Saturday, May 03, 2008

Flyers eliminate the Habs

(1) Montreal v. (6) Philadelphia
Flyers win series 4-1

No, Carey Price wasn't very good in this series, but neither were his teammates. The better team won it tonight, and given we're talking about the sixth seeded Flyers, a club that narrowly avoided a late-season meltdown to make the playoffs, that speaks volumes.

Still, it's worth noting that there was really little separating these teams in the regular season. Montreal may have won the Eastern Conference crown, but they finished with just nine more points and five more wins than the Flyers, who, in turn, had fewer wins than the Hurricanes.

They didn't even make the playoffs.

I'd said in the Boston series I thought Price was rattled, something that was pooh-poohed by the Habs faithful, but he finished this series with 15 goals allowed in four games, a 4.15 goals against average and a .856 save percentage.

This after allowing five goals in both the fifth and sixth games in the first-round series with Boston.

Outside of Patrick Roy, there's just not much of a track record of success from netminders as young as Price. In the modern era, post-Original Six, only 19 netminders have played in a postseason game at age 20 or younger, and only Roy has won more than six games. Eight finished with a goals against above 3.90, a group that puts Price in good company: Martin Brodeur, Grant Fuhr, Tom Barrasso, Don Beaupre, Roland Melanson and Bill Ranford all went onto great careers after early playoff disappointments.

I'm still expecting big things out of Price.

Give the Flyers credit though: What a turnaround they've put together. The amount of great young talent they've assembled is really starting to shine through in the play of guys like R.J. Umberger, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Scottie Upshall and Braydon Coburn, a group all under 26 that played big minutes in this series.

Two of Philadelphia's top three minute-getters, Coburn and Richards, are also the team's youngest regulars, as both turned 23 before the playoffs began.

I said this earlier, but no one's going to be picking the Flyers to advance to the finals. Still, stranger thing have happened and Marty Biron has been lights out. This is a tough team playing as a group and one that hasn't lost any bodies so far in the postseason. They're well-coached with great special teams and good team speed.

More importantly, they beat the Penguins five times during the year.

UPDATE I might as well bring up the question everyone's asking: How does the Huet deal look now?

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At 11:17 p.m., May 03, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boston and Philadelphia are two differnt teams. MTL got away with stuff in the Boston series like Boston not capitalizing on second chances infront of Price and it came back to haunt them in this round.

At 11:26 p.m., May 03, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the rangers beat the penguins five times as well..

At 12:12 a.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger Bruce said...

... yeah, and Montreal beat Philly four straight during the season and Boston eight straight. Didn't help 'em a hell of a lot in the postseason.

Flyers have been pretty impressive, I have to admit. Also pretty lucky at times, but they've taken advantage of their chances.

Price allowed 24 goals in his last 18 periods in the playoffs. Which is about one GA for every ten comments I heard about how cool and collected he was. To my eye he got rattled at least three or four different games, and the lack of a veteran backup tied Carbonneau's hands. Gainey has done a lot of things right, but he misread Price's readiness for the potboiler that is the Stanley Cup playoffs. He's a promising young netminder, I hope he's not permanently scarred by this experience.

At 12:30 a.m., May 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 12:30 a.m., May 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think alot hockey people including flyers fans dont understand how good of a job stevens and that coaching staff has prepared that team.

At 12:32 a.m., May 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 12:38 a.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

All anyone ever wants to talk about is the goaltending, but there were a hell of a lot of other elements in Montreal underpreforming or not adjusting well to the postseason that to say this revolves around the Huet trade is really, really simplistic.

The Huet trade allowed Montreal to finish 1st in the East, and Huet wouldn't have beat Boston. Price flourished with the trade, the fact that he got rattled vs Philly (James is treating Price's impressive shutout in Game 7 as an anomoly apparently) is not a consequence or a strike against the trade. Carey Price is a better goalie for all of this, and Montreal would not have won the Cup with Huet anyways, so the trade was a benefit.

