As the NHL’s post-season rolls closer and closer to its finale, it looks like the San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens could find themselves on the outside looking in. Both teams are one game away from elimination after action on Saturday and both teams have barely shown up to play thus far.
That’s not to say that their opponents don’t deserve any credit, of course. The Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers have played some excellent hockey over the last few days, but the Habs and Sharks haven’t exactly been clicking on all cylinders.
The Blackhawks find themselves in the surprising position of being able to sweep the Sharks on Sunday afternoon. Dustin Byfuglien was the hero of the day for Chicago fans after potting the overtime winner on Friday to give the Blackhawks a 3-0 series lead. To say that the Sharks have had trouble containing him and his teammates would be an understatement, as Captain Serious Jonathan Toews has lead his team as well as any young captain ever has.
Chicago’s Antti Niemi has been spectacular in goal, too, making 44 saves in Friday’s game to help his team to victory. He’s been able to get a fairly good look at the puck throughout the series due to responsible and physical play from his defencemen.
The Sharks will now try to find some strength in the story of the Flyers and their comeback from a 3-0 series deficit, but it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see two of those historic turnarounds in one season’s playoffs.
The Flyers, meanwhile, have been successful in handling the attack of the Montreal club. They’ve also received incredible goaltending from Michael Leighton and have managed to take advantage of some bad luck from the Canadiens, including a skate issue with Josh Gorges that led to a Claude Giroux goal during Saturday’s contest.
The Flyers took a commanding 3-1 series lead thanks to Saturday’s 3-0 win and managed to keep the Habs off of the scoreboard for the third time in the series.
Of course, the Canadiens and their fans will be relying on the fact that they’ve gone 5-0 when facing elimination in the post-season thus far. Statistically they stand a better chance at coming out of this than the Sharks do, but they’re facing a tough and hungry Flyers team and they’re in tough offensively.
It’s probably a little early to start gearing up for a Blackhawks vs. Flyers Stanley Cup Final, but I don’t think it’s that unlikely.
Posted by Jordan Richardson.