Philadelphia and Chicago earned two-game leads in the Conference Finals. Do the Canadiens and Sharks have a chance?
BETTER LEIGHTON THAN NEVER
Montreal has run into goal-scoring woes, as they've been turned back on all 58 shots at Michael Leighton through two games. Since returning to the Flyers' net, in Game Five vs. Boston, Leighton has managed a stingy 0.87 goals against average and .969 save percentage.
Leighton is turning back Habs shooters, not unlike Montreal's Jaroslav Halak in the previous two rounds, which now stands in contrast to a merely mortal Halak, who has allowed seven goals on 37 shots through the first two games in this series. In Game Two, Halak looked especially shaky on Philadelphia's third goal -- a bad-angle shot by Ville Leino and Montreal isn't likely to win a series in which they have the second-best goaltender.
Leino had two points, for the third straight game and fourth time in five games; not bad production from a player that couldn't hold down a regular spot in the Red Wings lineup during the regular season and played only one game in Round One. Now, he has 11 points in 10 playoff games.
The Flyers also have a couple of French-Canadian forwards on hot streaks right now. Sinee starting the playoffs without a point in the first three games against New Jersey, Danny Briere has tallied 18 points in 11 games, scoring goals in each of the last four.
Simon Gagne's return to the lineup in the Boston series has sparked Philadelphia's offence as well; he's scored six goals in six games, including four on the power play.
Philadelphia's power play was 2-for-4 in Game Two, the sixth time in this year's playoffs (including both games in this series) that they've scored multiple power play goals in a game. Prior to this series, Montreal had allowed more than one power play goal just once in the postseason -- Game One vs. Pittsburgh when the Habs allowed four.
While the Flyers' power play is clicking, Montreal's power play is now 0-for-8 in the series. Losing the special teams battle to this degree makes it awfully difficult.
With the series returning to Montreal, the Canadiens will have to improve their special teams and goaltending if they are going to harbour legitimate hopes about getting back into this series.
Much as they experienced success against Vancouver with traffic -- and that's not a euphemism for Dustin Byfuglien, even if it seems it could be -- in front of the opposing goaltender, the Blackhawks made life difficult for Evgeni Nabokov in Game Two and long shots were finding their way into the net.
Whether it was Andrew Ladd's toe-drag, long-range snap shot to get things started or deflections around the net by Byfuglien, Jonathan Toews and Troy Brouwer, the Blackhawks had Nabokov off kilter and resulted in four goals on just 22 Blackhawks shots.
San Jose has defencemen that should be able to move opposing forwards -- Douglas Murray and Rob Blake come to mind -- but the challenge may be for the less physical guys, like Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, to find a way to effectively keep the fronot of the net clear.
While his effort wasn't lacking, and he led the Sharks with four shots on goal, the end results for Joe Thornton weren't great. He was minus-2, making him minus-4 in the series and minus-7 in his last four games.
Jumbo Joe showed emotion, apparently frustration, by blatantly slashing David Bolland on a face-off in the third period, which should only serve to keep Bolland motivated because he knows that he's already under Thornton's skin and, going back to Chicago, the Blackhawks can count on getting that match-up often.
Patrick Marleau did score both Sharks goals, so perhaps that is a sign that San Jose's big shooters are ready to break out
Jason Demers dressed as a seventh defenceman for the Sharks, but played only 2:27.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.