One team is a serious Stanley Cup aspirant.
The other is going down to the wire to make the playoffs.
You know which is which … and in your heart of hockey hearts, you probably knew it before they dropped the puck in Philadelphia.
Contenders 5 Pretenders 2.
We can talk about special teams.
The Canadiens, who’ve had one of the NHL’s better power plays lately, went 0-for-7 and had three, maybe four shots on Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Flyers scored twice during the 5-on-3 that changed the game and added another against a penalty-kill unit that’s supposed to be one of the league’s best.
But let’s try to be serious.
Your Montreal Canadiens didn’t lose because of special teams.
Philadelphia is better. End of F. story.
The Flyers have proved it in the playoffs, and it’s carried over into this regular season: three wins in four games, the last two five-goal explosions.
In analyzing the Canadiens’ fatal parade to the penalty box, Michel Bergeron said he didn’t want to hear about indiscipline.
“It’s laziness,” he told the Antichambre audience, pointing to holding, slashing, interference – calls that are made when you’re chasing the play.
And, of course, the obligatory bench minor for Too Many Men. The Canadiens’ NINTH of the season.
For the first 10 minutes, it was a hockey game. Jacques Martin was rolling his four lines, play was up and down the ice with neither team dominating.
But the late 5-on-3 changed everything.
Andrei Kostitsyn was off for slashing, and the Canadiens killed the first minute of his penalty.
But that was with P.K. Subban and Hal Gill on D. For some reason – possibly James Wisniewski’s numerous jittery turnovers during his early shifts, Jaro Spacek and Yannick Weber found themselves on the PK.
Spatcho was called for holding. P.K. was called 20 seconds later.
And that was the ballgame.
The Flyers didn’t need their numerous PPs to demonstrate dominance. There was a 5-on-5 sequence in the second period when Philadelphia held the puck in the Canadiens end for 1 minute, 34 seconds.
And we’re not talking cycling or grinding. For that entire time, the Canadiens didn’t touch the puck.
It was a hockey clinic … with the Canadiens as the slow kids, sitting in the back of the classroom.
There was more to come. In the third period, the Canadiens went nine minutes without a shot on goal.
The Antichambre guys were all over Scott Gomez, who was responsible for the Too Many Men call. They thought he should have been benched.
But you can’t pin the loss on one player.
The list of underachievers includes Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, Kostistyn, all the Dmen with the possible exception of P.K.
Players who showed up to play competitive hockey in one of the league’s toughest buildings?
Mathieu Darche, who managed to finish a 5-2 loss at plus-2; Lars Eller and David Desharnais, neither of whom was intimidated by the Flyers. Max Pacioretty, who continues to play physical hockey with sore ribs.
Also Carey Price, who was under constant pressure and had little chance on the four shots that beat him. I agree with my man Stubbs, who Tweted the wish that Price had the All-Star break off to recharge his batteries.
The Canadiens have 32 games left.
The Dash for Cash gets serious after the All-Star Game.
And unlike Philadelphia, the Canadiens are going to need great goaltending.
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The Flyers blocked 31 shots, the Canadiens eight.