I loved last night’s Montreal win over the Flyers.
In the first two games of the series, I noticed Montreal’s defensemen trying to break-up plays up near the circles. They wanted to stop the Flyers and get the puck out as quickly as possible, which makes sense.
But the Flyers are so quick and shifty up front, they were able to get around the Habs defense with plenty of room to make a multiple move play in front of Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak.
Last night, the Flyers went down early, and their defense tried to make plays up high, giving Montreal forwards the opportunity to get in back of them to make a play in front of Philadelphia goalie Michael Leighton.
A sick Chris Pronger got burned that way a few times. He was on the ice for four of Montreal’s even-strength goals.
He definitely wasn’t have a great game, but he also looked like he was thinking offense not defense, trying to get his team back in the game. And that meant subtle pinches in his defensive zone that gave Montreal all of the space they needed.
Both teams need to do the same thing: make sure their defensemen are playing back so if the other team does get in back of them, there’s only enough time and space for a quick shot, not a move (or two) and a shot.
I get the logic of playing defensemen up higher, shadowing the forwards before they make a move, but that whole strategy falls apart when the forward beats the defensemen. And the forwards in this series are so fast, they’ve been able to regularly get around the defense.
And let’s be honest. The defense can play down low since they know where the forwards want to end up: in front of the goalie. There’s no mystery there. And if the offensive team wants to take a shot sooner, free from the defense, I think both teams have goalies strong enough to handle a shot from the circles (although I haven’t seen Halak or Leighton strong enough in the same game yet).
So last night’s game was fun because the Habs gave the Flyers a taste of their own medicine. Plus, now we’ve got a series.