On the heels of an exciting game versus the Penguins, the Flyers were unable to pull a win from Eastern Conference rivals, Canadiens. John Stevens, however, stands by his assessment that the loss was not due to a lack of effort, “It’s frustrating. Its not as frustrating as the other losses at home just because I thought the effort was there and I thought we created, I just thought it was just a matter of execution.”
Execution must have been the word of the day for the Flyers franchise; captain Jason Smith explained, “It’s frustrating. As a group we’ve talked about it, we just have to get over the hump. Be more confident when we go out and compete, and win games every night. We’re just making little errors and not executing at the level we need to, to put wins together.”
Stevens alluded to the Canadiens’ style of play—which requires patience—and can be seen in Boston, Dallas, and New Jersey. He reiterated, “I like the effort in our game, its just they play a different style… You have to get inches to get feet and just kind of chip away.”
As for the course of the game itself, “We created good scoring opportunities,” Stevens explained, “but now you start chasing the game and that’s a habit we’ve got to get out of. Teams come in here and get the lead, and it’s a uphill battle.”
That uphill battle began in the first with a power play goal by Christopher Higgins. The wrist shot, fed cross-crease from Andrei Markov and Saku Koivu, was greeted with a wide-open net putting Montreal on the board. The point was the first of four for the Canadiens who lit the lamp three more times early in the second period.
While many would be quick to turn on the man in the crease, Stevens went on record that netminder Antero Niittymaki was not to blame.
“I don’t think you can fault Nitty for any of those goals. There were some breakdowns there that he had no chance on. I thought he made some good saves when we needed a save…We’re obviously going to count on [Martin Biron] a lot, but I’m certainly not unhappy with [Niittymaki]”
In response, Niittymaki was equally cool about the evening’s events, “I think there [were] a couple lucky bounces to be honest with you, and it happens sometimes. It was one of those games when it happens; sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t … I think we had a good effort tonight… their goalie played good, good penalty killing, and good power play, so that’s pretty much all you need to win on the road.“
In conversation with Smith regarding the game as a whole he admitted, “We created opportunities, we just have to do that from start to finish every night.”
The Flyers seem to have hit a rut, a roller coaster of emotional games shuffled with lackluster performances. If the pattern continues, the squad will be victorious against the current southeastern division leaders, the Hurricanes. The true test will be Sunday in Newark, as the franchise faces the New Jersey Devils.
Hopefully the Flyers will carry the lessons learned against the Canadiens and use their patience and skill to their advantage. Not only is the team passionate to rekindle the success of the season’s commencement, but also to break the win-loss cycle that has truly become the “elephant” in the locker room.