Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Philadelphia gets 2nd straight shutout, goes up 2-0 and extends shutout streak to over 160 minutes

The Flyers are using some timely scoring and an amazing goaltender performance by Michael Leighton who's had back-to-back shutouts in this series and a shutout streak that is last over a 160 minutes going back to late in the 1st period of Game 7 in the Boston Series.

Goals by Daniel Briere, Simon Gagne and Villie Leino in each period was a big part of a constant pressure of Montreal Goalie Jarsolav Halak. Even though Halak has been able to bounce back big time so many times in this year's playoffs.

His magic be starting to ware off as him and rest of the Canadians haven't been able to figure out the Flyers stifling defense which has been able to be among some of the biggest hitters in the league with players like Pronger and Timonen who not only can hit, but can get involved in the scoring as Lkrajicek, Pronger and Timonen each added assists in this game.

This is turning into a bad matchup for the Flyers as the Canadians have been playing teams that allowed more of a free flowing motion when they played the Capitals and Penguins earlier in the playoffs.

The other big reason for the Canadians problems have been scoring problems from their top players like Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta as the Flyers defense has done a great job of shutting them down. Cammalleri has -1 rating in each of the last 2 games while Gionta has a -3 despite having 9 shots on goal in the last 2 games.

I think that this is no fluke, injuries have kept the Flyers from experiencing their true potential this season, but with everyone healthy and the defense humming along and the deep goaltending has help the Flyers in the Conference Finals.

From the National Hockey League Website:

From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Philadelphia Flyers and the Eastern Conference Finals have been a perfect match so far. Tuesday's 3-0 victory against Montreal in Game 2 at the Wachovia Center is just the latest piece of supporting evidence.

With the win, Philadelphia swept the first two games of the series by a stunning 9-0 margin and head to Montreal for Tuesday's Game 3 of this best-of-7 series with a 6 game winning streak, a franchise-record run of 13 unanswered goals and a shutout streak of 165:50.

Of the impressive marks date back to Game 7 of the last round when the Flyers erased a three game series deficit against the Boston Bruins with a historic come-from-behind 4-3 win in Game 7, allowing Philadelphia to become just the 3rd team in the history of the NHL to comeback from a 3-0 hole in a best-of-7 series.

Apparently, that which does not kill you can only make you stronger.

"Well its definitely a good feeling", center Danny Birere said of the two game lead.

But with memory of their own possible waterloo against Boston fresh off their mind, as well as the knowledge of the Canadiens have been impossible to kill this postseason - they are 5-0 in elimination game - the Flyers refuse to get caught up in the fact that they are just two games away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1997.

"You look at the two teams that are here right now, both teams know that they can go away quick", Biere said. "We came back. Montreal came-back a couple of times. They were down 2-1, 3-2 against very good teams before. So we're not going to sit back. We saw what we were able to do to Boston. So the worst thing we can do is sit back."

"The thing that I like is the fact we all feel like we haven't played our best games yet, and we still have a lot to prove. So I think that's a positive that we still have more in the tank. You know, we want to prove that we're winning, but it's not a fluke."

There has been nothing fluky about the Flyers in the first two games of the series. They have been better in every facet of the game - and have been especially dominant in the goaltending battle and on special teams.

In game 2, Michael Leighton kept Philadelphia in the game until its special teams could take over.

Leighton stopped 16 saves in the first period - including a testing six-shot barrage on Philadelphia's 2nd penalty kill - and finished the game with 30 saves.

"Well, today we had one good player out there, obviously it was Leighton, and the rest of us, we were average," said defensemen Kimmo Timonen said.

Leighton has been Philadelphia's best player since being thrust into action in Game 5 as an injury replacement for Brian Boucher. He won in relief that night and he has not lost in four starts. In his five games, he has put up a 0.87 GAA and a .969 SV%.

He has stopped 70 straight saves and has not allowed a goal since Boston's Milan Lucic scored 14:10 into the first period of Game 7. The streak of 165:50 is the 2nd longest in franchise history behind Boucher, and he is the first Flyer since the legendary Bernie Parent in 1975 to post back-to-back playoff shutouts.

"To me, tonight, he looked as good as I've seen him," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolatte said. "He said he was very calm in there, very relaxed, and in complete control of that net and everything that went on around it. He was really strong."

Almost as strong as Philadelphia's special teams, which have dominated both games.

Philadelphia's first two goals came Tuesday Night - by Birere and Simon Gagne - came on the power play. On Sunday Night, Philadelphia scored a pair of power play goals and added another just one second after the expiration of another penalty. Overall, Philadelphia is 4-10 with the man advantage in this series. The Flyers also have successfully killed all 8 Montreal power play in the series.

"Special teams (were) the difference tonight," Montreal head coach Jacques Martin.

There could be an argument made the Montreal power play far better in Game 2 and would have had a chance to win if not the Philadelphia's power play prowess. In fact, it was an argument Montreal defensemen Hal Gill hinted at in the aftermath of the loss.

"It was an even game," Gill said. "Take away those (power play goals), do a little better job on the PK and we're right in."

But there is no taking away with those power play goals 0r the third period goals by Ville Leino that was the final nail on this night - especially because Birere and Gagne are the offensive engines during the Flyers at the moment.

Briere, who scored a pretty goal with a nice deke on Gill 4:16 into the game, has 18 points in his last 11 playoff games. Gagne, who returned from a broken right toe during the Bruins series, has six goals in as many outings, including his power-play swat past Jaroslav Halak 15:49 into the 2nd period. Yet, with all the good signs that popped out during the past 48 hours for the Flyers, they refuse to take anything fore-granted.

"We've been on the other side, and we know that until the other team closes the series it's not over," Gagne said. "For us, we did what we had to do here at home - get those two wins.

"But at the same time we have a lot of things we can improve our game, especially on 5-on-5. "We're up 2-0, but it doesn't mean anything. They're going back to Montreal and try to do the same thing that we did tonight."

Philadelphia Flyers Lead Series 2-0

Game Boxscore

Montreal Canadiens 0 Philadelphia Flyers 3 (0-1, 0-1, 0-1)

0-1 PHI: Danny Briere (PP) (Giroux, Timonen) 4:16 1st

0-2 PHI: Simon Gagne (PP) (Leino, Richards) 15:49 2nd

0-3 PHI: Ville Leino (Krajicek, Pronger) 10:24 3rd

Series Schedule

Game 1: Montreal Canadiens 0 Philadelphia Flyers 6 (0-1, 0-3, 0-2)

Game 2: Montreal Canadiens 0 Philadelphia Flyers 3 (0-1, 0-1, 0-1)

Game 3, 5/20: @ Montreal 7:00 PM EDT

Game 4, 5/22: @ Montreal 3:00 PM EDT

Game 5, 5/24*: @ Philadelphia 7:00 PM EDT

Game 6, 5/26*: @ Montreal 7:00 PM EDT

Game 7, 5/28*: @ Philadelphia 7:00 PM EDT

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