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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    Tyler Johnson’s injury: One of several ominous signs for Tampa Bay

    Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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    The gloom only seems to lift from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s cloudy season in small drizzles.

    Sure, they’re on a three-game winning streak, but the Washington Capitals seem to be on the verge of ending that with a thud (they’re currently up 3-0 going into the third period).

    That’s the least of the Bolts’ concerns right now, really, as Tyler Johnson left Friday’s game seemingly injured.

    The word seemingly comes into play because details are scarce, as reporters note.

    /ominous music plays

    If you look at Tampa Bay’s upcoming schedule, things could get downright stormy.

    They face the Islanders at home, but they do so tomorrow so they won’t be well-rested. It gets worse from there.

    Dec. 2 – 6: Three-game road trip against the California teams

    Dec. 10 – 12: Two home games (one vs. Ottawa, one vs. Washington)

    Dec. 14-18: Another three-game road trip

    Long story short, they close up a back-to-back set at home tomorrow and then play six of eight on the road.

    /even more ominous music

    The end of 2015 looks friendlier, but for a team that seems to be cratering here and there … things look a bit morbid.

    We’ll see if they can keep fighting, perhaps with a comeback tonight?

    The ghost is here: Another OT-winner from Flyers’ Gostisbehere

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    Here’s an easy way to remember how to spell Shayne Gostisbehere’s maddening last name (and even his first name can trip you up).

    Ghost-is-be-here, without the h.

    Not too bad, right?

    If you’re more of the slogan type, it’s getting to be the point where “Tough to spell, tougher to stop” may be a pretty good one-liner.

    The Philadelphia Flyers phenom has made a habit of scoring overtime game-winning goals on the power play lately. Friday’s version was the decisive tally in a 3-2 OT win against the Nashville Predators, which you can watch up top.

    As you can see in comparing that goal with the one below (which made the difference against the Carolina Hurricanes), opposing coaches may want to make it a point to emphasize stopping this setup, even if it means writing “Don’t let that Ghost kid free.”

    All three of his goals are on the power play so far.

    Will he breathe life back into the Flyers’ man advantage at this rate?

    Julien says Lundqvist’s acting ‘doesn’t need to be on the ice’


    The goalie interference penalty called on Brad Marchand late in Friday’s Thanksgiving Showdown didn’t sit well with the Bruins.

    Marchand, whistled after making contact with New York’s Henrik Lundqvist midway through the third, said he thought “it was a bit of a weak call,” adding “[Lundvqist’s] out of the crease, and he lightly gets touched.”

    While Marchand took issue with the call, his head coach took issue with King Henrik.

    (In Julien’s defense, Lundqvist does have a pretty lengthy IMDB page.)

    The interference penalty was nearly disastrous for the Bruins, as J.T. Miller scored on the ensuing power play to given the Blueshirts a 3-2 edge.

    However, Boston replied with a power-play goal of its own — Ryan Spooner, at the 16:14 mark — which set the stage for David Krejci‘s dramatic game-winner with just under two minutes to go.

    So, to recap: Today’s game had the Beleskey hit on Stepan, the Marchand-Lundqvist theatrics and a dramatic come-from-behind victory for Boston.

    And so, to answer your next question:

    These two teams next meet on Monday, Jan. 11, at MSG.

    Related: Yep, Alain Vigneault went there — ‘I remember Aaron Rome in this building’

    Video: Peluso, Gabriel throw down in spirited heavyweight tilt


    The big boys got after it early in Minnesota today.

    Wild forward Kurtis Gabriel — all 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds of him — picked one of the toughest opponents in hockey on Friday, throwing down with Jets enforcer Anthony Peluso early in the first period.

    And it was a pretty good tilt.

    Peluso, one of the league’s most feared fighters, was coming off two pretty heavy scraps — one against Columbus tough guy Jared Boll, and another in which he landed some serious shots on overmatched Canucks d-man Luca Sbisa:

    Of course, Gabriel’s no slouch.

    He had one previous fight in the NHL this year (against Peluso’s teammate, Chris Thorburn) and five in the American League, where he’s spent the majority of this season.

    Given the fisticuffs that occurred earlier in the Bruins-Rangers game, it seem the NHL has really gotten into the spirit of Black Friday.

    (All videos courtesy HockeyFights.com)