Maybe a change of scenery is what's needed for the Montreal Canadiens. Maybe having to play the Philadelphia Flyers inside Wachovia Center for two games after their dramatic comeback against the Boston Bruins was like Brian Gionta(notes) trying to knock Chris Pronger(notes) off the puck.
Or maybe the ghosts inside Bell Centre are ready to help make this a series.
Heading home down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals, the Canadiens have to approach Thursday night's Game 3 with baby steps. First, they must solve the dominant Michael Leighton(notes), who they've yet to score on. Second, they need to score. Mike Cammalleri and Gionta had no problems scoring in the first two rounds, but
Game 2 might have been their worse effort with a combined two shots have gone goalless through two games and saw almost five minutes less of ice time in Game 2. Finally, Jaroslav Halak(notes) needs to be Jaroslav Halak. He's been the victim of some bad defense and bad positioning through two games, and unless Carey Price(notes) is a clone of Leighton, the Canadiens cannot advance to the Stanley Cup Finals with just an average Halak. (Though some would have you believe Price's time is now.)
Gionta and head coach Jacques Martin talked about experiencing a series deficit before and what will guide a comeback is trusting what got them here to succeed:
"We know it’s not going to be easy, we know it’s a difficult task, but I have great confidence in the character and the determination of our players," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "A lot of people in here, after Game 4 against Washington, weren’t too optimistic. This group proved them wrong. This is another time where we’re challenged, and that’s when you see the best of people."
"The thinking is when your backs are up against the wall that you have to do more, but sometimes less is more," winger Brian Gionta said. "You’d rather just trust in the system and work hard in the system and not deviate from that team game. Not try to take it all on your shoulders. I think that’s what (Martin) was trying to guard against."
Montreal has lost the first game at home in each series so far, but they haven't been behind 2-0 when heading back to Bell Centre for a Game 3. Good starts are needed by both teams and despite their 6-0 win in Game 2, the Flyers weren't happy with the way they came out according to Chris Pronger, who noted Wednesday that the team needs to improve in that aspect:
"It's no secret we didn't play great [Tuesday night] in the first period, and 'Leights' [Michael Leighton] came up with big stops," Pronger said. "It's very easy to kind of tell yourself that you obviously need to come in here and be even more focused and prepared than we were for the two home games. They're obviously going to be in their home building. Last line change, all the rest of that stuff. Their fans are going to be behind them. They've been loud and boisterous all playoffs long. We need to be cognizant of that and try to play an even sounder, tighter defensive game and get off to a better start."
Putting the Canadiens in a hole early and silencing the crowd could be the final nail in the coffin for Montreal and prompt a changing of the guard for the two stories of the playoffs. The Canadiens were the Cinderella team through two rounds and with a win Thursday night, the Flyers will have taken that title from them towards another Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
We witnessed the Philadelphia comeback a week ago from down 3-0 against the Bruins. To ask for that to occur again -- something that's only happened now three times in NHL history -- is a bit much to expect and a Flyers victory Thursday night could shift the questions going forward from whether or not Montreal can come back in the series to will Mike Richards(notes) touch the Prince of Wales Trophy?
- Jacques Martin
- Brian Gionta