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2010 Eastern Conference Final Storylines

NHL.com @NHL
NEW YORK (May 15, 2010) -- To support your coverage of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, following are storylines for the Eastern Conference Final series:

#7 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS vs. #8 MONTREAL CANADIENS

How They Got Here

The seventh-seeded Flyers, who required a shootout victory on the last day of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs, joined the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs (vs. Detroit) and the 1975 New York Islanders (vs. Pittsburgh) as the only teams in Stanley Cup Playoff history to rebound from a 0-3 series deficit when they defeated the Bruins 4-3 in Game 7 of the Conference Semifinals. The Flyers also became just the third team in playoff history to come back from a 0-3 deficit in Game 7 of a series (and the first to do so in regulation time)  -- joining the Washington Capitals (4/16/1988 vs. Philadelphia, 5-4 in OT) and the Edmonton Oilers (4/16/1991 at Calgary, 5-4 in OT).

The Flyers overcame the loss of starting goaltender Brian Boucher to injury in the second period of Game 5 and turned to Michael Leighton, who stopped 66 of 70 shots he faced the rest of the way to complete Philadelphia's improbable comeback. The Flyers staved off elimination in Game 4 when Simon Gagne, who had missed the previous four games due to injury, scored at 14:40 of overtime to propel his team to a 5-4 victory.

The Flyers defeated the New Jersey Devils in five games in their Conference Quarterfinal. Daniel Carcillo’s goal 3:35 into overtime lifted Philadelphia to a Game 3 victory from which the Flyers never looked back. In his first significant NHL postseason action in 10 years, veteran Brian Boucher was brilliant, posting a 1.59 goals against average and .940 save percentage, both tops among playoff goaltenders.

The Canadiens made history by becoming the first #8 seed to win a playoff series in which it trailed three games to one, taking down the Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in a seven-game thriller. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak backstopped the Canadiens to victories in Games 5-7, stopping 131 of 134 shots (.978). Michael Cammalleri sparked the offense, tallying points in each of the first six games and leading the club with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in seven games.

The Canadiens again played giant-killer in the second round, eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games. Montreal staged another comeback, this time rallying from series deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2. As at Washington two weeks before, the Canadiens captured the series-deciding game on the road. Michael Cammalleri scored seven goals, matching the highest single-series total by a Montreal player in the modern era. The Canadiens held Penguins star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to one goal apiece.

Series Storylines

Regular-season series: The Flyers and Canadiens each finished with 88 points in the regular-season standings and split their four-game season series 2-2-0. The Flyers had a slight edge in goals, 10-8, in a low-scoring series. Daniel Briere led all Flyers in goals (four) and points (five), while defenseman Roman Hamrlik was the top-scoring Canadien (0-5--5). No Canadiens player registered more than a goal against the Flyers, while the injured Jeff Carter (three) combined with Briere to total seven of Philadelphia's 10 goals.

In a harbinger of his spectacular playoff performance to come, Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak was dominant in the clubs' most recent meeting, stopping all 35 shots in a 1-0 victory at Philadelphia Apr. 2. The win, just Montreal's second in seven games, revived their flagging playoff drive.

Playoff History
: The Flyers and Canadiens will be meeting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the sixth time in what has been a closely matched and contentious postseason history. The Canadiens defeated the Flyers in a 1973 semifinal perhaps best known for an overtime goal scored by then little-known 21-year old rookie defenseman Larry Robinson in Game 2 that knotted the series after a Rick MacLeish OT goal had shocked the Canadiens in Game 1. Montreal ended the Philadelphia's two-year Stanley Cup run with a four-game sweep in the 1976 Final, the Flyers knocked off the defending champion Canadiens in a 1987 Conference Final, the Canadiens defeated the Flyers in a 1989 Conference Final and the Flyers eliminated the #1 seed Canadiens in a 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinal.

Two thirds of the current Flyers roster did not face the Canadiens in 2008, including Friday's Game 7 hero Simon Gagne (who was injured). Up front, only Mike Richards, Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell return. Jeff Carter played in 2008 but is currently injured. On the blueline, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn faced the Habs two years ago. The Canadiens gave rookie goaltender Jaroslav Halak his first career NHL playoff start in that series, taking the loss in Game 4 at Philadelphia.

The Great Debate: The Flyers and Canadiens have given hockey fans a topic to debate for years to come: which historic feat during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs was more impressive? Was it the Flyers coming back to win a playoff series after trailing 3-0 in games and 3-0 in Game 7? Or was it the Canadiens becoming the first #8 seed to win a series after trailing 3-1 and knocking off the Presidents' Trophy winners and defending Stanley Cup champions on the road in Game 7 in consecutive series?

