NHL Eastern Conference Finals Scorecard

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by Peter Christian and Bryan Vickroy

It’s not often we delve into the Eastern Conference of the NHL. We figure since most major media outlets ONLY give the Eastern Conference coverage that we don’t need to waste our bandwidth. However, with the #7 Seed Philadelphia Flyers taking on the #8 Seed Montreal Canadiens for the chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, our resident hockey nuts Peter Christian and Bryan Vickroy couldn’t resist to talk about these two storied franchises pairing up for a dance. Bryan takes the Flyers for this one, Peter’s got the Habs.

If you’d like to read our Western Conference Scorecard click here

This is legal, right?

OFFENSE


(BV) Scoring touch seems to desert them when nothing is on the line, but when their livelihood is threatened, they come up with timely goals. A collection of veterans who are all performing as they should. The longer the season has gone, the healthier this group has gotten. They love to smash around below the dots, and aren’t afraid to be physical and push their size around. MUST create traffic in the crease area and not allow Halak to make such clean saves.

(PC) The Canadiens have surprisingly gotten a lot of offense in the postseason after not having a consistent scoring touch in the regular season. Only Tomas Plekanec notched more than 60 points for the Habs this season but in the playoffs thus far Mike Cammaleri and Brian Gionta have stepped up their game to give Montreal a couple of scoring threats.

AD: Philadelphia

The Flyers' acquisition of Pronger has worked out.

DEFENSE


(BV) Chris Pronger was brought in to guide this team in the playoffs. But the top 3-4 blue liners are all averaging close to 30 minutes of ice time a night. That’s a lot of mileage on some already older legs. Look for Pronger and Kimmo Timonen together if the Flyers need a spark or a quick scoring opportunity. Must keep disciplined, and stay back to try and neutralize the speed that Montreal posseses. They love to take the puck up on a rush and create their own opportunities, sometimes leaving open a chance at an odd man break.

(PC) The Canadiens don’t exactly have a shut down blue line but they have a group of guys that all play solid fundamentally. Andrei Markov’s absence due to injury in any game is a hit to the Canadiens’ chances but the rest of the group has stepped up in his absence already.

AD: Philadelphia

The best goaltender of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs

GOALTENDING


(BV) Nobody seems to be able to stay healthy in net for Philly. Brian Boucher went down with a blown knee, and now Michael Leighton gets the call in the conference finals. Even he suffered an injury that prevented him from being the started when the playoffs commenced. Leighton has two wins this year against Montreal, but it was a home and home many months ago, before the Olympic break. Didn’t get flustered when thrust into a tough situation against Boston, even got the save on a shutout when Boucher went down.

(PC) Jaroslav Halak has been lights out in the Montreal’s 8 wins in the post season. He’s allowed 2 goals or fewer in 7 of the wins which is even more impressive considering the offensive firepower Halak has shut down. In the first two rounds Halak has beaten 3 100+ point scorers (Ovechkin, Crosby, Backstrom) and a total of 6 players who finished with 75 or more points (Semin, Malkin, Green plus the 3 100 + pt scorers). So it’s safe to say when he’s on, he can stop anybody. That can’t make Philly fans feel too good.

AD: Montreal

COACHING


(BV) When the roster failed to respond early in the season, management turned to the time honored tradition of making a coaching change to shake things up. They brought in Peter Laviolette to guide the team. The club responded, and he has used the veterans at his disposal during the key junctures of games. Has shown the ability to rally his players, through comebacks and flat outcoaching of vet Jacques Lemaire in the first round.

(PC) This isn’t Jacques Martin’s first rodeo. During his time in Ottawa he coached 69 play off games including one trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Granted he only won 31 of those games and lost in the Conference Finals, but he’s been there nonetheless. He’s not a coach that gets too caught up in the circus and keeps his focus on keeping his team focused.

AD: Montreal

SPECIAL TEAMS


(BV) Top of the NHL strong on both units, but the power play seemed to falter a bit in the second round. Yet the PP sealed the win for the Flyers, and has helped them reach this point so far. Need to stay home and control their own ice on the PK, as Montreal is probably the best PP in the league. The more these units are out there, the more they are forced to rely on their top blueliners for heavy workloads.

(PC) Scoring on about 1 out of every 5 power play opportunities, the Canadiens are just above average in the post season, but it’s been their penalty kill that has been so clutch. Killing more than 85% of the power plays they’ve had is excellent in the playoffs when they’re playing against the best power play units in the league.

AD: Montreal

ATMOSPHERE


(BV) The crowd is loud and bitter, safely showing all stereotypes of Philly fans over the years. If the going is good, there are fewer places that are tougher to have success. But if things get ugly, the boos will cascade all the way from the upper corners. Everything but the building feels like a throwback to a different era of hockey, a different style of play, a time when the Flyers were a dynasty and nobody messed with Philly.

