NHL Playoffs, Flyers vs. Canadiens, Game 4: Both teams enjoy big home ice advantage

classichabs.jpgIn Philadelphia, they have those heart-clogging cheesesteaks, the vague yet ever-present threat of batteries/vandalism and the undeniable “spirit” of potential hooliganism. Meanwhile, Montreal provides poutine, an outrageously raucous crowd, the ghosts* of Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden and Jean Beliveau alongside their well-known tendency to riot after games. Both crowds are prone to chant “Ole!” although one side (Montreal) does it out of tradition while the other (Philadelphia) does it out of profound sarcasm.

* – Look, I know that those players named as “ghosts” are actually still alive, but in my eyes an athlete goes on to an after-life once he or she retires. So, yes, by that logic Mario Lemieux is Jesus, Michael Jordan is Lazarus and Brett Favre is … Abe Vigoda.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that – at least so far – this Habs-Flyers series is one in which the home team simply dominates.

Philadelphia Flyers at Montreal Canadiens, Game 4

Flyers lead series 2-1

Live on NBC at 3PM ET

The results for each team home vs. the road so far are staggering. Just look at the overall series score: the home team pummeled its guests 14-1 in the series’ first three matches.

Chris Pronger was a physical force in Philadelphia, living up to his Broadstreet Bully reputation by getting in the heads of the “petite” Montreal forwards. It’s hard to wonder whether or not Pronger is in his own head in Montreal, though, as he went -3 in Game 3 and made an epic turnover that was to blame for the game-winner.

According to Dan Carcillo, the Canadiens might even be more willing to trash talk and goad the Flyers at home rather than in the City of Brotherly Love. Here’s a choice line from the AP preview from the rarely-shy Carcillo.

Carcillo then called Cammalleri “a homer,” noting that the Canadiens never tried anything like that during the Flyers’ two home wins at the start of the series. With a smile, he added that the last time anyone stuck their tongue out at him was “probably a girl – a pretty one, too.”

Well, OK then, Dan.

As I mentioned in an earlier preview, it’s been a while since Jaroslav Halak stole a game so perhaps that home crowd could will him to embody Patrick Roy or Dryden once again. I cannot help but wonder whether those “Leigh-ton” chants rattle the Flyers goalie a bit (even if they lack the slightest hint of creativity). Put that thought in the anthology titled “Questions athletes will never answer honestly.”

Regardless, the Flyers could make this series go from “homer” to “endangered” with one simple win on the road. There should be no doubt that Philadelphia will play with more urgency tonight, but Halak seems to grow stronger as the stage gets bigger.

Ultimately, team that wins this series might just be the one that doesn’t depend on home cooking.

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    Look at what Rangers are up against right now

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    You have to really squint to find bright sides to look on if you’re the New York Rangers.

    The Rangers are currently on a five-game losing streak and have one shabby win to show for their first eight games of 2017-18, and they’ll shortly face a challenge in the Nashville Predators, who are riding a five-game point streak (4-0-1 after losing their first two games).

    With six of those eight games coming at home, the Rangers are really squandering opportunities in the malicious Metro. About the only positive things you can say boil down to: a) scrapping two “loser points” out of the past two games and b) the team at least saying the right things, as Rick Nash notes according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.

    “The bad teams I’ve been on, guys get away from the game plan, they don’t give the effort and there’s finger-pointing, whether in the room between guys; from the coach; or in the media. That’s what happens when things get away from you as a team.

    “None of that is happening here,” Nash said. “We’re together and we’re focusing on taking this one step at a time.”

    They might be wise not to look at the divisional standings. Just consider some of the teams they’re up against:

    Devils (12 points in 8 games): New Jersey currently has a perfect road record and a fleet of young legs, something the transitional Rangers must envy. Even if they’re likely to slip (being blanked by the Sharks could be an early sign of regression), the Devils figure to be a tougher out this season.

    Penguins (11 points in 8 games): Not much needs to be said, though it’s worth noting that they’ve won three in a row.

    Blue Jackets (10 points in 7 games): All signs point to former Rangers coach John Tortorella’s group being very much the threat that once surprised us.

    Capitals (9 points in 8 games): Finding ways to win, and scrappy in particular on the road so far (3-1-1 away record).

    Flyers (8 points in 7 games): Might be better than their record indicates, at least judging by their +9 goal differential. Philly has the potential to at least be a pesky “bubble” team.

    Hurricanes (7 points in 5 games): Light early schedule might keep them under the radar, for now.

    Islanders (7 points in 7 games): Mixed results might not help the Islanders retain John Tavares, but a competent Isles team would only make it tougher for the Rangers.

    Yeesh, kind of discouraging, right?

    The Rangers currently sit at four points in eight games played, and like this post argues, they really need to wake up soon. They’ve already played six home vs. two road contests, and they face a similar saturation of MSG going forward.

    Counting today’s game hosting the rising Predators, the Rangers play the next three in a row at home. After that, they play three of four on the road, but then enjoy a three-game homestand.

    So, by Nov. 11, they’ll have played 13 games at home and just five on the road.

    One gets the sense that the seat is getting hotter for Alain Vigneault by the day. Fair or not, it might feel like it’s boiling if the Rangers are still a wreck in mid-November.

    (If he still has a seat at the table, at all.)

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Devils fans help singer who forgot words to national anthem (Video)

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    The biggest save of the night at Prudential Center on Friday didn’t come from either goaltender, but rather New Jersey Devils fans in attendance for their game against the San Jose Sharks.

    Lauralie Mufute began singing the national anthem but midway through forgot the words. That’s when the crowd of 14,381 picked up where the 14-year-old left off and finished the song.

    A great job by the crowd in what certainly was a terrifying moment for the young performer.

    These flaps happen, as we’ve seen many times before in different situations. It’s always good to know the crowd can act as backup singers in times of need.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

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    Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

    Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

    The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

    Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

    Highlight of the night:

    What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

    Factoid of the night:

    It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

    Scores:

    Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

    San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

    Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

    Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

    Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

    Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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    Video: Price takes out his frustration, as the Habs were crushed again

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    It’s gone from bad, to worse, to an absolute nightmare for the Montreal Canadiens.

    A three-game trip through California is never fun for opposing teams, but this was misery for the Habs. They were outscored a combined 16-5 in three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, with few, if any positives beyond the second period in a 6-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday.

    Montreal hasn’t won since its season opener on Oct. 5, and is now on a seven-game losing skid, unable to generate much offensively with a league worst 10 goals scored through seven games before tonight, while giving up plenty of goals at the other end.

    That is a recipe for disaster and even though it’s still early in the season, this has to be a major concern for coach Claude Julien and, in particular, general manager Marc Bergevin.

    Read more: Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

    Down by three after the first period, Montreal had 30 shots on goal during the middle frame and managed to trim Anaheim’s lead down to one heading into the third period. And then, just when it seemed like maybe they were on a path toward an inspirational comeback on the road, it all fell apart.

    Three straight goals for Anaheim, with journeyman forward Derek Grant scoring the first two goals of his NHL career — in game No. 93.

    As you can probably tell from the clip below, Carey Price was visibly irritated, as he whacked his goalie stick against the post after the sixth Anaheim goal.

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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