Flyers-Canadiens Game 1: Postgame
They Flyers played with more heart than I’ve seen all year. Had this not been the third game in four nights, I believe we’d be talking about a Flyers victory this morning. From defensive coverages to a good forecheck to Marty Biron standing on his head, they proved that Montreal is quite vulnerable, even in the Bell Centre.
Derian Hatcher and Jason Smith, though clearly fatigued and far slower than usual (and yes, it is possible for them to be slower), led this team last night. With 4 hits, Hatcher used his size and strength throughout the game to compensate for lack of movement. His calm puck movement and smart decision-making slowed the pace of the game – a tactic which benefits the Flyers.
Smith registered 2 hits, 5 blocked shots, and a +2 rating. The plus-minus is a key stat for Smith. While paired with Jaroslav Modry during the Capitals series, Smith was on the ice for the vast majority of goals scored by the Caps. Lasse Kukkonen replaced Modry in the lineup (Modry went to Czechoslovakia for his father’s funeral) and did an excellent job both at even strength and short-handed. Once again, proving why Kukkonen should never have lost his roster spot.
I cannot say enough about Martin Biron’s performance. He stopped a penalty shot from Andrei Kostitsyn, who is arguably one of the most unsung young forwards in the league. That feat is more amazing considering his save percentage in shootouts is below 80%. He caught a Mark Streit point shot that was an absolute laser. He gave this team momentum, compensating for their fatigue with tremendous netminding. If you haven’t seen any of this, I suggest you check out the game highlights and look at Biron’s body of work.
The reason the Flyers lost this game was pure fatigue. From about 8 minutes remaining in the third, they looked dead on their skates – not from lack of effort as we saw last weekend against Washington but from lack of gas in the tank. They started to get caught more frequently in their own end, which led to the penalty on MIke Richards, which led to Kovalev’s power play goal. That call – which I addressed in my game blog – never happens if the Flyers find the strength to clear the puck earlier.
– One concern for tomorrow’s game will be Jeff Carter. He had a rough night, to say the least. in the second period, he received the puck in the neutral zone and had plenty of time and space to make a decision with it. Instead, he quickly moves the puck, placing right on the tape of a Montreal forward. The Candiens got a 2-on-1 rush and A. Kostitsyn scored their first goal. Later, Carter’s stick broke on the face off, allowing the puck to squirt free to Kovalev, who buried the tying goal.
We saw a similar situation with Mark Staal of the Rangers during the first round. Staal had made some errors in the previous game and was clearly frustrated with himself. The next game, he picked himself up, played well, and scored a goal. Carter must put this game behind him and bring a great performance the next game. Losing confidence at this point in the season helps no one.
– I liked Braydon Coburn’s postgame interview with Steve Coates of the Flyers broadcast team. Typically after a hard-fought overtime loss, players are muted and reserved in their comments. Coburn took a positive outlook, saying that his team put out a great effort and that they expect to bring the same on Saturday – he was almost smiling. I felt weird watching it, but simultaneously it’s a sensible response. In fact, that’s exactly how this team should respond. They have to remain positive, believing that if they continue playing their game and outworking the Canadiens, they could win this series. Because that’s the truth.