Posted on April 24, 2008 04:39 PM | Permalink
MONTREAL - Philadelphia Flyers sniper Daniel Brière knows exactly what kind of welcome awaits him at the Bell Centre tonight in Game 1 of their second round series against the Montreal Canadiens, and he can’t wait.
Brière was a target of the Bell Centre boo birds in both games the Flyers played in Montreal this season, a backlash from a Québécois public who felt he turned his back on his own people when he preferred signing with Philadelphia over the summer rather than take a lucrative offer from the Canadiens.
Brière’s decision was a subject for media fodder throughout the summer in Montreal, with one paper going so far as to report that Brière preferred the Flyers because Canadiens captain Saku Koivu refused to relinquish his first line centre status.
Quebec’s favourite son?
Of course, all the speculation regarding Brière’s decision was ridiculous, but it still created a certain sense among Canadiens fans that a native son had turned his back on them, even though Brière’s hometown of Gatineau, Que., is much closer to Ottawa than it is to Montreal.
The booing over the regular season may or may not have had an impact on Brière, but the two games he played in Montreal were not his best efforts. In his first game, a 5-2 loss Nov. 1, Brière had one assist and was a minus-2, while he and all his teammates were held off the scoresheet in the Flyers 1-0 loss in Montreal on Feb. 16.
Brière always maintained during those regular season meetings that he liked being booed in road rinks, so there’s no reason for him to change his tune now.
“When you’re booed it’s because you’re doing something well, so I take it as a compliment,” Brière told a throng of reporters this morning. “To me, it’s very positive, so I’m going to try and use it to my advantage.”
Containing Brière will be a major challenge for the Canadiens after he racked up 11 points in seven games against the Washington Capitals in round one, with six of those points coming on the power play.
Brière lighting up scoresheet
If an angry crowd at the Bell Centre can help the Canadiens with their mission, Habs coach Guy Carbonneau said, then so be it.
“People will obviously boo him, maybe even more than in the regular season,” Carbonneau said this morning. “Did it bother (Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno) Chara?
Maybe not in every game, but at some point it has to bother you.
“If he can’t hear it, then good for him…But it’s our play on the ice that will have to bother him even more.”
This series marks the second one in a row where the Canadiens are going up against a team they swept in the regular season, winning their four meetings with the Flyers by a combined 15-6 score.
Of course, what happened with the Bruins in Round One made it clear that the regular-season matchup means nothing, but the Flyers still come into Game 1 with something to prove.
Eyes will be on the crease
Habs goalie Carey Price was particularly effective against the Flyers with a 3-0 record, one shutout, a 1.34 goals-against average and a .961 save percentage.
One thing to watch for in Game 1 will be how much the Flyers attempt to get into Price’s face and crowd him in an attempt to get him off his game.
Everyone on the Canadiens is fully aware of Philadelphia’s second goal against the Capitals in Game 7 where Patrick Thoresen pushed a Capitals defender into goalie Cristobal Huet, leaving the net wide open for Sami Kapanen to score.
The major difference is that Price is 6-foot-3 and 226 pounds, making him one of the biggest players on the ice, and he’s not easy to push around because he often
clears his own crease of intruders.
“To bump him you’re really going to have to bump him because he’s such a big guy,” said Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges. “But the thing about him is that he’s also so smart. He knows his angles and he knows his net, so it’s tough to bother him.”
Carbonneau hopes the amount of debate Kapanen’s goal stirred around the NHL will make tonight’s referees more conscious of the goal crease and how it must be
“I think they’re aware of it,” Carbonneau said. “It’s something we saw in the four games we played against Philadelphia, so we’re going to have to rely on the refs.”
Tie gets a rest
Finally, for those who are dying to know, Carbonneau will not be wearing his lucky psychedelic tie for tonight’s Game 1. It was once again the first question Carbonneau was asked at his news conference this morning, and the phenomenon shows no sign of ceasing.
As of this afternoon, there were 5,995 members of a group on the popular social networking website Facebook called “Support group for Carbo’s magic playoff tie.” To join the group, search “Guy Carbonneau” and “cravate” (French for tie).
“People have to latch on to something, it’s fun,” Carbonneau said with an exasperated grin when told of the Facebook group. “The stores must like it.”