NHL Playoffs, Flyers vs. Canadiens, Game 4: Philly throttles listless Montreal 3-0

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coburncanadiens.jpgWhen a strong team or a “favorite” tumbles, sports writers scatter the ashes for excuses. Could it be that the team lacked heart or intestinal fortitude or some other metaphorical body part? Did Star Player X fail to “show up”? No, maybe it’s just that Embattled Coach failed to make the proper adjustments.

Yet, in the case of a team such as the “16th ranked” Montreal Canadiens, their losses are often greeted with a shrugged shoulder. They should have lost, most will remark. To some extent, that’s true. Yet if the Habs won their two series with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals by “out-hustling” their opponents (instead of, say, depending on luck and the brilliance of Jaroslav Halak), then what do you say now?

How else do you explain a team with its back against the wall unleashing exactly one shot on goal in a second period in which the opposing team (the Philadelphia Flyers) launched 13 pucks at Halak and scored two goals? If you’re going to question the “character” of a team like the Boston Bruins after they squandered a series, then why not wonder the same about Montreal?

Philadelphia Flyers 3, Montreal Canadiens 0

Flyers lead series 3-1

Even now, it’s difficult to count the Habs out completely. After all, they came back from a 3-1 series hole against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals. The team and their sterling Slovakian puck stopper Halak are 5-0 in elimination games. You could compare the Canadiens to a villain in a slasher movie because it’s never safe to assume that they’re dead even if they are lying motionless on the ground.

That doesn’t change the fact that the Flyers took the game to them and the Habs didn’t even put up much of a fight. The first period was fairly even, with a few close calls including a play in which Hal Gill sprawled across his team’s crease to prevent a call. (The Flyers didn’t receive a penalty shot, which I thought was the correct call.)

The middle frame was the real horror show, as I mentioned before. Even the softest critics of the Canadiens would concede that being out-shot 13-1 is pathetic.

The third period was not much better, to be honest. The Flyers shot themselves in the foot twice to give the Habs some crucial powerplay opportunities, with Matt Carle taking a delay of game penalty and Aaron Asham committing a foolish goalie interference infringement. To stay consistent with the night’s theme, the Canadiens did nothing with either man advantage.

Halak kept them in the game, allowing 2 goals on 24 shots but only giving up markers when Ville Leino and Claude Giroux broke through the defense with partial breakaways. Michael Leighton must be able to relate to how J.S. Giguere felt against the Minnesota Wild in the 2002-03 playoffs, as he achieved his third shutout in this series while only having to make 17 saves.

For three out of the four games, Chris Pronger and Leighton were excellent. In those contests, the Canadiens scored exactly zero goals.

If there’s one word I’d used to describe the Habs in Game 4, it would be “tepid.” Actually, that’s being pretty kind. Home ice advantage is pretty useless if you don’t even show up to the game.

Fantasy Adds & Drops: Splurge on Spurgeon

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Every week, PHT will aim to help its readers by providing some fantasy hockey advice. This column will try to help you navigate through the rough waters of your league’s waiver wire.

We’ll tell you which players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues need to be added and we’ll also look at players it’s time to cut ties with.

Here we go:

Adds:

Jared Spurgeon-D- Minnesota Wild (owned in 44 percent of leagues)

The Wild blue liner has been out with a groin injury for the last couple of weeks, but head coach Bruce Boudreau mentioned that he’s already started skating. Despite missing the last six games, he’s still on pace to hit the 50-point mark this season. Even if he misses another game or two, he’s certainly worth adding off the waiver wire. Pick him up before someone else does.

Tom Wilson-LW/RW- Washington Capitals (44 percent)

Wilson has been putting up points lately, as he has seven points during a three-game point streak. I don’t expect that type of offensive output to continue, but he’s certainly worth adding if you play in a league that awards points for penalty minutes.

Reilly Smith-LW/RW- Vegas Golden Knights (35 percent)

Somehow, the Golden Knights and their players continue to get the job done. Smith was an afterthought when Vegas acquired him from the Panthers, but he’s been terrific so far. He has 22 points in 29 games this season, which puts him on pace to surpass the 60-point mark. Smith doesn’t have a high ceiling, but his floor appears to be pretty stable.

[More Fantasy: Check out RotoWorld’s Waiver Wired column]

Tyler Johnson-C- Tampa Bay Lightning (32 percent)

While Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov were getting off to ridiculous starts, Johnson came out of the gate pretty slowly. On the bright side, he seems to have woken up. Johnson is currently riding a four-game point streak and he’s picked up points in six of his last seven games. Can he keep it up though?

Tomas Hertl-C/LW- San Jose Sharks (27 percent)

For the first time this season, Hertl has collected at least one point in three straight games. It’s probably still a little early to trust him with an add, but I just wanted to make sure he popped up on your fantasy radar. He’s currently on pace to hit the 20-goal plateau for the second time in his career. Hertl is also seeing plenty of ice time, so this could be the start of a good scoring run for him.

