Canadiens know they have to be better in Game 2
PHILADELPHIA — Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Martin is confident goaltender Jaroslav Halak can bounce back from a subpar Game 1 performance in the Eastern Conference final against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The more pressing question is whether Halak’s teammates will show up for Game 2 Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center.
The Flyers won 6-0 Monday night with Halak giving up four goals on 13 shots.
“It wasn’t one of his better games,” said Martin. “I think he’ll recognize that (but it’s) not just him. I think it goes with our hockey team. I think (Sunday) night wasn’t a good performance, and the result was there to show it.”
Martin has good reason to believe that Halak can turn things around. He bounced back from poor performances in the opening rounds against Washington and Pittsburgh and he has an interesting history against Philadelphia in the regular season.
The Flyers beat the Canadiens 6-2 at the Bell Centre on Feb. 13 in the final game before the Olympic break. Halak gave up five goals on 17 shots and was lifted after two periods. He got his revenge in Philadelphia on April 2 when he made 35 saves to shut out the Flyers 1-0.
None of his teammates fingered Halak for the loss. The general feeling after the Canadiens held an optional workout Monday was that Montreal didn’t win enough one-on-one battles.
“X’s and O’s didn’t have much to play into it,” said Brian Gionta. “It’s a matter of winning individual battles. It had nothing to do with getting outhit or whatnot. We just weren’t prepared to play from the start. We weren’t skating.
“They’ve got a forechecking team that’s going to get in and forecheck hard,” he added. “We’ve got to do a better job of moving the puck quicker and tiring them out and making them skate a little more. If they’re coming that hard on the forecheck, you can make one or two quick passes, you catch them quick and it kind of slows them up the next time.”
The biggest challenge facing the Canadiens Tuesday night will be the battles in front of the net at both ends of the ice. Philadelphia scored its goals by creating traffic in front of the Montreal goalies.
“You look at playoff hockey and that’s a strategy that is used,” said Martin. “I think you need to do that to score goals at this time of year. You don’t have the fancy plays and a lot of the goals that are scored are either screens, tips, rebounds and things like that. So that’s part of the strategy and we have to do a better job at counteracting that.”
The Canadiens don’t have big forwards who establish position in front. Gionta, the smallest player in the league at five-foot-seven and 173 pounds, is the player most likely to go to the net but he was cross-checked on a regular basis in Game 1 and was held to one shot on goal.
Gionta said the physical play isn’t limited to the Flyers.
“It happened last series; it happened the series before,” said Gionta. “You know, I don’t care who you’re playing against, it’s going to be a tough battle in front of the net. It’s playoff time, and it gets even worse in front of there.
“It’s always the place you want to get to, to score goals and I think we need to do a better job of getting some more rebounds, some more traffic in front of (Flyers goaltender Michael) Leighton. We saw a lot of stuff (Sunday) night, and I think it’s an area we need to improve on.”
Martin said he would wait until game day to decide on any lineup changes but, given the physical nature of the series, Ryan O’Byrne could return to the lineup after a one-game absence.
Jeff Carter, who has been out with a broken foot, is a possibility for the Flyers.
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