Habs Fever - After Game 2
Published Wednesday, May 19, 2010 1:20PM EDT
Michael Leighton is not this good, but the Habs have done their best to make him look it. Leighton's save percentage is approaching .970 in these playoffs. He's nailed back to back shutouts, but don't be fooled by the boorish fan base of the Flyers and their nonsensical standing ovations over saves on 50 foot slapshots, Leighton has not done all that much so far. He is not even close to this good. Sure he's big, and solid, and square to the puck. Sure, his strength is his first save, and the Flyers are doing an excellent job of ensuring that he has to make only one every sequence. However, he is a career minor league goalie for a reason. His weakness is his mobility and quickness to reset for a second shot rebound. That has not been exploited even in the slightest. The Habs don't even know whether he can make the second save consistently because they're not getting second shots. Test Leighton on the rebound and you will see he is not prepared for the second chance shot. Give him a steady diet of 35 footers to direct into the corner and sure he is going to look strong. Not a lot of goalies will look weak on non screened, non deflected, long shots telegraphed from Mars.
Jaroslav Halak was weak on the third goal last night. Other than that, let's assess what he is facing in comparison: Gagne in his crease, Leino taking two footers and hacking away at free pucks, Briere with missiles from ten feet, Briere with breakaways, Hartnell in the crease. It is a completely different set of shots. Put these two goalies in the opposite net and the Habs are not outscored 9-0 in this series but 13-0. Halak has saved even more embarassment. This is a time when save percentage is a misleading stat.
Leighton will be solved
I'm reminded of a recent series the Habs played against Carolina. The Hurricanes were frustrated. They couldn't solve Jose Theodore, but played the games well. When they finally solved Theodore, the flood gates opened and the Canes won the final game 8-2. The floodgates are going to open on Leighton. He didn't just suddenly become the greatest goalie on the planet at this stage in his career. It may be Chicago who finally solves him, but he will be solved. This is a lot like Pierre McGuire's argument about Huet when he was saving pucks. Time will tell. Huet actually had to make some quality saves as a Hab goalie, but McGuire was right in the end about Huet as he almost always is.
I write down all the big saves that I can use for my highlights from games. My 'Leighton amazing' column is empty. So it is up to the Habs to challenge this guy.
Add to not being that impressed by Leighton, I am not impressed by the Flyers either, and that's saying something considering they have outscored their opposition 13-0 in the last eight periods. The powerplay is hot. That's it. Five on five they have not been good. They are outshot regularly. They are outplayed regularly. Yet they are winning. The Habs will tell you for the first two rounds that that is the bottom line. But for Philly to be outplayed by Montreal 5 on 5? That doesn't say much for their chances in the finals.
Series could easily change
For me, the bottom line to get back in this series is very simple. Keep playing the way you are with two major adjustments: get to the net and you'll get to the goalie on second shots when he's not back set. The other is kill penalties more aggressively. For whatever reason, the Habs have gotten passive shorthanded. The blueprint on stopping the Flyers powerplay is easy to find. Just go through the Bruins tapes and do what they did. Boston had no trouble with the Philly powerplay.
Fans in Montreal are breaking ankles right now, but stop their powerplay, get to the net and this series could easily change and quickly. The Habs won two series when they were getting outplayed. Now they're at least even in territorial play and down two. I don't think you get blown out of a series when it looks like this on balance. And like the Habs against the Hurricanes when Carolina lost the first two at home, and then won four straight, the floodgates can open on a minor league goalie in a major league world. I've seen it before.
City of brotherly love?
Now to what's really on my mind this morning. It is not hockey. They call this the city of brotherly love. Not from what I witnessed.
We stayed in Philadelphia only 72 hours and here are the quintessential Philly moments that happened to my small band of travellers covering the series.
The Gazette's Pat Hickey made the mistake of parking his car in the Wachovia Center lot all day without an armed guard. After game 1, Hickey returned to his car at 11:30 pm to see that his tire was slashed and his licence plate was stolen. The next day was lost trying to become roadworthy.
The Societe Radio-Canada production truck was vandalized the same night. While the SRC employee was actually guarding the truck, the great citizens of Philadelphia threw beer at the communications panel with all of the wires and cables exposed. Essentially, they were trying to fry the panel so Canada would not see the SRC work product.
The SRC employee's protests just provided more kicks and giggles for the vandals. They had no fear. Their behaviour seemingly acceptable to onlookers.
We got lucky on night one as our clearly labeled van only suffered a message written in dirt on the window that we sucked. My cameraman Jason Clarke commented that he thought we would return to a cinder pile, so we felt fortunate.
All of us who attended the game two nights later decided that we would park all beside each other hoping that the SRC and RDS employees who man the vehicles would act as discouragement to the vandals. Seeing someone actually in a car is supposed to act as a deterrent, isn't it? Or is it like the car alarm going off that everyone now ignores? In our Philly experience, replace the words 'car alarm' with 'human being'.
Game 2 and another even more bizarre incident. And by bizarre, I mean sad. A cameraman from SRC was getting images in section 112, that's right, inside the building, and three thugs tried to attack him and take his camera. I repeat: inside the arena during the game. What happened to the rest of the people around the incident? No one stood up to be counted. He got away, but was clearly shaken.
Jason and I were getting a pizza slice at a local eatery in Philly one night at about 10 pm. A group of young men learned we were from Canada. First words out of their mouths "Faggots!" Six versus two on a dark night? We did not contest the charge.
Oddly, cross state in Pittsburgh, a completely different society. A city of well-wishers and kindness, welcoming foreigners and tourists with open arms.
In the end, when you get your eyes opened like this, you become more positive about your own world as it takes on a new comparison. It makes you proud of your city. It makes you proud of different ethnicities and languages flourishing in our multi-cultural world in Montreal.
I work at CTV in the Gay Village and I see integration and almost entirely no judgments placed upon those who choose openly to walk their path.
I'm proud of my city of Montreal. I see my city today with fresh eyes changed by the frustration, disappointment and fear on the faces of my friends and colleagues who came to Philly only hoping to work in peace.