Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 27: PHI 6, BUF 2 - Jeichel and Hyde
They've been waiting to do that for a long, long time.
Through all the frusturations that this season has been produced, there has been a team just waiting to break out. Players we know are so talented but for whatever reason they have struggled to show it this season. There have been about 8 games this year where we've thought they've turned the corner. Maybe this is just another one of them.
But regardless of what it might be, let's talk about what this game was - an emphatic 6-2 WIN over the Buffalol Sabres (who get the extra l on account of how they played in the 3rd period), starting off a critical 5-game road trip and the first half of a back-to-back with 2 points, as the Flyers improbably scored the final 6 goals of this game, running away with things by the time the final horn sounded.
On paper, this looked like a mismatch. The Sabres, winners of 10 straight at one point, have been a very dynamic team all season, and are currently 6th in the NHL. On the other hand, the Flyers have been sluggish and inconsistent for the most part, and to top it all of were without Sean Couturier in this one, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Jordan Weal drew back into the lineup in his abscene as Claude Giroux shifted back to center, because the only other option would have been using a slow, ineffective Finn as the 1st line center in a game of ciritcal importance, which Dave Hakstol would never do. New call-up Phil Varone was in the press box, and now that the likely reason for his promotion has been revealed it doesn't seem too likely that will change.
The Flyers first 3 minutes of the game actually looked pretty solid, as they generated a few good chances of backup Linus Ullmark. Unfortunately, it seemed like Dave Hakstol slightly miscalculated how much faster Jack Eichel is than Radko Gudas, as the former burnt the latter off the rush before sniping on Anthony Stolarz to give his squad the early lead.
While the 1st goal is always key to determining the outcome of a hockey game, for the Flyers it's usually their response to it that decides how the game will go. Some times they respond, like last week in Shittsburgh, and are able to turn the tide of the contest back in their favor. Other times, like their last trip to Buffalo and that nightmare game in Toronto, the Flyers just sit there and die. They weren't quite as bad over the next 8 minutes, but they were closer to Toronto than the Penguins. Suddenly, it looked like Jack Eichel was going to become Andreas Johnsson, as he deflected a point shot past Stolarz to give the Sabres an early 2-0 lead. Here we go.
"Not so fast, my friend!" says Lee Cors-er, James van Riemsdyk, apparently. JVR, who must have read my point about his lack of goal-scoring, sniped the puck off a faceoff win from Giroux that, perhaps in a bit of foreshadowing, looked eerily similar to a goal he scored in Buffalo in the playoffs 7 years. It felt like the Flyers were outplayed in what was definitely a track meet of a 1st period, but they were only outshot 17-15, and only outscored 2-1.
With the next goal looming large, the Flyers struggling power play was given a chance to tie the game just before the mid-point of regulation. Linus Ullmark made an incredible diving glove save on Jake Voracek, but the Flyers were clearly buzzing. Seconds after the power play expired, Scott Laughton found a pinching Provorov for a snipe of his own, beating Ullmark for his 3rd of the year to tie the game. JVR and Provy were two of the biggest players the Flyers need to get going if they're going to be successful this season. JVR looked great, and Provy was solid, both in addition to lighting the lamp, and hopefully can use this game to build off going forward.
Of course, despite a strong 2nd period that saw the Flyers outshoot Buffalo 14-9, the Flyers still had plenty of work left. One bad period, one downwards turn of the roller coaster and this could have become a long road trip fast for the Flyers. Buffalo got the first bounce of the period, getting a power play for a rare holding the stick call on Travis Sanheim. But the Flyers quickly turned into a good break, creating an odd-man rush. Captain Claude threw it all the way back to Thursday night, shooting and scoring with ease on the 2-on-1, giving the Flyers their first lead of the afternoon.
Giroux's goal, the Flyers second shortie in a week (both of which made the score 3-2 and turned out to be GWGs), may have given the Flyers the lead, but a young, offensive team like Buffalo certainly couldn't be counted out of the game. We all know how the Flyers often fare in these situations (spoiler alert: not well), and were waiting for the Sabres to make their game-tying push.
But in a nice change of pace, it was the Flyers not only outplaying but dominating the Sabres the enitre 3rd period. It turned out Giroux's goal was only the start of arguably the Flyers best stanza of the season. While we're on the topic of players looking for a breakthrough, Shayne Gostisbehere did an incredible job of knifing through the Sabres defense before throwing a shot on net. As he so often does, the Wayne Train collected the puck in front, throwing it off Zach Bogosian's skate and arriving promptly at the back of the net station, depositing his 10th goal of the season to extend the lead.
From there, the Flyers just took off. Michael Raffl executed a perfect behind the goalline pass to Dale Weise of all people to essentially put the game out of reach. Giroux poured salt on the wound with a perfect pass in front that TK tipped in, bringing the game to its conclusion. While the Flyers didn't outplay the Sabres the entire game, they whethered the early storm and took over when it mattered most.
I was surprised to see Anthony Stolarz get the start in this game after an ok performance on Thursday. But give credit where credit's due - Stolarz was great in this one, stopping 28 of 30 shots and earning the player of the game helmet.
Rick Wilson appears to have made a strong first impression - 2 games running the d, 3 goals from defenseman, and, more importantly, a respectbale 5 goals allowed in regulation.
While I did like the van Riemsdyk-Giroux-Konecny line, I'm not sure keeping Giroux at center after Couturier returns is the best idea. Giroux is this team's best player, and he's thriving on the left wing - 102 points last year, and a 109 point pace so far this year. Why force it?
With his 4 point effort today, Claude Giroux now has 639 points in 639 games since the end of 2010-11 season, making him one of 6 players to be point-per-game or better in that span (5 if you don't count Connor McDavid since he obviously has only been around for the last 3+).
Some unsung credit for the Flyers - they have now won the faceoff battle in their last 10 games.
The penalty kill is now 15 for their last 15, having not allowed a PPG against since the last time they were in Buffalo. The power play failed to score in 3 tries, but was "visually better" in my opinion (sorry Hexy).
1st - C. Giroux (PHI) - 1 G, 3 A
2nd - J. van Riemsdyk (PHI) - 1 G, 1 A
3rd - W. Simmonds (PHI) - 1 G
PHI - 12/9 @ WPG (17-9-2)
BUF - 12/11 vs. LA (10-18-1)