Some thoughts from the NHL on TSN panel on Saturday night:
In the first period, the Montreal Canadiens did an incredible job of getting speed through the neutral zone and generating something. In the second period, the Philadelphia Flyers put the game on the wall and they won the battles, and they were much more physical. When the Canadiens had opportunities, which were rare in the second period, they didn't always shoot. Brian Gionta had a 2-on-1, a classic opportunity to put the puck on net, but he tried to be too fine with it. They didn't get their first shot on goal until a little more than six minutes left in the second period. That was largely a testament to the Flyers simply clogging up the neutral zone, putting it on the wall and winning more battles than the Canadiens.
Jeff Carter beat Travis Moen 1-on-1. Carter had some quickness and some jump. That surprised me. I was surprised that he played as much as he did, and that he was as prominent as he was. I wondered about the wisdom of bringing him in at this point. We knew Ian Laperriere was going to come in and be on the fourth line. But to bring Carter in, you have to play him in your top six or start turning over all of your lines. So they just put him on the wing with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, and that worked extremely well. He really responded. Now, as long as the foot doesn't act up, he's going to be a real good player for Philadelphia when they can clinch on home ice.
Josh Gorges had an unfortunate thing happen in the second period. When the game was still no score, Gorges had problems with the skate protector that he wears, so when he blocks shots he doesn't end up with a broken foot. It comes loose, he looks at it, he's in a little bit of trouble, he realizes he can't get to the bench, but what happens is that at that exact moment Claude Giroux decides to pick up the puck in the neutral zone and go by Gorges, beats him to the net, and makes a great play to beat Jaroslav Halak short side up under the bar. Nothing much Gorges could do about that, but it was sort of the beginning of the unraveling. It gave the flyers a reward for all of that momentum they were starting to generate in the second period.
The Canadiens had been great at blocking shots, but today they were absolutely beaten at their own game. Especially in the third period when Matt Carle picked a very inopportune time, late in a 2-0 hockey game with an opportunity for the Montreal powerplay to go to work. Shot after shot after shot was blocked by the Philadelphia Flyers. They had 14 blocked shots through two periods -- 13 alone in the third period. The Flyer penalty killers did an excellent job of blocking shots when there was an opportunity for Montreal to get itself back in the hockey game, even though at that point, they had been badly outplayed.
Yes, Leighton had the ultimate bounce-back game. In Game 3, the Montreal Canadiens and their fans maybe thought they got the thin edge of the wedge, when Michael Leighton was starting to play like a waiver pick-up goaltender. But in the first period of this hockey game, he bounced back, and he bounced back strong. Montreal had good speed through the neutral zone, they had seven shots on goal in the first period. They generated a lot, and he made some tough saves. In the second period, he only had one shot on goal. He was cold for a long period of time but came up big again in the third period. Nine shots on goal for Leighton to preserve the shutout. A number of those were difficult. He got lots of help from his defencemen in terms of blocking shots. Not even Bernie Parent, the Philadelphia Flyers legend, was able to get three shutouts in one series, yet that's what Leighton has done here.
They got the Hal Gill call right. First off, the visual of big Hal Gill literally stretching himself across the goal line and not allowing the puck to get by him, but he did not put his hand on the puck and he did not gather the puck into his body. So, as long as you don't make that motion of gathering the puck in, there is nothing to stop a player from laying across the goal line and the puck being shot underneath him. That's not a penalty shot.