And maybe the Habs will draft a player that'll stand in front of the net on the PP with the pick they got.

The fact that Komisarek didn't have one hit of note in the playoffs has seemingly gone unnoticed amongst everyone, even though he was the leading hitter amongst defensemen in the NHL before he got hurt (and he might have held that). The top pairing of Markov-Komisarek was downright awful in comparison to the version that had been playing for the previous year and a half. Somehow I think Komisarek is heading under the knife here in a couple weeks... and if he isn't, he has a LOT to answer for when long term contract negotiations come up as early as this summer.

The Flyers forwards never had it so easy in their lives, mainly because Komisarek didn't physically engage with any of them.

It's hard to believe the Habs were only 2-5 once Koivu came back. Plus, he was their best player in that period.

What a wasted opportunity.

Hey James, am I the "Montreal faithful", because not a lot of other Habs fans post on here. lol

At 12:41 a.m., May 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the habs were supposed to crush the flyers instead the flyers crushed them

At 12:44 a.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I've had more testy emails from Habs fans the past few weeks than any other fanbase. (And I picked them to win this series for some reason.)

At 1:06 a.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

The Habs, in general, didn't adjust well to greater expectations.

At 1:31 a.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger Kevin said...

I agree with Saskhab that non-Canadiens fans are blowing this Huet deal out of proportion. What the deal really did was signal to Carey Price that it was indeed his job and his team. Sure, we didn't win the Cup this year but in the long term, it was a good deal to make. For those thinking that we should've gotten a bigger return than a second round pick, look at what Bryzgalov (who I think is a better goalie than Huet) fetched on the market.

Watching this year's playoffs, I think that Markov looked absolutely awful and for his sake, I hope that he was injured. Streit didn't look very good either, outside of his "Swiss Shake" that he pulled off against Tim Thomas in Game Seven of the first round.

Overall, this was a phenomenal year for this team and I think we can exit the playoffs with our heads held up high. This team has a great future and a great foundation and will only get better.

As for the Flyers, congratulations and good luck against the Penguins. It's a shame that a few of the anonymous posters on this thread don't have anything constructive to say about their team advancing to the conference finals.

PS - For all of the praise heaped on Carbo, I'm still a bit skeptical. You have to remember that this year's team was remarkably healthy during the regular season. I doubt that'll happen next year.

At 1:38 a.m., May 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad, James, you picked the Rangers to win too.

At 1:46 a.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Not much of a round, really. At least the Red Wings are still going strong.

At 2:10 a.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Kevin, Streit definitely played his way off the team. But I don't think he can be terribly useful in such situations if not playing D full time, and Gorges' emergence kind of put an end to that. I'd tag a "buyer beware" label on him come the silly season.

I also didn't like Higgins' game this postseason. He's way more effective when playing north-south (something Carbo had reminded him of earlier in the season), and he seemed unwilling to do that moreso than any other top line Habs forward.

Markov in general had a bit of a letdown year IMO, he was never as effective defensively as he had been in previous years. The fact that he started getting beat on the outside more than a few times this playoffs is especially troubling.

Of all the upcoming UFA's for Montreal, Brisebois is the one I'd most understand bringing back, and that's saying a lot. But I'd rather let them all go.

I'm not so much skeptical of Carbo, but he's definitely not worthy of all the praise he has gotten. He's noticeably improved, but he's not an elite coach yet.

At 10:32 a.m., May 04, 2008, Anonymous said...

Habs got a draft pick with 25 percent chance of making the league and Huet would have got them past the Flyers, and then who knows? Gainey took an unnecessary gamble and lost big. And that is discounting the chance he did long term damage to his young goalie. He would face some very tough questions if I was owner.

At 11:11 a.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

Huet is a fine goalie whom I really don't think would have made a difference in the playoffs. He never has before, why should we assume he would have this time? And anyway, I believe Biron's play was more critical than Price's in winning this series.

Gainey eliminated a likely distraction, got a reasonable return for an expiring asset, and the team flourished.

