By Tom Brennan
This afternoon’s game 2 between the No. 8 Canadiens and the No. 1 Flyers is more than just an Eastern Conference match-up.
For the Flyers, it represents a true test:
Are they truly elite, in which case they’ll roll over the Habs?
Or are they just a good team, a year away from the promised land?
3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSP
Philly leads best-of-7 series, 1-0
Kirk Muller will coach the Montreal Canadiens in place of Claude Julien in Game 2.
Julien was hospitalized after experiencing chest pains following a 2-1 loss in Game 1 on Wednesday in Toronto, the East hub city.
“We don’t expect [Julien] to be back during this series against the Flyers,” general manager Marc Bergevin said yesterday. “Kirk, (assistant) Dominique [Ducharme] and (assistant) Luke [Richardson] will share the responsibility. However, Kirk is the associate head coach and he will assume the responsibility of head coach until Claude’s return.”
The Flyers will try to take a 2-0 series lead for the first time since the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in their most recent Stanley Cup Playoff series victory.
Teams with a 2-0 lead are 324-51 (86.4 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL playoff series.
The Flyers carried the play in the first period of game 1, outshooting Montreal 11-5, but the Canadiens pushed back hard in the second, outshooting the Flyers 17-7, with a 35-13 advantage in shot attempts.
Philly was better in the third but still struggled when Montreal pressured the puck.
“The second, we got in a bit of trouble with some turnovers, not getting the puck out at the blue line, and that led to a lot of chances for them,” Flyers defenseman Justin Braun said. “I think we got back to the recipe that worked for us in the first (in the third), and that really helped us moving forward.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said the focus must be on better puck management from start to finish.
“If you don’t manage the puck well against Montreal, they could be in the top two or three in team speed in the League,” he said. “In the second period, our puck management slipped. They came at us and they came at us extremely hard. … One of our emphasis is about making sure that with the puck we’re making the right decisions, and we didn’t do it consistently, I thought.”
With Joel Farabee’s success on the top line, Jakub Voracek was moved to left wing on the third line. Voracek is a left shot but has stated in the past that he’s more comfortable at right wing. He scored a goal in Game 1 and for now is accepting his role.
“I liked Jake’s game yesterday,” Vigneault said. “I thought he was strong on the puck, good on the forecheck. Obviously, he’s a little bit more comfortable on the right side, but I think that there’s adjustments that are made throughout games and throughout series. At this time, we feel that’s where he can be most beneficial to our team. Overall, I thought he played a strong game.”