Well. The Habs' two biggest weaknesses in the first two games of this conference final were the inability of the defence to move the puck efficiently in order to spark the offence, and the inability of the forwards to get second chances by going to the Flyers' net. Somebody (Muller) looked at some tapes and got Les Boys playing the style they need to play to beat these guys.
The first weakness, on defence, was addressed by Roman Hamrlik. I don't know what it is about Markov going down hurt, but whenever it happens, Hamrlik plays like he was drafted first overall once upon a time. What a game he played last night! He hit, he skated hard and he passed the puck quickly and accurately. He did everything you need your top-two defencemen to do. And, best of all, partnered with PK Subban, he helped the kid out enough in the defensive zone to free up Subban on offence. The result? Three assists for the rookie. I'm among those who thinks Hammer's contract will have to be moved this summer, if possible. Yet, last night he reminded us why Bob Gainey signed him.
Spacek also had a strong game last night, and Gorges and Gill were their usual steady selves. Bergeron was scary, as always. O'Byrne, playing his first game in the series, had the misfortune to make a couple of early errors and spent the rest of the night on the bench. I really hate Martin's culture of punishment. How can he expect a young defenceman, coming in cold, to be perfect? And, even if he did, how stupid is he to not give O'Byrne some minutes to get his game back up to speed when the Habs had the game well in hand? The fact is, Bergeron won't be back next year because he's terrible on defence. O'Byrne will be on the roster, so Martin needs to nurture him NOW.
Now, back to the kudos. The other glowing, shining point of light in Game Three was Maxim Lapierre. The guy annoyed the Flyers to the point of instigating them to take penalties in an effort to shut him up. On top of that, he skated like the Roadrunner and drove the net like the Rocket. I can only imagine what it must be like to be the other team's fan and see that smirking asshole yapping at my favourite players while he's beating them on the scoreboard too. When he's doing that FOR my team, though, it's great. There's something about the home crowd that really fires the guy up and prods him to raise his game to a level of spectacular pestilence.
While Hammer and Lapierre were the shining stars last night, there's a lot of honourable mention to go around. The whole team skated like they were driving the bus in Speed. Halak found his mojo again and made some fabulous early saves to set the tone. The team collectively decided it wants more hockey this spring, and went out to do what needed to be done to make it happen.
Now they just need to do it three more times. That suddenly doesn't seem as difficult as it did yesterday.