Here is the first installment of Ken Hitchcock's "What's the Hitch" analysis of the Montreal-Philadelphia Eastern Conference Final (7 ET, Versus, CBC, RDS).
Montreal's "Hitch": Make the Flyers play on the "outside" of the rink.
First shift: "First of all, I have say that when top seeds go out early, this is the way it turns out. A No. 7 plays and hosts a No. 8 seed. But there is more to it than that. I saw this coming at the end of the season. Philadelphia and Montreal are both teams that experienced significant chemistry changes in the off-season. Chemistry takes time. What you are seeing is what I call sum of the parts. Chemistry comes through the adversity of injuries and newness. "
Coach's eye for details: Philly picked up players experienced in winning, especially Chris Pronger and Ian Laperriere. And Ville Leino, centering the second line, is a perfect example of gaining experience from last year's playoffs. He knows the level you have play at, he has the knowledge of helping other guys perform and draw the best out of them.
There will not be any drop off in the Flyers' play even after playing a Game 7 Friday. Philly is getting better every game. They have Simon Gagne back (he scored the series-winner against the Bruins) and they will probably get Jeff Carter back this series.
Montreal needs to make the Flyers play on the outside of the rink, keep them out of the middle of the ice.
If Montreal can frustrate the Flyers by keeping them to the outside, then it helps force the other team into errors. The Canadiens can continue winning games by great position play, opportunistic offense and consistent checking. If Montreal creates odd-man rushes, then their game plan is working.
Final period: "Home ice could be a major factor in this series. Both teams can use their home fans to distinct advantage. Montreal faces a tough task in the first two games."
Philadelphia's "Hitch": Stay out of penalty box, keep it 5-on-5.
First shift: "The Flyers have a strong forecheck, lots of tempo, good depth, especially at forward. It adds up as putting a lot of pressure on the other team. But they are much more effective at that style of play if it is 5-on-5. Drawing penalties allows the Montreal big scorers, Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, to take easier minutes on the power play. You want to wear those two out."
Coach's eye for details: Gionta, Scott Gomez and Hal Gill are all guys who bring that winning experience to the Canadiens.
Four-and-four sequences will be to the Canadiens' favor. They have more speed and Philly needs to avoid 4-and-4 to use their size upfront as a physical advantage.
Montreal's power play has been tough all year, even when Andrei Markov is not playing. That's another reason to stay out of the penalty box.
Final period: "Both teams have strong belief systems that have been validated during the first two rounds. They have come back in games and series. They both stay with it. There will lots of close games in this series."