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Five key factors in Canadiens-Flyers opener

by Mike G. Morreale
Top line test -- It will be interesting to see how Flyers coach Peter Laviolette utilizes his top line of Mike Richards with Simon Gagne and Daniel Carcillo. Richards has been a force opposite the opposing team's top line, meaning he might line up against Montreal's No. 1 unit of white-hot Mike Cammalleri with center Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn. Richards skated opposite Patrice Bergeron for much of the team's second-round series against Boston.

Fortune favors the bold
-- Montreal coach Jacques Martin made a tough decision at the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when he opted for Jaroslav Halak over Carey Price. He's been amply rewarded. After stopping 131 of 134 shots over the final three games in the team's opening-round victory over Washington, Halak turned in another superb performance against the Penguins in the second round. He posted a 2.38 goals-against average and .927 save percentage against the Penguins, including a 37-save performance in Montreal's Game 7 win.

Be like Mike? -- The Flyers are committed to Michael Leighton in goal -- Brian Boucher is gone with a knee injury, and all that's left behind Leighton is the Flyers' minor-league goaltending crew. Leighton missed nearly two months with a high ankle sprain, but stepped in when Boucher was injured in the second period of Game 5 and has been solid, completing a 4-0 win, then earning the victory in Games 6 and 7. He has a 1.54 GAA and .943 save percentage.

Who will be special? -- As usual, expect special teams to play a major role in the series. The Flyers are sixth in the League but first among the four teams still alive in the playoffs at 21.7 percent (13-for-60) on the power plat. The Canadiens are right behind at 21.6 efficiency with nine fewer power-play attempts. Montreal's penalty-killing has been tremendous in the postseason, clicking at an 85.5 percent success rate (53-for-62). That's third-best in the League and tops among the four teams still alive in the playoffs. The Flyers are fifth overall and third among the four clubs still alive with an 83.6 percent success rate (46-for-55).

Get the jump -- Montreal has been a lot better during the playoffs when scoring the first goal; the Canadiens are is 7-2 when doing so and just 1-4 when allowing the opposition to break the ice. The Flyers are 4-1 when getting for the opening goal and 4-3 when giving way to the opposition. The Flyers allowed the Bruins to strike first in four of the seven games in the previous semifinal round and had to make up a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 on Friday. The Canadiens were 3-1 in the four games in which they scored first against the Penguins -- including Game 7, when they opened a commanding 4-0 lead.
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