Habs - Flyers Game 1: Destinies Collide
Yeah, Yeah. By now, we've all heard of what the Philadelphia Flyers have accomplished. Coming back from a 3-0 series deficit, only the third team in history to accomplish such a feat. Moreover, coming back from a 3-0 deficit in game 7 to win by the score of 4-3. Kind of poetic, isn't it?
Leave it to the Flyers to overshadow the triumphs of the Montreal Canadiens in these playoffs.
For those who forgot, the Canadiens defeated the Washington Capitals in the first round, in the biggest upset in NHL history. If being an 8th seed defeating the #1 overall team in the league, the Canadiens did it with the least amount of points in the history of any 8th seed in the current playoff format. They also did it while coming back from a 3-1 game deficit in the series, something an 8th seed has never accomplished before in the first round.
After eliminating the Washington Capitals, the Canadiens went on to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions, a team that's been to the finals in both of the last two years and is led by the player who scored the game winning goal for Canada at the Olympics. Obviously no small feat.
But despite all of this, all the eyes are on the Flyers right now.
I know I'm starting to sound a little cocky. But after a month of being a humble, modest, Habs fan that's just happy to be along for the ride, it's time to get a little serious.
In this series, the Canadiens have a chance to make it to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in nearly two decades, and they need to take it. Defeat is simply not an option, not after coming this far.
But of course, people on the other side of the coin, following the Flyers, will tell you the exact same thing.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not bitter. As a Habs fan, I'm just happy to find myself in the position to watch and blog for my team at this stage of the playoffs. It's truly remarkable.
But no harm in upping the ante when it comes to the rivalry, right?
The Canadiens didn't have much of a history with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. While they shared spots in the league for over 40 years, they never faced the Capitals in the postseason. And while the Canadiens and Penguins do have somewhat of a history, the rivalry was never really there. So while the quality of hockey was certainly present, and of course, through 14 games of hockey played against only two teams, emotions arose, the real playoffs really only start now for the Canadiens.
The Habs and Flyers have always played, rough, tough, emotional hockey against each other and know each other well from their post-season experience. And while a lot of the players on both sides don't have much direct experience with this age old rivalry, the crest on their shirts is all they're going to need to get things going.
The last time these two teams faced each other was in the second round of the 2008 playoffs, when the Habs were embarrassed in 5 games by the Flyers. Naturally, both teams have changed a great deal since then, with only a few players from the Canadiens still playing for the team, and many from the Flyers changing addresses. But both these teams are well aware of the history between these two well decorated franchises. And both these teams are well aware of what's on the line.
A place in history.
What the Canadiens and Flyers have accomplished in these playoffs, through two rounds of the postseason can never be taken away from the fans that witnessed what their teams fulfilled, and from the teams that accomplished said destinies.
But it will all have been for nothing for one of these two teams. Only one of these two teams can make it to the Stanley Cup finals to face the winner of the west for the biggest prize in the business.
It will be a long series, and anything can happen. Fans of both teams will stake their claim to destiny, to fate, to a victory in this series. But truly, fans of either team can only sit back and enjoy the ride.
I hate to jinx it, but I have to make my prediction in favor of the Canadiens. Habs in 5. It's time for the Canadiens to show that they belong in the final four, and more importantly, the final two teams in the league. Hopefully, they will go on to the final to face the Chicago Blackhawks in an original-six match up.
As for tonight, I expect the Canadiens to come out strong, guns blazing, anxious to get on the ice. While the Flyers will obviously compete, they will be on an emotional low after accomplishing history, and the Canadiens will take game one 5-3. Look for all the usual suspects to bring their A-game for the Canadiens, and lots of rough play early on as both teams jock for position.
No word on any final line-ups for either team, but expect vastly similar rosters to what we saw in game 7 for both these teams.
For a Flyers perspective on the series, read Mark Trible's latest blog on TCL. Both of us will be with you every step of the way, and rest assured that I will be taking the occasional shot at Mr. Trible, in order to spice up a rivalry that is sure to get pretty intense over the next few weeks.
Enjoy the game!