(PC) Come on, really? The Bell Centre was rocking off its foundation when the game was being played in Pittsburgh. The Bleu, Blanc et Rouge faithful are a rowdy crowd that lives, breathes and drinks hockey. And they drink a lot of hockey. No NHL player past or present will ever tell you that they enjoy going to play in front of that crowd.

AD: Montreal

His hair is mesmerizing, his hits are brain scrambling.

GRITTINESS


(BV) This roster would make the Broad Street Bullies pround. They impose their will on their opponent, and will grind the game to a halt if you let them. Their physicality will be an asset against a smaller, though quicker, Montreal team. Must impose their style of play to limit fastbreak chances, wear down the flying Canadiens, and keep their defensemen from over working. They’ve already rallied many times this postseason, and this team won’t take no for an answer.

(PC) This Montreal team is more savvy, but still has the grit necessary to grind out a 7 game series. Twice. They might rely on smaller players like Brian Gionta, Mike Cammaleri, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Scott Gomez to lead them but they’ll also look to guys like Hal Gill and Benoit Puliot to lay the wood. The Canadiens do need to be careful though to not get drawn into the Flyers overly physical style of play.

AD: Philadelphia

KARMA


(BV) Nothing has been picturesque this season for the Flyers, not even their appearance in the Winter Classic. But this team of veterans has hung in and managed to do something that very few people have ever done in the whole of sports. Teams who go through multiple goalies in a year aren’t expected to be competitive, yet each successive “inferior” goalie seems to do just enough to keep going. Philadelphia finally got a taste of championship success thanks to the Phillies, and the good vibes from the diamond seem to be echoing to the ice these days.

(PC) The Habs are currently riding a franchise record 15 straight season streak without even competing for the Stanley Cup. In fact the 2000’s was the first full decade that the Canadiens didn’t win at least one cup since the trophy was named as the official NHL championship trophy in 1927. You can say the Canadiens are the Yankees of the NHL, but you’d be wrong. They just win with good team chemistry and talent. Throw in that the city of Montreal got their MLB franchise stolen from them and I’d say that the city has Karma on their side.

AD: Montreal

EXPECTATIONS


(BV) Coming into this postseason, the Flyers were the darling choice to make a splash in the first round. They did just that. After free falling into a huge hole against Boston, they managed to claw out and deliver the death blow. All this from a team who barely snuck into the playoff on the last day of the regular season. No one can predict what they’ll do, but no one would be surprised if they won.

(PC) The expectations weren’t exactly high in Montreal since they were the 8 seed going against the juggernaut Capitals and defending champions Penguins in the first two rounds, but now that they’re this far in and it’s wrapping up the 100th year of the franchise, I’d say the expectations are growing and fast.

AD: Philadelphia

MISCELLANEOUS


(BV) The Flyers made the moves in the offseason that showed they were serious about a run to the Stanley Cup. They were quite lackluster during the regular season, but got hot at the right time, and continue to ride the crest of the momentum. Much of this roster has been here, and beyond, before. They will not be rattled or intimidated by the pressure of postseason games this late.

(PC) Outside of the nostalgia of Montreal competing for the Cup and the fact that they’ve knocked out the two darlings of the NHL (Ovechkin and Crosby) in dramatic 7th games and the lack of headline talent on the roster, the Canadiens are just another ho-hum team in the playoffs. They don’t beat you with flash, they just out work you.

AD: Philadelphia

OVERALL


(BV) Philadelphia did something no team has done in over 30 years to get to this spot, but Montreal has the most dangerous weapon of all this time of year: a hot goalie. The Flyers bring experience, size, and a knack for getting things done when they need to. It seems the Flyers can, and are forced to, throw just anyone in net these days. You can recover from that when the goalies you go against aren’t as sharp or qualified as they should be this deep. It usually isn’t enough when you’re going agains a stone cold wall like Halak. Prediction: Montreal in 7.

(PC) Montreal has a lot of stars aligning for them right now. It’s actually getting a little eerie. Knocking off the top seeds remaining in both rounds and gaining momentum and a little more of a bandwagon and having the hottest goalie all point to one of those years that the die hard fans love and the casual fans (i.e. TV ratings) don’t care about. As an entrenched member of the former, bring on the Habs. In 7 of course. Prediction: Montreal in 7.

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    Wow, this intense. You guys really go in-depth, I love it!

    You guys know WAY more about hockey than I do!

  2. Peter Chrisitan says

    You should watch a game with us… or even better, sit in the room as we play nhl 2k6. Hockey is awesome.

  3. paulmbanks says

    hockey is certainly awesome for our traffic right now!!! Last year I got to cover the playoffs, this year they’re really not letting a lot of people in. But this year the traffic relating to stanley cup playoff material is ten x what it was last year

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