Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography
The Flyers were able to get a point out of one of their least impressive efforts of the season, losing 4 to 3 in overtime at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. A particularly rough first period and an all-around lackluster game put the Flyers in serious jeopardy of walking away empty handed tonight. Luckily, a Brayden Schenn goal with 53 seconds left on the clock would send it to OT, where Zemgus Girgensons would win it for Buffalo.
In terms of their overall play, I can say with some confidence that the first period was the worst of the season thus far. They were sloppy all around and allowed the Sabres to control the neutral zone for most of the period. After a couple nice chances in the first 90 seconds, the Flyers did not register another shot on goal until Chris Vandevelde scored his first of the season over 14 minutes in. Unfortunately by that time, the goal was only enough to make it it 2-1 Sabres. A Tyler Ennis solo effort that Steve Mason probably should have had and a Jamie McGinn tap in goal gave the Sabres the first two of the night. The Flyers came to life a bit as the period came to a close, but overall it was not an inspiring effort.
A much more evenly played second period saw both goaltenders make some spectacular saves in order to preserve the 2-1 game. The Sabres controlled things early on, but the Flyers were able to snap out of it fairly quickly and with the help of a couple impressive shifts from the Sam Gagner line. The Philadelphia power play put together yet another very solid effort but could not finish the job, thanks in large part to the play of Chad Johnson.
While the third period saw the Flyers fall asleep for a couple large stretches yet again, they were able to tie the game at two about 8 minutes in. That tie would not hold up for too long, as a Jake McCabe shot found it’s way past Steve Mason and returned the lead to Buffalo. Schenn’s late game heroics on a deflected shot by Claude Giroux would send it to a 3 on 3, where Zemgus Girgensons finished off a breakaway chance to end the game.
The Flyers had brief flashes of competence tonight, especially from the Sam Gagner line, but overall did not play like a team that had evenly matched some of the top teams in hockey over the previous couple weeks. While it hurts to lose in overtime, especially after Gagner nearly ended it, you can’t help but feel like the Flyers were lucky to come away with a point in this one. The Flyers get another shot at Buffalo in three days, so hopefully we will see a bit more from them on Friday night. Some more observations…
- The story after tonight’s game will probably be something about the Flyers playing down to a bad team. While I constantly pointed out the fact that they were mostly just unlucky against bad teams last year, tonight that narrative does have some legitimacy. The Flyers allowed the Sabres to get the better of things for most of the night, and it is a bit confusing.
- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare left the game with a knee injury early on, and it looked somewhat serious. Bellemare has been decent on both the 4th line and the penalty kill it definitely hurts a bit if he misses some extended time. In the short term, it will make Dave Hakstol’s decision much easier when Sean Couturier returns to the lineup shortly.
- The Flyers 5v4 power play continued to create large numbers of chances and also continued to not score. On the first power play alone, Claude Giroux was able to complete 3 cross-ice passes to Voracek on the right circle, none of which he was quite able to put away. I said this last game and I’ll say it again: There’s not much of a reason to be concerned here. If they weren’t creating quality chances I’d be worried, but the goals are going to come.
- It was nice to see the Flyers at least get a 6v5 goal tonight. They’ve been much too good with the extra man to stay snakebitten for that long, and while their 5 on 5 play tonight left a lot to be desired, they deserved to score that goal.
- Luke Schenn had a very Luke Schenn night in his return from the press box, grabbing two assists but also making a few noticeable defensive mistakes. He probably stays in the lineup, but it’s easy to see why Hakstol might be frustrated with his play at times.
- Speaking of defensive mistakes, Radio Gudas continues to make them. He made an especially bad one in the third that almost allowed the Sabres to ice the game and go up by two goals.
- The Sam Gagner line was great tonight. At times, especially during the second period, it was the only line that was generating any consistent offensive pressure. I think Gagner has earned his way into the lineup for good after being benched early on.