The 7th seeded Flyers face off against the 8th seeded Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Finals, with a Stanley Cup trip on the line. Both teams have had spectacular playoff runs, with Montreal beating both the Presidents Trophy winner and the defending champions, while the Flyers made history by coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to dispatch the Boston Bruins. Here’s a look at the series and how it breaks down
Montreal has the playoffs leading goal scorer in Mike Cammalleri, but they don’t bring much else in the way of offensive threats. The Flyers have been energized with the return of Simon Gagne in the Boston series. Gagne has 4 goals, including 2 game winners. Danny Briere has also stepped up, scoring 8 goals so far in the playoffs. Perhaps most surprising is the rise of Scott Hartnell, who struggled all season but scored 3 goals in the 4 wins against Boston. Montreal needs more scoring threats besides Cammalleri and Brian Gionta. The Flyers have a ton of scoring threats, even without regular season leading scorer Jeff Carter. The edge here goes to Philadelphia
Montreal doesn’t have a skater among the top 30 in the postseason in the plus/minus stat. That’s not a good number for them. Montreal has been one of the most penalized teams in the playoffs, but their penalty killing has been stellar. They held Washington to just 1 of 33 on the power play. Pittsburgh got to Montreal more though, scoring 10 power play goals in 35 chances. Philadelphia has allowed 9 goals in 59 opportunies, giving them a slight edge in penalty killing over Montreal. But these defenses aren’t too far off. The teams are both hovering around 20-22% success on their own power plays, so there’s not really an edge in that area. I’ll give a slight edge to Philadelphia based on their more aggressive hitting.
Montreal’s Jaroslav Halak was a star against Washington, almost single handedly beating them during Montreal’s last 3 wins in the series. But Halak has been vulnerable in other games. No goaltender has been more dominant when he’s on than Halak, but he’s not always on. Michael Leighton stepped in for the Flyers in Game 5 when Brian Boucher went down, and aside from the first period of Game 7 has been dominant. Leighton seems to playing with a ton of momentum. I would call this a draw
The Flyers have a momentum unlike any other team. They’re playing great hockey, and seem very inspired. Coach Peter Laviolette is one of the best in the game, having lead Carolina to a Cup in 2006. Montreal is a team that can’t be slept on, but I don’t see the Flyers falling apart after their history making comeback. I sense a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. Flyers in 5.