Flyers vs. Canadiens: Who's the favorite?

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Habs4.jpgWe only have one day to dwell on the big series win by the
Philadelphia Flyers, one that has seemingly overwhelmed the incredible
win by the Montreal Canadiens over the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the
Flyers ousting the Bruins wasn’t exactly unexpected — although coming
back from down 0-3 was — the Habs taking out both the Penguins and the
Capitals in two straight rounds is something that absolutely no one saw
coming.

So now we have perhaps the most improbable conference
finals matchup in recent memory, and not just because it’s the bottom
two seeds in the conference. What both teams have had to overcome to
reach this point is nothing short of amazing, but unfortunately only one
team of destiny can advance from here.

The question is, which
team is now the favorite? Is it the Flyers, the team that has overcome
so many injuries and goaltending issues to surprise the Devils and then
shock the Bruins? Or is the Canadiens, who found the perfect system that
frustrated the heck out of the greatest hockey players in the world?

Whichever
it might be, there’s no doubt that this upcoming series will be like
nothing either team has faced before.

Chris
Iorfida of CBC Sports
lays out how the Flyers present a different
challenge for the Habs, as they may actually be — at this point — a
more complete team than the Penguins and the Capitals:

Philadelphia, even without Carter, still has six players in the
lineup who scored at least 14 goals this season. The list doesn’t
include talented late-season pickup Ville Leino, who stepped into the
lineup in the Boston series and contributed two goals and four assists.

The list is headed by Mike Richards. The captain isn’t quite on the
level of Ovechkin, Crosby or Malkin, but he can score regularly while
also giving maximum effort in his own end, something that can’t always
be said of that trio.

The Canadiens were successful against the Penguins and Capitals by
playing a system that was nearly the direct opposite of those two teams.
The Habs used sound defense and stellar goaltending to negate the
offensive attack that both teams employ while utilizing their
counterattack approach to perfection. The Canadiens managed this by
taking out the two best players on each team and taking advantage of the
lack of depth each team turned out to have.

The Flyers present a different challenge for the Habs, a team that is
just as relentless and deep as they are. But turned around, you also
have to think that the Flyers have yet to face a team like the Habs.

Both the Devils and the Bruins lacked the attitude and the confidence
the Habs now possess, nevermind the defensive fortitude and goaltending
they’ve build through two series. The knockout, physical and hard
fought series we expected with the Bruins should certainly come to
fruition against Montreal.

Which team is the favorite? It’s likely that most will pick
Philadelphia after the momentum they’ve build after the series against
Boston. Despite the different challenges that the Canadiens will face
with the Flyers, there’s no way you can count them out. Especially in a
seven game series.

Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

More on the statue from the Devils:

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

The Islanders also have a game in hand.

Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.