Triumphs Over Adversity: Both the Flyers and Canadiens have overcome significant injuries to reach the Eastern Conference Final. For the Canadiens, the injury bug targeted their blueline. The club's top defenseman in scoring and ice time, Andrei Markov, missed six games of the Pittsburgh series. Jaroslav Spacek was sidelined for four games against Washington and five versus the Penguins. Hal Gill, the dominant shot-blocker in the first-round upset over the Capitals, was sidelined for Game 6 against the Penguins.

The Flyers, meanwhile, have had to deal with key absences up front and in goal. The club lost high-scoring forwards Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne in Game 4 of their first-round series against New Jersey, but closed out the series at New Jersey in Game 5 without them. Carter, whose 33 goals led the Flyers during the regular season, missed the entire series against Boston and Gagne missed the first three games. Goaltender Brian Boucher, who backstopped the Flyers to a playoff berth after replacing injured starter Ray Emery, was lost for the Boston series midway through Game 5.

Longshot Series: This is the first series to pit a #7 vs. #8 seed since the Conference-based playoff format was adopted in 1994. Prior to this match-up the series matching the lowest seeds occurred in the 2006 Western Conference Final when the #8 Edmonton Oilers upset the #6 Anaheim Ducks in five games.

Philadelphia Flyers

Minuteman Pronger: Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger leads all players in average ice time per-game in this year's playoffs (29:39). He played 31:42 in Game 7 against the Bruins and has averaged 30 minutes per-game over the course of his 11-year playoff career.

Gagne = Win: LW Simon Gagne has four goals, including game-winners in Game 4 and Game 7 against the Bruins, and five points in four games since his return from injury. He had two screws put into his right big toe after suffering the injury in Game 4 of the series against the Devils.

Goaltending = Risky Business: The fact that G Leighton took over from the injured (knee) Boucher in Game 5 of the series vs. Boston comes as no surprise. Due to injuries, the Flyers used five goalies this season: Boucher; Leighton (high ankle sprain); Ray Emery (hip surgery); Johan Backlund (lower body) and Jeremy Duchesne.

Captain Richards: Mike Richards leads the Flyers with 17 points (5-12--17) through two rounds and ranks fifth among all playoff scorers. He has recorded at least a point in seven of his last eight games and has at least one point in 10 of 12 games in these playoffs. He has already surpassed his single season career playoff high (14 points in 17 games in 2008).

Cup-winning bench boss: Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is the lone remaining coach in this year's playoffs who has captured a Stanley Cup (2006 with Carolina). Laviolette has posted a 28-21 career playoff record heading into the Eastern Conference Final.

Montreal Canadiens

All Hail Halak: While he didn't post the gaudy numbers as over the final three games of the first-round series against the Washington Capitals, when he stopped 131 of 134 shots, goaltender Jaroslav Halak turned in another superb performance against the Penguins in round two. Halak posted a 2.38 goals-against average and .927 save percentage against Pittsburgh, including a 37-save performance in Game 7. Although he did not face 40 shots in any of the second-round games, Halak enters the Conference Final with a 10-0-1 record this season when facing at least that many.

Cammalleri On Historic Run: Michael Cammalleri enters the Conference Final as the NHL playoff leader in goals (12), three ahead of San Jose's Joe Pavelski. Cammalleri tallied seven goals in the Conference Semifinal win over the Penguins, tying a single-series franchise record. His 12 goals are the most by a Canadiens player in one playoff year since Guy Lafleur notched 12 in 1975 and tied for the third-highest by a Canadien in the modern era. The only players with more: Yvan Cournoyer in 1973 (15) and Frank Mahovlich in 1971 (14).

P.K. Here To Stay: Since joining the Canadiens as an injury replacement during the first-round series against Washington with only two NHL regular-season games under his belt, 21-year-old rookie P.K. Subban has emerged as a key member of the Canadiens' defense. Subban averaged more than 23 minutes per game in ice time against Pittsburgh, including a 29:11 figure that led all players in Game 6.

Subban was able to draw on his experience representing Canada in the pressure cooker of the World Junior Championship. The Canadiens' second-round pick in 2007 was a member of the Canada teams that captured the nation's fourth and fifth consecutive titles in 2008 and 2009, respectively. In 2009 he earned a spot on the all-tournament team after recording 3-6--9 and a +12 rating in six games.

Familiar Foes For Gomez, Gionta
: Canadiens forwards Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta are no strangers to playing at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center, having spent nine and seven seasons, respectively, playing for Atlantic Division rivals of the Flyers before joining Montreal last summer. Gomez skated for the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2000 through 2006-07 and the New York Rangers in 2007-08 and 2008-09, while Gionta's seven-year tenure with the Devils began in 2001-02.

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