Thursday, April 24, 2008

Flyers vs. Canadiens: Second Round Breakdown

After a thrilling Game Seven victory, the Flyers got one day of rest and they are back to the ice tonight to begin their second round series with the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens got only one extra day of rest after they disposed of the Bruins on Monday, so fatigue could be a factor in this series. Most experts believe that the Canadiens should have no trouble dispatching the Flyers, but these are the same people that all predicted the Capitals would win. Can the Flyers beat the Canadiens? Let's take a closer look.

Offense: Both teams have balanced, deep scoring attacks. In their first round series alone, the Flyers got goals from 11 different players, while 12 players scored for the Canadiens. Neither team has one line you can key in on, both have three quality scoring lines. The Flyers have shown bursts of speed, but the Canadiens have a distinct speed advantage that will give the Flyers plodding D-men problems. Alexei Kovalev is the Canadiens most dynamic forward, but the Kostitsyn brothers aren't far behind. Kovalev has a tendency to go quiet for long periods of time, almost lulling opponents to sleep before he bursts through.

The Flyers depth takes a hit with the injury to Mike Knuble. While Knuble isn't the fastest or most skilled player, he brings leadership and toughness to the team. His loss also means that either Riley Cote or Steve Downie will suit up, two players that aren't the type of players you need in the playoffs. Danny Briere has been the Flyers best weapon, scoring 6 goals in the opening series, so expect him to continue his playoff dominance as he plays against the team he spurned playing for last offseason. EDGE: Canadiens, they're too fast and too skilled.

Neither team is known for having great defense. The Flyers look like they are two defensemen short, as fans cringe whenever Jaroslav Modry or Jason Smith are trying to make a play. Smith had a horrendous -7 against the Capitals, and Modry didn't fair much better at -4. Derian Hatcher quietly played some of his best hockey against the Capitals, slowing down Alexander Ovechkin and even scoring a goal. Kimmo Timonen is still the key to the Flyer defense corps, he makes things happen on both ends of the ice. This group will be challenged constantly to keep up with the Canadiens, look for them to use their size and toughness to try to shut down any rushes.

The Canadiens don't have any particularly intimidating defensemen, but Andrei Markov and Patrice Brisebois are great at helping out on the offensive end. They also have Roman Hamrlik, who only seems like he's been playing forever. The Canadiens have a few forwards who are great at getting back and helping out, like Saku Koivu, but they still had issues slowing down the weak Bruins attack. EDGE: Flyers, but not by much

The Canadiens traded away Cristobal Huet to give 20-year-old Carey Price the number on job, and he has taken on the role and flourished. Martin Biron is ten years older than Price, but they both have exactly seven games of playoff experience. Coming off a shut-out of the Bruins, Price is the hotter goalie, but Biron made some big stops to keep the Flyers in Game Seven. The hotter goaltender will win, and right now it looks like Price has been better, but he will be challenged more by the Flyers attack than he was by the Bruins. EDGE: Canadiens

The Canadiens aren't a good match-up for the Flyers. They are quick and skilled, and this series could look like the Sabres/Flyers series of a few years ago. The Flyers will try to use their toughness to slow down the Montreal attack, but it's tough to slow down three lines. They will also have to be careful not to take too many penalties because the Canadiens power play will make them pay. The Flyers will steal a game early, but the Canadiens have too much firepower and will win in six games. The season will still be a success for the Flyers, who went from the worst team in the league all the way to the final eight. They are still a few defenders short of having a championship team.

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