With the Blackhawks and Flyers currently holding 2-0 leads in their respective series, you can’t help but wonder whether the Sharks and/or Canadiens can make the comeback. Neither of those teams trailing can take many positives out of the first two games, and need to make the proper adjustments before their upcoming Game 3’s.
As the Western Conference Finals heads to Chicago, the Sharks were unable to protect home-ice, and need to return the favor to the ‘Hawks if they wish to get back in this series. Guys like Evgeni Nabokov, Dany Heatley, and Joe Pavelski must raise their level of play. But the team, as a whole, has to dig in and find another gear; Chicago simply outplayed them for the better part of the two games in San Jose.
Dan Boyle mentioned that the team needs to be more physical, and bring a little more feistiness to the table to get under Chicago’s skin. Boyle’s blueline, though, has the tough task of trying to slow down Dustin Byfuglien. Whether it’s Boyle, Douglas Murray or Rob Blake, someone must find a way to clear the traffic in front of Nabokov.
The last time this postseason the Sharks faced a ‘must-win’ situation was Game 4 in Colorado. Down 2-1 in the series at the time, they dug deep to win the game in overtime and never looked back. Chicago’s a completely different animal; but at the same time, they haven’t played their best hockey at home this spring. Going on the road to turn things around could be a good thing for San Jose.
In Montreal, the Canadiens will look to get back on track in front of their raucous fans. That said, they’ll be facing a challenge they have yet to face, trailing 2-0 in a series. The offense is bound to finally solve Michael Leighton, but adjustments need to be made to do so.
All spring the Habs’ game has been to control the game by actually getting outshot. In fact, they have yet to win a game when they record more shots than their opponent. So looking at the first two games of this series, Jacques Martin’s gang has spent too much time in the offensive zone – yes, that’s a bad thing for them! The more shots Jaroslav Halak faces, the better he is.
The problem is, though, Halak was extremely shaky in Philadelphia. He gave up 7 goals on 37 shots in Games 1 and 2, good enough for a measly .810 save percentage. Could we actually be witnessing the ‘Great Wall of Halak’ crumbling down? We’ll know that answer tonight.
Whatever the case is, Montreal has to get back to their game if they hope to stymie this red-hot Flyers club. It’d be a good idea for them to strike first tonight, and to get the Bell Centre rocking early.
So which of the two teams trailing has the ‘easier’ road back? I’d have to say Montreal. The Habs know they can put forth a much better effort (and aren't facing a team that is unbeatable when on top of their game, like San Jose is). If Halak finds his magic again, it's proven that he can carry them. Plus, they have a chance to turn the series around at home – something the Sharks can’t say.
As of right now, it looks as though we could be headed for a Chicago-Philadelphia final. The likelihood that either San Jose or Montreal actually rallies back to advance isn’t very good… but as the Flyers proved last round, no series is over until the fourth game is won.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.