Kyle Connor-LW- Winnipeg Jets (17 percent)

I’ve mentioned Connor’s name in this column a couple of times, but he continues to be under-valued in fantasy. The 21-year-old is on pace to score over 30 goals and almost 60 points this season. He appears to be over the lower-body injury that cost him a game last week, so there’s no reason not to pick him up.

[RotoWorld’s In the Crease column has all your fantasy goalie advice]

Drops:

Cam Atkinson-RW- Columbus Blue Jackets (62 percent)

After he scored 35 goals last year, nobody could have predicted the meteoric slide that Atkinson has been on this season. The Jackets still rewarded him with a contract extension a few weeks ago, but that hasn’t woken him up from his slumber. Finally, on Saturday night, head coach John Tortorella decided to make him a healthy scratch. Atkinson has no points in his last six games and just two goals (in the same game) in his last 15.

Brendan Gallagher-RW- Montreal Canadiens (59 percent)

Gallagher has had a terrific season for the Canadiens, but there’s no way he’s going to be able to hit the 35-goal pace he’s currently on. The Habs winger hasn’t picked up a point in three games and he’s carried a minus-5 rating during that stretch. Gallagher is the heart-and-soul of the Canadiens, but that doesn’t translate into fantasy points.

Malcolm Subban-G- Vegas Golden Knights (46 percent)

Now that Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) has been activated off the injured list, Subban won’t see as much action. In fairness to Subban, he’s been really good when called upon this season, but he simply doesn’t need to be owned in any fantasy leagues unless Fleury is injured again.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Is it time for the Sens to trade Erik Karlsson?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill isn’t worried about Jimmy Howard‘s recent slide. (MLive.com)

• The ESPN roundtable discusses whether or not the Senators should consider trading Erik Karlsson. The answer to this one seems pretty easy. (ESPN.com)

• Certain NHLers prefer not wearing a helmet during pre-game warmups so they can show off their hair. (Sports Illustrated)

• The Columbus Blue Jackets have one of the top penalty-killing units in the NHL. It’s so good, it’s even won them games. (Columbus Dispatch)

Jamie Benn has struggled to find the back of the net over the last 10 games, but he’s not the only Dallas Star that needs to get going. (Dallas Morning News)

• The Montreal Canadiens have a couple of days off after their ugly loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. They have plenty to figure out before they take on the Devils on Thursday. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

• The Devils expected a lot from young forward Pavel Zacha, but 2017-18 hasn’t been his year so far. How can they get his development back on the track? (NJDab.com)

Alex Ovechkin and the Caps have been rolling of late. They’ll look to keep that going in a game against the Islanders. (DCpuckdrop.com)

• With whiffs of expansion in the air, hockey fans and bar owners are excited to find out whether or not Seattle can become a hockey town. (National Post)

• Even though they’re one of the teams that’s scored the least amount of goals this season, Fear the Fin doesn’t believe that the Sharks need to make a trade for a scoring forward. (Fear the Fin)

• Team USA will look to repeat as World Junior Hockey Championship champions. Here’s a full preview of what the roster might look like. (The Hockey Writers)

P.K. Subban was really good in the game he played against his brother, Malcolm, and the Vegas Golden Knights. (Predlines.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: McElhinney with the McShutout, Schenn scores again

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Players of the Night: 

Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs:

McElhinney turned aside all 41 shots that came his way as the Leafs shutout the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The Leafs backup improved to 3-2-0 on the season and his save percentage jumped from .900 to 9.25. Toronto has now won three straight and six of their past 10.

Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues:

Schenn notched his sixth goal in his past four games and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a goal 40 seconds into the game. The Blues are now winners of four straight and six of their past 10.

Eric Stall, Minnesota Wild & Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 

Both scored twice for their respective teams in an entertaining 4-3 win for the Wild in overtime.

Highlight of the Night: 

Vladimir Tarasenko catches the Sabres defense sleeping in overtime, scoring his first non-empty net goal in nine games:

Factoid of the Night: 

Patrick Kane didn’t score, but his two assists were instrumental in giving the Chicago Blackhawks a victory on Sunday.

Scores: 

Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 1

Blues 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

Maple Leafs 1, Oilers 0

Wild 4, Sharks 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Alex Burrows fined $5,000 for roughing

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Alex Burrows won’t be on Dylan DeMelo‘s Christmas card list this year.

Not after Burrows swiped DeMelo in the face with the butt-end of his stick on Saturday night.

Burrows got slapped with a $5,000 fine for roughing on Sunday night, the maximum permissible under the CBA. The money is one thing, but Burrows and the Senators have bigger issues at the moment.

It didn’t help the little incident happened in the third period and the game all but over for the Senators. Here’s the slow-mo shot of the infraction:

DeMelo suffered a scratch cornea and narrowly missed a major eye injury, according to Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. 

DeMelo was in the lineup for the Sharks on Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.

Burrows’ $5,000 goes to the player’s Emergency Assistance Fund.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck