It's a good thing the Philadelphia Flyers enjoy a good challenge, because they certainly will have their hands full with the top-seeded Montreal Canadiens.
These two teams met four times during the regular season, and Montreal won all four games. The cumulative score line? An ugly 15-6 disadvantage left staring the Flyers right in the face.
But Philadelphia now knows it can overcome any mountain after dispatching the Southeast Division champion Washington Capitals on an overtime goal in an unforgettable seven-game showdown.
Heck, if the Flyers can send Alex Ovechkin, the League's leading scorer and potential Hart Trophy winner, home, what's so scary about a lopsided four-game regular-season series and the prospect of playing red-hot goalie Carey Price in the second round? Absolutely nothing, say the Flyers.
Now, the underdogs just have to prove it on the ice. Defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, along with forward Mike Richards, did a stellar job of limiting Ovechkin's ability to dominate. But Montreal, led by Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, is a far deeper offensive team than the Caps.
The 20-year-old Price's suberb play allowed the Canadiens to deal Cristobal Huet to the Capitals in a deadline-day trade. So while the Flyers were able to solve Huet, Price should be a tougher nut to crack.
But that doesn't mean it can't be done.
Philadelphia's Daniel Briere is having a magical postseason with six goals in the first round. Nine other Flyers – including Joffrey Lupul with the OT winner in Game 7 – joined the first-round goal parade.
But as resilient as the Flyers were in the first round, Montreal was just as tenacious. Like Philadelphia, Montreal saw a three-games-to-one series lead against Boston evaporate in the blink of an eye.
But in Game 7, the Canadiens' talent and depth told the tale as the team put together a near-perfect 5-0 win that featured a masterful performance by Price, who was facing much doubt after allowing 10 goals in the previous two losses.
Price, who has been earning comparisons to past Montreal greats Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden, had two shutouts in the first round and has delivered on the hype that has followed him since his junior days.
Montreal will win if -- It gets its power play untracked. Montreal was dominant with the man advantage during the regular season, finishing with a League-best 24.3-percent conversion rate. But Montreal had just three power-play goals against Boston, explaining in large part why it couldn't put away the less-talented Bruins in less than seven games. Philadelphia has been known to take a few penalties and Montreal must make the Flyers pay.
Philadelphia will win if -- It continues to go hard to the net. The Flyers made life miserable for Cristobal Huet in the first round by crashing his crease at every turn and putting traffic in front of him at all times. You're not going to score too many pretty goals on Carey Price, so the Flyers will have to put on their work clothes and absorb punishment to get the dirty, in-close goals that changed the face of the first-round series.