At 11:54 a.m., May 04, 2008, Anonymous dvc said...

I'll try to come up with some constructive comments from a Flyers fan.

Habs have owned the Flyers in recent years, so I was a little surprised at how this series went. That Habs' dominance has typically been ascribed to their advantages in speed, but from game one, I thought it was apparent that the Flyers would be able to skate with the Habs.

I agree with saskhab that goaltending is an oversimplified explanation, but in this series, I think it was a significant factor. Still the Habs solved Biron when they got him screened, when they got to rebounds. I think the Flyers did a better job of this on both counts.

I don't remember a Flyers team with this much scoring depth. Six goals last night with the top two offensive players--Briere and Prospal--not contributing was pretty impressive. Not to mention that Gagne's out for the season.

And the Flyers have had some injuries, though no devastating ones as of yet. Knuble missed, what, five games altogether, and Modry, who had a horrendous game one against Washington, but was a solid veteran presence on the blue line thereafter, missed the last two games against Washington and all of the Montreal series due to the death of his father in the Czech Rep. I hold my breath watching Kukkonen in his own end sometimes, but the Flyers D has been pretty good for the most part.

Washington and Montreal are pretty aggressive forechecking teams from what I can see. I wonder if the Flyers will be as successful against a team that plays a more conservative style, which I think is more of what they'll see from here on out. Yes, I know, Pittsburgh is an explosive offensive team, but the Pens are pretty good at shutting things down and playing a more conservative style when they need to. What do you all think?

At 12:13 p.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger JeffO said...

Also worth noting: Timonen and Coburn were the best defensemen in the series, much better than anyone on Montreal.

Coburn-for-Zhitnik is right up there with the Luongo trade for Steal of the Decade.

The rest of the Philly defense is nothing special (and will likely cost them in the next round) but I was impressed at how often slugs like Hatcher and Smith were able to make smart plays to get out of trouble.

At 12:54 p.m., May 04, 2008, Anonymous DR said...

Huet dominated the Flyers in the first round, so it was clearly a bad trade.

At 1:52 p.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger Kevin said...

So somehow having Huet, a goalie on the Capitals that couldn't get Washington past Philadelphia in the first round would've gotten Montréal past the same team in the second round? Huh?

If Carey Price can't get over his poor performance in the second round, then really, he doesn't deserve to be a NHL goaltender, never mind a potentially elite one.

I'm not quite sure Streit played his way off the team but he played himself out of a lucrative contract. I'd be open to keeping him at a reasonable price, dependent on who else is available (through free agency or through the farm system). I wasn't too sure about Hamrlik too and while Price should've stopped the third goal, Hamrlik didn't help by $%^*ing that one up behind the net.

As for Philly, I can't believe nobody here has mentioned RJ Umberger. Holy crap, what the hell got into him? I wonder if how he'll be next season, if he can build off of this or if he'll be like Fernando Pisani and revert back to his normal self.

At 6:23 p.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger careypriceroxmyworld said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6:25 p.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger careypriceroxmyworld said...

I'm so sad they got eliminated! they did so well agaist Boston! (cries)


At 6:30 p.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

As for Philly, I can't believe nobody here has mentioned RJ Umberger.

He was a Buckeye, who's now a Flyer. It's tough to get more loathsome than that.

Does that count as a mention?

At 9:44 p.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger Chumplet said...

Price is young. He simply couldn't maintain the microscopic attention of the media and the intense pressure of the playoffs in his rookie year.

Many of the goals he allowed in the last couple of games in the Philly series weren't exactly his fault. His defense didn't offer much support, in my opinion.

He'll mature into a fine goalie.

--Sandra Cormier

At 10:09 p.m., May 04, 2008, Blogger Mr. Thursday said...

Kevin - I suspect Umberger will have fine years to come. I'm not sure he's an elite offensive sort of guy, but I think he can be a 25 goal scorer regularly for a while to come.


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