Game Recap: EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS GAME 1 – Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens

If anything, the Philadelphia Flyers showed that they weren’t lying last night when then they claimed to be happy to get right back into their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Montreal Canadiens with just one day of rest after completing history and knocking off the Boston Bruins Friday night.  Sunday, the Flyers came out firing on all cylinders, and destroyed the visitors by a final count of 6-0.

Danny Briere's 2nd period goal made it 3-0, and put the Flyers in control

It was a strange game, a game that, for the first time ever featured both a seven and eight seed in the Conference Final.  The intensity level was certainly there, and the Wachovia Center was as loud as ever, but there was something about the style of play on both sides that left a lot to be desired.  The Montreal Canadiens looked very tired in Game One, kind of the opposite from what you’d expect heading in.  The Flyers had only one full day of rest, while the Habs were working on three full days, and it was only reasonable to expect that they would have a little more jump than the men in Orange and Black.  That, however, wasn’t the case.  In goal, Jaro Halak did not live up to his billing.  He let in four goals on 14 shots, and was chased from the game in the second period.  Michael Leighton, on the other hand, was solid, and did a great job of making some timely saves to keep his club in the contest.

After a rousing rendition of Lauren Hart and Kate Smith belting “God Bless America,” the Flyers and Canadiens dropped the puck on their 2010 Eastern Conference Final.  The Flyers, clearly energized by the Orange Crush that surrounded the action, took the play to the Canadiens early, and even perhaps did so too aggressively, as defenseman Chris Pronger was whistled for a roughing penalty just one minute, thirteen seconds into the game.  The vaunted Canadiens powerplay went to work and tried to grab early momentum for Montreal, but the Flyers’ penalty kill hung tough and eventually the Flyers pulled even on the ice with the Canadiens after Scott Gomez took a cheap shot on Mike Richards, dumping him into the boards and giving the Flyers a brief power play when Pronger’s penalty expired.  Ville Leino made a great play in front of Jaro Halak with the man advantage, putting the puck into the goal mouth and that was where a pinching Braydon Coburn buried the loose puck to send the Wachovia Center into a frenzy and give the Flyers a gigantic 1-0 lead on the power play.  The remainder of the first period was surprisingly all Canadiens from that point forward, as Montreal was maintaining some strong puck possession in the Flyers’ end and got some quality shots on Leighton, which the Flyers netminder simply turned aside.  At the end of the first period, the Flyers lead on the scoreboard by a count of 1-0, but trailed pretty handily in shots at 13-6.

Jaro Halak was chased from the game in the second, the third time that's happened this postseason

Although the Flyers weren’t the leaders in the shot total, they certainly did a great job in front of Halak, crashing the net and snowing him whenever possible.  The Flyers continued that style of play into the second period, and that was when the floodgates really opened.  The Orange and Black split shots with the Habs 10-10 in the second frame, but it was the Flyers who scored three times to put the game firmly in their hands.  James van Riemsdyk opened the scoring just thirty seconds into the second period, the recipient of a rebound on the doorstep after a tremendous individual effort from Claude Giroux off the draw.  Danny Briere would bury a slapper from the top of the left circle over Halak’s glove-hand just four minutes later as a powerplay had just expired for Philadelphia to put the Flyers in front 3-0, and only five and a half minutes after that, Simon Gagne continued his rampant scoring pace as he ripped a snapper past Halak on the powerplay to make it 4-0 in favor of the home team, and chase Halak to the showers in the process.  Leino, who had a terrific game and is playing with a ton of confidence, picked up his second assist of the evening on Gagne’s marker.

The second period ended with the Flyers heavily in control, leading 4-0.  The Canadiens looked lost on the ice, and nothing was working for them – their penalty kill had allowed two goals, they couldn’t compete with the Flyers physically at five on five, and their always reliable powerplay had done nothing for them as the two teams headed to the third and final period.  Unfortunately for Montreal, it would once again be the Flyers who would find the back of the net, as Scott Hartnell buried a snapper past the newly introduced Carey Price twelve minutes in and Claude Giroux added the final exclamation point a minute thirteen later, as he slipped a nifty backhander across the crease and into the back of the net, catching Price off guard.

Leighton was solid in Game One, making 28 stops for his first career playoff shutout

Of course, despite the domination and tremendous effort, this game is simply just the first game of a best-of-seven series.  Montreal was just flat-out embarrassed, and I have a feeling that anyone who thinks this is a sign of things to come from either team is severely mistaken.  The Canadiens and Flyers both know that a Montreal win on Tuesday night puts the two teams back at square one and gives the Canadiens home ice moving forward unless the Flyers can steal a game in Montreal.  That’s why the Orange and Black need to quickly put this victory behind them, and work out the plan for Game Two.  A 2-0 lead heading to Montreal would be huge for the Flyers.  However, it’s not going to come nearly as easily as it did in Game One.  Now we learn what this team is all about.  Do they bask in one victory, or will they be ready to take control tomorrow  night?  Something tells me Peter Laviolette will preach the latter.


One Response to “Game Recap: EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS GAME 1 – Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens”

  1. Celts finish off Magic in 6 to win East (AP)…

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