If a decisive shot advantage is a sure sign of territorial dominance, then why have the Montreal Canadiens
been so bewildered over the results?
Despite out-shooting the Philadelphia Flyers
in the opening three games of their Eastern Conference semifinal round series, all the Canadiens have to show for their effort is a come-from-behind overtime triumph in Game 1. It’s enough to leave any dignified competitor scratching their head, particularly those from the Canadiens.
“When you out-shoot a team, 34-14, you’ve got to win the game,’’ Canadiens winger Christopher Higgins
said. “You really don’t know how much longer it’s going to go with the chances we’ve had. It seemed like we were in their zone the whole night, and we had control of the play, but couldn’t get enough pucks in the net.’’
The top-seeded Canadiens dropped a 3-2 decision in Game 3 on Monday despite generating 20 more shots than the sixth-seeded Flyers and now trail in the series, 2-1. The teams return to Wachovia Center tonight at 7 p.m. ET (VERSUS, CBC, RDS) in Game 4 of this best-of-seven.
This postseason, Philadelphia has been on the short end of the shot scale in six of its 10 playoff games, including the last five. The Flyers, who have allowed 32.2 shot per game and taken 31.3, are now 3-3 in games where they were out-shot in the playoffs.
In the regular season, the Flyers yielded 31.8 shots per game while being out-shot in 48 of 82 games. They finished 21-19-8 in those contests.
Is there a concern over the fact the lightning-quick Canadiens have gotten the better of the play?
“It’s obviously a concern since we don’t like giving up that many shots in a game but Marty (Biron) has played extremely well,’’ Flyers center Mike Richards
said. “You need your goalie to come up big in the playoffs and he’s done that. We would want to get more shots ourselves, but a lot of their shots are coming off the power plays. We’re not getting that same chance so I don’t think you could blow it out of proportion too much.
“I think we’re trying to get as many pucks to the net as possible, whether they are from bad angles or not, you just never know what will happen,’’ Richards continued. “Especially in the playoffs, where a game-winner always seems to bounce off a shin pad or skate.’’
The Canadiens have registered 21 percent of their 104 total shots in this series while on the power play. Perhaps, then, the shot discrepancy is a little misleading, particularly when you consider Montreal has been awarded 14 power-plays and the Flyers just seven.
“Montreal is a good rush team and they come through with a lot of speed and know how to get the pucks on the net,’’ Biron said. “Montreal really limited our opportunities in Game 3 and we were kind of playing the waiting game. But shots are a stat that people sometimes pay way too much attention to.’’
Flyers goaltending coach Reggie Lemelin said there is a concern when your team is consistently out-shot.
“Some may say shots are overrated, but it describes a lot of what is going on during a game,’’ Lemelin told NHL.com. “The thing with Montreal is that most of their shots are on the power play. They thrive and feed off their power play and really gain momentum. Also, when they’re down a few goals, they have a tendency to throw as many pucks on net as possible, shooting from anywhere. After each game, we go over things, look at patterns and try and counter with some kind of defensive scheme.’’
Defenseman Derian Hatcher
, who leads the Flyers with 25 penalty minutes this postseason, acknowledged the team has been accustomed to being out-shot this year. Nevertheless, the Flyers have been able to maintain their poise in sticking to the game plan.
“We went through times this season where we were getting out-shot and winning or even out-shooting teams and losing,’’ Hatcher said. “We’re looking not so much at the number of shots, but the quality of shots and chances. They’re taking a lot of shots from the outside and when they are getting inside, (Biron) has been there with some huge saves for us.’’
“Sure, we’d like to get more shots,’’ admitted Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn
, “and it’s always a good thing to get as many shots as you can since you never know what will happen. But you just have to try and do your best to limit the shots while taking as many as you can.’’
Flyers captain Jason Smith
leads the team in blocked shots (33) and hits (26) this postseason.
“If you play a type of game that allows your team to have success, then you’ll be successful,’’ Smith said. “Everyone has to be playing their best in order for you to get the results you want in the playoffs. You need good goaltending and must play solid team defense. If you get all those components working together, things will usually go well for you.’’
Hatcher also feels the Flyers have collectively done a good job at keeping the opponent to the perimeter this postseason, enabling Biron a clear view of the puck.
“Defense isn’t about just two guys on the ice or three forwards,’’ Hatcher said. “It’s a group of six guys on the ice both offensively and defensively. If you don’t have all the guys coming back and doing their job, then it makes things a lot tougher defensively.’’
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.