Some storylines have emerged in Eastern Conference playoff series between the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers as they head into Game 3 in Toronto knotted at one win each.
The Canadiens have found a source of inspiration — playing for coach Claude Julien, who returned home to Montreal on Thursday after feeling chest pains and having a stent surgically placed in a coronary artery. Julien’s team responded Friday with a 5-0 pasting of the Flyers in Game 2.
“It’s hard anytime someone who is part of your team is sick or in the hospital,” Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot told reporters. “Claude steers the ship for us. We are wishing him well and hope he is recovering. We’ll play for him as hard as we can.”
Tomas Tatar, a top-liner who had no points in five postseason games before Friday, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi each scored twice. Kotkaniemi has been a go-to player in this tournament and leads Montreal with four goals.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” teammate Max Domi said of Kotkaniemi.
So is — no surprise — Montreal veteran goaltender Carey Price, who made 30 saves Friday in his seventh career playoff shutout. That story line is not new.
“Carey is our best player every single night,” Chariot said. “He’s a rock for us and is continuing to do that.”
For the Flyers, meanwhile, the story is about a lack of production from expected sources.
Travis Konecny, Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, who were Philadelphia’s top five scorers in the regular season, have no goals this postseason. In addition, Konecny left in the third period Friday after blocking a shot.
“You need your top players to be driving the bus,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. “I know their intentions are good, but it has to transform on the ice.”
Philadelphia, in general, will be looking to redeem itself after something of a no-show in Game 2.
“We got our butts kicked in all facets of the game,” Vigneault said. “We have to turn the page, move on and get ready for the next one.”
A little bulletin board fodder emerged after the Canadiens, up 5-0 in the third period, put their top power play unit on the ice.
Giroux, the Flyers’ captain, noticed.
“Yeah I saw that, but … no comment on that,” he said.
His coach did comment.
“We had embarrassed ourselves enough,” Vigneault said. “I don’t think we needed to get embarrassed more, so I’m going to make sure we’re very aware of that next game.”
Kirk Muller, Montreal’s associate head coach who is running the bench in Julien’s absence, insisted he was just using a postseason playbook. In addition, the Canadiens were 0-for-12 on the power play during their four-game win against Pittsburgh in the qualifying round and it could be argued that top unit needed to continue to gain confidence.
“I’d never disrespect anybody, but we’re in the playoffs,” Muller said.
Julien is not expected back before the next round of the playoffs, assuming the eighth-seeded Canadiens can knock off the top-seeded Flyers in the Eastern Conference bracket.
“We want to keep this thing rolling so we get Claude back here,” Muller said. “We’ve got a group of guys that want to do well for Claude.”
–Field Level Media