Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux

It is back to work tonight for the Flyers- as they visit the most provincial “international” city in the world: Montreal. Did you know Montreal is the tenth "cleanest city" in the world? Lord... I like Toronto myself. Those litterbugs eschew effeminate mannerisms and speak English. Plus, how can that much of Montreal be underground?

O Canada!
Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux.

Ha! Not likely. What are we- between separatist votes this week? Of course, I believe the Cup will not return to Canada until the Meech Lake Accord passes. And certainly, these events have unfolded as I prophesized.

Now, I liked the Flyers in the first series- largely due to their fortuitous draw of the Washington Capitols. Unfortunately, Les Habitants seem to go right at the Flyers’ chief weaknesses- lack of both depth and team speed on defense. It isn’t a question here of rolling out Timonen and Coburn versus Ovechkin- neutralizing that- and surviving elsewhere. Montreal got a whole lotta guys who can skate- particularly on the power play.

This match-up forces the Flyers to play a very different series. With Washington, the Flyers were willing to skate and trade chances against every line but Ovechkin’s. After Game 1, they tried lots of stretch passes and were consistently aggressive in the neutral zone. If they took a few undisciplined penalties being aggressive, trying to intimidate the young Capitals, so be it.

Conversely, here the Flyers must be disciplined: stay out of the box, clog the neutral zone, chip the puck out and dump it in. Yes, it might behoove them to run at the young goalie a few times- and this Flyers team seems not to go wrong engaging in shenanigans after any whistle. But while playing actual hockey- keep it simple and in front of you.

They really need a big series from Hatcher and the captain, Jason Smith. It is vogue in the Philadelphia papers to praise the Flyers “increasingly solid” top four rotation on defense. Ugh. I just don’t see it. Both these guys look slow, maybe hurt, to me. The Flyers were able to protect these guys against the Caps- here they are going to have to play, and play a lot, because the Flyers have no answers for this problem in the fifth and sixth roster spots. Is it me- or does it say a lot that our best defensemen is a Finn? The path to an upset begins with credible play from these two veterans.

The Parti Québécois will probably be happy with the end results; they can have a protest or something with posters of René Lévesque. The Flyers can match the firepower here- but Montreal is pretty organized on the back end too. Still, if you bring effort and goals to the NHL play-offs, you’re a tough out (see, say, the Bruins last week)- and the Flyers figure to bring both. They’re a good road team who, barring an injury on defense, won’t get worn down by Montreal’s deep outfit. I suppose Montreal in seven sounds about right- but it doesn’t feel hopeless either.

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