Philadelphia's remarkable rally from a 3-0 hole versus Boston carried over to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final with a 6-0 Flyers win over the Canadiens. Two of Philly's goals came on the power play, including Simon Gagne's second period score that gave the Flyers a 4-0 lead. Chicago's 2-1 win at San Jose in Game 1 out west was far less one-sided as goalie Antti Niemi stopped 44 of the 45 shots the Sharks sent his way.
The Montreal Canadiens were blown out 6-0 by the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final on Sunday night, and for a team that lost by such a wide margin, they don’t seem too worried about it.
Thing is, the Canadiens have reason to feel good about their chances heading into Game 2 of the best-of-seven set on Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center.
Sure, Jaroslav Halak was pulled midway through the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots, but that’s nothing new for Montreal.
Sign up to win prizes in SBR Contests!
In fact, the Game 1 shelling might be a blessing in disguise: Halak was yanked in Game 3 of the Habs’ first-round series with the Capitals, but returned in Game 5 and stoned Washington for three straight games.
Against the Penguins in the East semifinals, Halak also didn’t make it through the opener. He returned in Game 2 to lead Montreal past Pittsburgh in seven games.
That said, as much as the Canadiens have been there, done that in their improbable run to the East final, there’s a lot they have to fix before Game 2 on Tuesday night.
Montreal outshot Philadelphia 28-25 in the opener (including 23-16 through two periods), but the Flyers had the better chances. The Habs were kept to the perimeter by Philadelphia’s defense, while they had a hard time keeping the Flyers from the front of the net.
Two of Philly’s goals came with traffic in front, while another came on a goal-mouth scramble – albeit on the power play. Many analysts predicted the Flyers would be too big and physical for the Canadiens, and on Sunday night, that was exactly the case.
Montreal has to contain Philly’s balanced attack – a new beast, to be sure. Against the Caps and Pens, the Habs were able to focus on the Ovechkins and Crosbies. It won’t be as easy against the Flyers if Game 1 is any indication.
Philadelphia had six different goal scorers on Sunday night, with five of the marksmen also recording an assist. Daniel Briere was particularly dangerous for the Flyers (-150), potting a dagger with the man-advantage to make it 3-0 in the second frame.
The Canadiens aren’t likely to have the services of Andrei Markov (knee) for the rest of the series, and that’s too bad for their backers. P.K. Subban had numerous costly turnovers in Game 1, looking out of place in his own zone for extended stretches.
Considering Subban is logging upwards of 25 minutes a night in Markov’s absence, he’ll need to bounce back for Montreal to have a chance.
Western Conference Final: Chicago vs. San Jose
Game 2 - Tuesday, 10 p.m. (ET) Versus
Over in the West, the Blackhawks snagged home-ice advantage with a 2-1 win over the Sharks in Game 1 of their series on Sunday afternoon at HP Pavilion.
Dustin Byfuglien’s tally with just less than seven minutes to go was the difference for Chicago, which cashed as +115 underdogs against the moneyline.
With the victory, the Hawks improved to 4-1 against the Sharks this season, and 6-1 in the last seven meetings between the teams dating back to the 2008-09 campaign.
Take note that two of Chicago’s wins over San Jose this season came in overtime, but that’s where the good news ends for the Sharks. The Hawks have now taken all three contests at the Shark Tank this season, with Game 2 slated for Tuesday night.
Many sharps questioned whether Antti Niemi could backstop a team to the Stanley Cup, but they got their answer on Sunday afternoon. After getting the best of Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo in the second round, Niemi made 44 of 45 possible saves in Chicago’s Game 1 upset.
Niemi is the real deal, and it’s not as if he has to carry the load himself. The Hawks fired 40 shots on Evgeni Nabokov in the opener, and have more depth than the Sharks, especially on the blueline.
The top line of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Patrick Marleau had a rough Game 1, as the trio combined for one assist and a minus-6 rating. They’ll have to get going – not a sure thing given their history of coming up short in the postseason when the chips are down – for San Jose to cash any wagers.