Credit Mike Richards with candor.
The Flyers’ captain called Game 3 an “old-fashioned ass-kicking.”
His coach was more restrained.
While conceding the Canadiens had played well in lifting themselves back into this series, Peter Laviolette repeated – a half-dozen times – “it’s one game.”
No disputing that.
One game – 60 minutes, during which the Canadiens dominated every important facet of play, with the exception of the late-game thuggery we expect from the contemporary iteration of the Broad Street Bullies.
But in Mike Cammalleri’s version of events, this one win was the continuation of some Game 2 trends not evident to the untrained eye.
“The result drives the talk,” Cammalleri said. “But we did some good things in the last game. We liked the way we played.”
It carried over.
Once Cammalleri finally solved the mystery of career-minor-leaguer-turned-reincarnation-of-Bernie-Parent Michael Leighton seven minutes into Game 3, the Canadiens began to play with the confidence we haven’t seen much of since the beginning of the series.
In Laviolette’s analysis, his team “didn’t move the puck efficiently.” That might have had something to do with the Canadiens using their speed to take away the Flyers’ time and space, especially in the visitors’ D zone.
Brian Gionta said the Canadiens “moved the puck better”, advancing it up the ice as a five-man unit, gaining the Philadelphia zone more effectively and getting sustained forechecking on the Flyers’ large but not overly quick D corps.
Another key, Gionta said, was the Canadiens keeping their foot on the gas pedal after they’d taken the lead.
Unlike games in previous series, the Canadiens didn’t sit on their lead but continued to push, forecheck and exert disruptive pressure.
“We’re a much better team when we do that,” Gionta said.
When Jacques Martin was asked whether his team had cranked up its physicality in Game 3, the coach said “you have to analyze your team and see what your strength is.”
The Canadiens’ strength is speed – exemplified in Game 3 by a brilliant effort from the third line.
Tom Pyatt, Dominic Moore and Max Lapierre didn’t play a bad shift all night. Giving away inches and pounds to the Flyers D, the speed merchants hustled and used their puck skills to win battles, cycle effectively and – miracle of miracles! – score goals.
Yes, the usual suspects – Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Marc-André Bergeron on the power-play – scored. But so did Moore and Pyatt.
AK46 led he team with four hits. Benoit Pouliot was not out of place on the Scott Gomez line and played well enough to get another start on Saturday.
The Canadiens even got some good shifts out of a makeshift fourth line that consisted of Glen Metropolit, Travis Moen and whatever winger – often Cammalleri – Martin sent out.
Metro may have had his best game of the playoffs: 8:27 of quality ice time, long periods of clever puck possession and an eye-popping 12-2 on faceoffs.
No qualifying “may” for Roman Hamrlik: the veteran definitely had his best game of the postseason. Pressed into daycare duty as P.K. Subban’s partner, Hamrlik played 23:06, was plus-4 and, by my count, didn’t make a single mistake in the entire game.
Subban had a few anxious moments, but the kid is learning and stood up to all the BS Flyers forwards threw at him.
Hal Gill and Josh Gorges were customarily steady, and MAB played 17 minutes without soiling the bedsheets.
Odd man out was Ryan O’Byrne. Descending from the pressbox to lend some size to the lineup, O’B took a delay of game penalty, firing the puck into the crowd on his third shift, and spent the rest of the night – save for a few seconds during a late PP – on the bench.
He’s not quite in the corner of the kennel occupied by Sergei Kostitsyn, but O’B is not his coach’s favourite defenceman.
I can’t believe I’m this deep into ALN without mentioning the coach’s – and the city’s – favourite goaltender.
Jaro Halak had a quiet night: 26 shots, only some of which were difficult.
But in contrast to the worrisome signs we saw in Philadelphia, Jaro had his mojo back and stoned the Flyers when the game was still tight.
Like Laviolette said, it’s only one game.
But the not-dead-yet Canadiens offered indications there will be more than a few games to come in this series.
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From Arpon Basu on Twitter:
Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur never had as many playoff goals in one year as Cammalleri’s 13, alone in 4th on #Habs list