The Montreal Canadiens came out in Game 5 with passion and grit. After two lackluster, defense-orientated games where they were shut out twice, the Habs finally broke through, scoring five goals and beating the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3 to stay alive in their best-of-seven series.
Speed Beats the Trap
The Canadiens came out flying in Game 5, using speed and tenacity to beat the Flyers’ trap and open up the game. In the previous two games, both teams played a shutdown, defensive game – a big reason why those games were very boring. The difference was the Flyers got the bounces in Games 3 and 4, and the Canadiens couldn’t figure out how to beat the trap.
Fast forward to Game 5 when the Canadiens changed their game plan. Maybe it was desperation, more likely it was the lack of scoring, but, whatever the reason, the Habs finally used their speed and grit to break down the Flyers’ game. Joel Armia proved early on that he needed speed to get the Canadiens going and used it to beat Philadelphia’s defense for a shorthanded goal to open the scoring.
This early goal set the tone and allowed the Canadiens to open up the game. They beat the Flyers to the puck often and created scoring chances, resulting in five goals and the victory.
Passion and Grit
Game 4 was the worst game of the postseason for the Canadiens. Not only were they shutout in consecutive games, but they looked disinterested. They were down 2-0 and didn’t seem to have the passion to fight back which led to struggling veterans like Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Drouin being benched by acting head coach Kirk Muller. When you think of passion and the Canadiens, the first player who comes to mind is Gallagher.
He showed up in Game 5, taking his benching in stride, and helped lead the team to its most passionate game of the postseason; he broke his scoring slump with hard work and inspired the rest of the team. Not only where the Canadiens fully engaged, but they used their bodies and speed to out-hustle and wear down a bigger Flyers team. The Habs landed 39 hits in the game, led by some unlikely players like Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, and Drouin; all had four hits, using that passion to their advantage.
The Vets Showed Up
Through these playoffs, my colleagues and I have been chronicling the takeaways from each Habs game. In these articles, there is a common theme: the young guns have been playing exceptional hockey and carrying the team. Last night, that changed. Yes, Nick Suzuki had another great game, and so did Kotkaniemi (while it lasted). But the veterans who have been near quiet all postseason, Tatar, Drouin, Gallagher, Armia, and Danault, all had a strong game.
Tatar didn’t get on the score sheet, but he was a presence around the net and was fully engaged, allowing his linemates to get open and earn scoring chances. Drouin had his best game of the postseason. Although he should shoot more, his pass to Suzuki for the game-winner was perfect, and he was battling in corners, using his body, and playing a two-way game – as well as he can.
Armia had two goals – almost three – and Gallagher, as mentioned earlier, was back to himself. All of these things – the speed, passion, grit, and the much-needed veterans – led to the victory.
This game, however, wasn’t without controversy. The extra grit was a bit too much at times, like Kotkaniemi who was called for a 5-minute major, and was ejected from the game for boarding, that some felt should’ve been a 2-minute minor. The end of the game had some more dust-ups, which will only lead to, hopefully, another passionate, high-flying Game 6.
Trege Wilson lives in Nova Scotia and is a member of the RCN. He is a life long Habs fan and is creator and co-host of the popular Canadiens podcast Habs Unfiltered.