have had trouble scoring this series?

It might have something to do with the pair of 200-pound behemoths patrolling the Canadiens’ blue line.

Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot have been bullying the Flyers’ top forwards; so much so that Flyers centre Sean Couturier conceded that they are frustrating to play against. If you manage to get by one of them, you’ll just get erased by the other. That’s what happened to James van Riemsdyk in game one, and to many other Flyers forwards. This physicality is a great attribute, because the Flyers are also a physical team. One main concern heading into this series was that the Canadiens wouldn’t be able to counter the Flyers’ physicality. It’s nice to know that they have an answer for that.

Parade to the Sin Bin

This physical style of play comes with risks, however, because the referees aren’t letting anything by in these playoffs. Usually, referees will put their whistles away at this point in the season, but this year they’ve been calling penalties left, right and centre. They call even marginal stick infractions, such as a light hook that hardly impedes on the victim. They’re giving penalties out like candy after post-whistle shenanigans. That I understand, because those fights slow down the game and there are a lot of games to play on a given day. However, I am at a loss as to why the zebras are suddenly so strict. One possible explanation is that the referees are behaving like it’s early in the season, which is characterized by a parade to the penalty box. The referees are trying to lay down the law in these playoffs, and there’s nothing the players can do except abide by that law.

Jack Edwards is a Jerk

This isn’t strictly Canadiens-related, but I found this interesting anyway. After Andrei Svechnikov left the Hurricanes-Bruins series, Bruins commentator Jack Edwards insinuated that Svechnikov brought on his own injury by bothering Zdeno Chara. "What NBC hasn’t shown yet, regarding the unfortunate injury to Svechnikov: the Carolina wing playing hobby-horse, riding Chara on the back apron of the goal," Edwards tweeted. "You poke the bear, you take your chances. No one wanted to see Svechnikov hurt, but he bit off more than he could chew."

First of all, that was Sebastian Aho bothering Chara behind the net, not Svechnikov, and second of all, what the hell? Svechnikov is out with a bad injury, and Edwards tries to turn it on him? That is disgusting behaviour. The Hurricanes let him know it, and I thought I might add my voice to the fray with an adaptation of the chorus of a famous Paul Simon song:

Take this one back, Jack

Make a new plan, man

You won’t be employed, boy

If you make stupid tweets

Stop making a fuss, putz

There’s no need to discuss much!

Just apologize nice

Stop the idiocy

You’re better than this, Jack.

It’s time to gear up for the game this afternoon. It is a must-win.

Et pour l’amour de Dieu, marquez un but!

Go Habs Go.

Signed, Le Bo

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