There's Something About the Canadiens
It was another sleepy start for the Montreal Canadiens, and another furious finish for a dramatic win. They continue to tempt fate, stealing it away from their opponents in the same breath.
Fifty-one seconds into the game, Matt Read caught the Canadiens in transition, tricking up P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov to snap Philadelphia's forceful first shot by Carey Price.
Montreal's star trio enjoyed the last laugh, commanding the final 50 minutes of the hockey game; Price pushing aside quality opportunities, Subban and Markov pushing the pace out of Philadelphia's grip.
Subban particularly kicked it into high gear, exerting full control through 31:18 (a season-high in time on ice). Without recording a point, his influence on the game's tempo was well reflected in the enormous gap in the possession metrics between both teams.
Montreal threw 90 pucks at Ray Emery's net, 41 of them hitting the mark, two of them finding their way through. Subban accounted for one on net, six that were blocked, and another four that missed.
For their part, the Flyers launched 19 shots on Price through the first two periods of the game, but only managed five shots in the final 23 minutes and change.
Momentum shifted Montreal's way in the second period, and it remained with them through to the end. Emery was stealing the game away for the Flyers until Tomas Plekanec tickled the twine with 8:22 remaining in the third period.
David Desharnais delivered the knockout punch in overtime, converting a rebound attempt after rookie Jacob De La Rose made a great defensive play that started the transition back to Philadelphia's zone, where most of the extra frame was played.
It was Montreal's sixth win of the season when trailing into the third period of a game. This one bore a striking resemblance to the team's third game of the season in Philadelphia. Down 3-0 headed into the third period, they scored three goals and won in a shootout, out-shooting the Flyers 20-5 through the final 25 minutes of the game. Montreal's speed amplified to a level the Flyers couldn't tolerate. Price beat Emery in both games.
"I thought they did an unbelievable job in the first 10-15 minutes of just slowing us down," said Dale Weise, admiring Philadelphia's defensive determination Tuesday night.
Then Weise keyed in on what proved to be the difference in the end. "We're an extremely fast team, and it's tough to keep up with that all game long," he said.
The win pushed Montreal to within a point of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who continue to preside over their Eastern Conference competitors, having played three more games than the Canadiens have to date.
The Canadiens will host the Edmonton Oilers Thursday before closing out the week against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
1) This is my favorite part of the blog. A chance to share an observation or two.
In 2011, every time I found myself in the Boston Bruins' room after a game during the regular season, I observed a closeness that you just don't see on every team. Of course, what they were doing on the ice influenced that observation, but there was a togetherness in their room that you just can't manufacture for the cameras. I got the sense listening to them speak--all of them saying variations of the same thing, all of them interacting with each other with the bond a hockey player at any level recognizes--that this team was special. They were willing to do anything for each other. They were going to win the Stanley Cup.
I may be wrong, but I believe you need that dynamic to win a Stanley Cup. The cameras have taken all of us behind the scenes in Los Angeles and Chicago, and you could certainly feel that vibe in both of those rooms, especially in the years of their recent triumphs.
Since last year's playoffs there's been a vibe in Montreal's room. Marc Bergevin's emphasis on character threads the bond of this team's tapestry, and their tight knit is an intangible counter to a perfectly logical and commonly held opinion that they aren't quite yet built to be a champion.
There are still some things that can't be quantified, thank God.
Is it possible that this intangible defies the statistical prediction of an inevitable disappointment? I'd like to think it's intriguing enough to consider.
So, tell me what you observe. Not to do with Michel Therrien and his system; what do you observe in Montreal's commitment, their confidence and their character? Do you see something genuine in 24CH's footage that corroborates what I'm telling you?
2) Say whatever you want about the Flyers, they waltzed into Montreal rested, having won five of their last six games.
They got the early lead a road team draws up on the board before the game starts. Emery stood on his head. They showed incredible desperation on the penalty kill.
Montreal's assertion over Philadelphia made a statement. They were expected to carry the play against an inferior opponent in the standings, regardless of that team's impressive push to stay within reach of a playoff spot, and they pulled it off.
3) I can't recall a better performance by Subban without him ending up on the score sheet. The game was in his hands all night. There's a consistency in 2015 for Subban that eluded him for the last few months of 2014.
"I always feel like the second half is when I play my best hockey, and maybe the games are a little more meaningful. I know the playoffs are coming, and the demand on being sharp and paying attention to details; you have to be there every night," remarked Subban on a focus that seems more determined of late.
Michel Therrien called Subban a quarterback in reference to his control of the game. He called him terrific more than once in categorizing Subban's jump in play over the last month.
4) De La Rose in overtime. Whoa. Bold move for Therrien, and it was rewarded with that incredibly aware play he made to break up the 2-on-1.
What you have to like about De La Rose's play is the notable improvement from game-to-game. He won 57% of his draws, he and his linemates pushed the game into the opposing end, and he was clearly more comfortable and confident as the game wore on.
De La Rose's speed and size helps the fourth line win battles. His showing so far is a threat to Manny Malhotra's place in the lineup.
5) David Desharnais deserved that goal. He worked hard to create several opportunities and cashed in on the most important one of the night.
Every guy I spoke to in the room was really happy for him. They like seeing an underdog rewarded. It fits their personality. They see themselves as an underdog, and like Desharnais, they battle for every inch of respect they can earn.