Crease-crashing Flyers halt Halak 

May, 17, 2010

Let the good times roll! Some 48 hours after completing a historic comeback in Boston, the Philadelphia Flyers were back home and loving life. They chased Montreal goaltender Jaroslav "Conn Smythe" Halak about halfway through the evening en route to a decisive 6-0 victory in Game 1 over the Montreal Canadiens.

It wasn't as easy as it sounds, though. The Canadiens had some terrific chances to grab the game by the throat in the first period. They were undone by their own mistakes (Scott Gomez taking an unnecessary roughing penalty to negate an early power play) and the goaltending of Philly's journeyman turned ace Michael Leighton, who stood tall while his club was being outshot 13-6 in the opening stanza.

In particular, the lanky goalkeeper made a pair of terrific blocker saves on deflected point shots. Then, with less than two minutes left in the period, he denied Gomez on a clean breakaway. If Leighton hadn't made those important stops, we could have been looking at a different game. That fact wasn't lost on defenseman Chris Pronger.

"We weren't happy with our game in the first period," Pronger admitted after the game. "If he isn't playing well, everything could've gone a different way."

Leighton's strong start combined with some outstanding special-teams work proved to be the difference for the Flyers. Philly netted a pair of power-play goals and scored two other goals seconds after a Canadiens penalty had expired. Equally important, the Flyers' penalty-killing unit was a perfect 4-for-4 on the night.

"Our special teams have to be much better," Habs coach Jacques Martin said. "And we have to get back to the competitive team play that has brought us success."

Here are 10 other observations from my night in Philadelphia.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.