It Hab-Ened Last Night, and Will Hab-En Next Monday: Habs vs Flyers
No one said defeating the Philadelphia Flyers was going to be easy for the Canadiens. And despite a 3-0 shutout against the team that has clearly become their biggest rivals, it was really a lot tougher than it might have looked.
While the Habs played a strong puck possession game, scored early and when it counted the most - with a goal in each period - and ensured that Carey Price would leave the game without a single goal against, the best expression that you could use to describe the game would be "hard fought victory".
The Flyers pelted 41 shots on Price, who had to look exceptional on a lot of them, as the Flyers scoring chances were nearly half of those shots when the smoke cleared. And it could have been a much larger total if it wasn't for some excellent and timely defensive play from the likes of Roman Hamrlik and (especially) Hal Gill on defense, among others, who did a good job taking the defensive reigns from the injured Andrei Markov.
The other main component to this victory was the special teams. The Canadiens went 2 for 8 on the man-advantage, even scoring on that elusive 5-on-3 two-man advantage. Of course, the 45 minutes of penalties the Flyers took were definitely a major help, but we'll get to that in just a bit. But it wasn't all that once sided, as the Canadiens took 31 minutes themselves and managed to kill six penalties, which improved their penalty killing percentage to a league-best 89.7%. The Canadiens have also popped into the top twenty powerplays in league, sitting in 19th place with a 15.7% rating.
The leaders for the Habs last night were, of course, Carey Price with his 41 save shutout, but also the first line of Cammalleri - Plekanec - Gionta. The three contributed all of the Canadiens offense last night, with Gionta leading the charge with a goal and 2 assists, Plekanec close behind with one of each, and Cammalleri scoring the winner early with a great top shelf goal on the powerplay. As mentioned above, Gill and Hamrlik and really all of the defensemen were huge for the Canadiens in a very physical game, as was Travis Moen who may have played his best game of the season with 4 hits and 2 shots, despite only playing 12 minutes. Even Scott Gomez, who's had his ups and his downs so far this year, contributed big with 3 shots and a 64% faceoff percentage.
The Canadiens were definitely out-muscled for a large portion of the game. They were of course outshot, and besides Gomez they didn't fair very well in the faceoff circle, with Halpern leaving the game after Powe's second dangerous hit. But they played a solid team game, stuck together and didn't let the Flyers intimidate them into a defensive shell that could have very well been bad news for the Habs in the later stages of the game.
THE INTIMIDATION FACTOR
Part of that "intimidation factor" resulted in a lot of those 45 minutes of penalties the Flyers took, including an elbowing call on Powe for a blindside hit on Gorges (and there should have been a second one on him later in the game for a similar hit on Halpern, which caused the center to leave the game), a roughing call on Mike Richards, and a call for basically three slashes from a frustrated Claude Giroux on PK Subban, who responded with a two-hander of his own and took a penalty himself. Sean O'Donnell would take a misconduct on the sequence, and Hartnell and Lapierre would take misconducts a minute and a half later, in the closing minutes of the game.
The Flyers responded by playing their goons for most of the last five minutes of the games. Coach Peter Laviolette was frustrated with his team's deficiencies and responded with the rough stuff that the Flyers are known for. The scary part? The "rough stuff" continued after the game, into the post game interviews.
Mike Richards, who seems to be complaining a lot this season after infrequent Flyers losses, told the team 990 that Subban is " a guy that's come in the league and hasn't earned respect," and that "it's just frustrating to see a young guy like that come in here and so much as think that he's better than a lot of people. You have to earn respect in this league. It takes a lot. You can't just come in here as a rookie and play like that. It's not the way to get respect from other players around the league."
Richards then proceeded to do everything but threaten Subban personally. "Uuh, I'm not saying I'm going to do it but something might happen to him of he continues to be that cocky."
Today, Subban responded: "I have lot of respect for the guys in this league and (Richards) is a player who has been around for a while." "He's won a (Olympic) gold medal, he's the captain of the Flyers, and he's a player I looked up to when I was still playing in Junior. I just try to play the game as hard as I can. I'm a rookie in this league and I'm just trying to go out there and earn my respect."
Richards' intentions remain unclear to me. As I mentioned, he sort of has a history of whining after his team loses. It's kind of annoying, considering he plays for one of the best teams in the league that doesn't lose all that often. Of course he isn't going to be happy after a loss, but instead of blaming the Penguins for being light on their skates or now Subban for mouthing off to a player who frankly isn't all that much younger than the 25-year-old Flyers captain, he should maybe look at himself and his own team and the deficiencies that led them to the shutout loss.
There's such a thing as a graceful loser. Richards showed no poise and no class calling out an individual player for having some passion and some grit when no one on his team would stand up against the Flyers bully tactics. You never see Nick Lidstrom whining about young players. You never see Jarome Iginla complaining about diving or the refs. Hell, even Sidney Crosby generally shows more class in front of a microphone, despite having somewhat of a reputation on the ice. And to me, that's what Mike Richards is. A poor man's Sidney Crosby who has issues dealing with his own failures. It's not PK Subban's fault the Flyers lost on Tuesday night. It's not his fault their shots couldn't go in and they couldn't solve Carey Price. Next time, instead of microphone, Mike Richards should be handed a mirror.
Or Richards could be playing us all. Everyone knew going into last night's game that these teams would suit up against each other again in less than a week, and the moment the Flyers went down 0-3, it seemed as if they switched gears, preparing for that next meeting by intimidating and bullying. Maybe Richards was simply planting the seeds of doubt in Subban. Not that this would be much better. In either case I didn't like it at all. It was unnecessary, unjustified and simply annoying.
Odds are that the league will likely have a chat with both teams to calm the situation down and Monday's game won't be as exciting as everyone think it might be. But if there was ever any doubt that there was a more ferocious rivalry in the NHL right now than the Canadiens and Flyers, I think last night at least started to turn some heads. It's barely mid-November, and these two teams were already off playing playoff hockey last night.
If you ask me, these two teams are just destined for another meeting in this year's Eastern Conference Finals!
- Josh Gorges and Jeff Halpern both took "therapy days" after being bulldozed by Darryl Powe in last night's game. Gorges finished the game putting in 4 hits and 23 minutes of ice time, second behind only Roman Hamrlik. Halpern left the game after the open-ice hit in the 3rd, and looked to be pretty dazed. It looked like a concussion to me, but coach Jacques Martin said that it was nothing serious, and Halpern will be in the line-up tomorrow.
- While final word is still in its way, the Canadiens told the media prior to last night's game that Markov's injury is indeed long-term, even if the length of his absence remains undetermined. The injury was indeed on the right knee in which he tore his ACL last season. Markov will travel to Cleveland to see his specialist. What the Canadiens will do to make up for his absence is unclear, but rest assured that the topic will be discussed in this week's Habs panel.
More to come,
- Kamal Panesar, Kevin Van Steendelaar announced as this week's TCL Habs Panelists by Iain Carnegie.
- Habs Win Three last week, lose Markov in "It Hab-Ened Last Week" by George Prax.
- Flyers Go North, Play Goes South: Mark Trible recpas last night's game.
- A Preds' Fan's experience at the ACC in last night's comeback of the year game by Greg Duley.
- Phil T thinks the All-Star Balloting system is a joke. Do you agree?
- Between The Pipes NHL Recap - Week 6 by Alex Mueller.