#8 Montreal Canadians
(39-33-10, 88 pts)
#7 Philadelphia Flyers
(41-35-6, 88 pts)
How They Got Here: A team that is quickly becoming the sweethearts of the NHL, the Canadiens have now dismissed both the Washington Capitals and the defending champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins in consecutive series. In both best-of-sevens, the Habs were facing elimination multiple times, and they’re now a perfect 5-0 in do-or-die situations with three of those wins coming on enemy ice.
Player To Watch: C Michael Cammalleri is absolutely on fire right now. He leads Montreal in the playoffs with a dozen goals, and is tied for third on the team with six assists. He put six of those goals on the board in the series against the Pens, including scoring four goals in the final three games. He also lit the lamp twice in Game 6 against the Capitals at home.
Goalie Outlook: The question was asked on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption”: Would you rather have home ice advantage or the hot goalie in a Game 7 of a series. That’s Jaroslav Halak 2 – Home Ice Advantage 0. Halak is stopping 93.3 percent of his shots faced in these playoffs, and he has only had one really bad game since Game 5 of the Washington series. The Habs aren’t doing him any favors in defense, as he has faced an average of 34.3 shots per game in the postseason, but he continues to answer the bell.
Key To Victory: The story hasn’t changed for Montreal. Continue finding ways to be annoying in games and ride the hand of your hot goaltender to the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s probably going to take a slightly better effort in terms of goals per game to stop the Flyers, but there’s no shame in the 2.28 GAA that he allowed against the Pens.
How They Got Here: Talk about coming back against all odds! Not only were the Flyers down three games to none in the series against the Boston Bruins, but they were also behind three goals to none in Game 7 before storming back and winning the series in Beantown by a 4-3 margin. There may have never been a more unpredictable story than the one that Philadelphia is putting together, and now, it is basically a coin flip to head to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Player To Watch: C Mike Richards has a four game point streak going, and he’s making a huge impact by distributing to his teammates. Richards only has seven shots on net in those four games, but he does have a goal and four assists to show for his work. He leads the team in scoring with 17 points in the playoffs.
Goalie Outlook: With G Brian Boucher out with ailing legs, the pressure is now squarely on the shoulders of G Michael Leighton. Leighton, who went 16-7 in the regular season with a 2.48 GAA, has only been beaten four times on 74 shots on net against him so far in the playoffs.
Key To Victory: The wave of momentum is riding high in the Philadelphia locker room, and that wave absolutely must continue to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers are going to have a hard time trying to outscore the Habs as long as Halak is hot, so Leighton is going to be the man that has to be at the top of his game for victory to be the end result.
The Final Word: Anyone who tells you that they had correctly predicted Philadelphia and Montreal playing for the right to go to the Stanley Cup was either just drawing names out of a hat or is a bold-faced liar. The Habs seem more likely to pull off the dramatics, and we’ll go with them to make the whole country of Canada thrilled as they head to the Stanley Cup.
Canadiens in 6