FFR2 Gm 35: BUF 1, PHI 6 - Nisky Business
Turns out that impeachment had a bigger effect than we all thought.
No, not politics - the whole Jack Eichel being removed from office-I mean the Sabres lineup Thursday due to abuse of power plays-upper-body injury, sorry, that previous part was fake news.
Sticking to sports, the Philadelphia Flyers WIN another home game in dominant fashion, straight up murdering a short-handed Buffalo Sabres squad by a 6-1 score. Not to say I called it, but who could have seen the Flyers turning corner from last week's brutal road trip? It's nice to know things are alright.
After having an unforgiving stretch of their schedule hit them at the worst possible moment last week, the Flyers really couldn't have caught the Sabres at a better time, at least for their sake. Jack Eichel has been on-fire lately, tying a Sabres record with a 17-game point streak, but he was a late scratch with an upper-body injury. Carter Hutton was struggled all season, but it was his turn between the pipes Thursday night. Buffalo has struggled on the road, losing 14 of 20 games away from KeyBank Center. And the Sabres were coming off a failed comeback loss on Tuesday to the Maple Leafs.
But none of those reasons, nor the sum of them, explain the absolute EGG the Sabres laid at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday. The Flyers came out unusually crisp and sharp basically from puck drop on, and when the goals game, they came in bunches. And boy, did they come ugly.
Thirteen minutes into the game, the Flyers fourth line became the latest unit to cycle the puck in the Sabres zone. Misha Vorobyev floated an innocent shot to the net, and man that guy will never score a normal goal in the NHL, will he? His first ever last year came when Mark Barberio TKO'ed his own goalie in Colorado, and this one tipped off Conor Sheary's stick and in. Sheary wouldn't have even been in the lineup if Eichel was healthy, but here he is just giving away goals and giving the Flyers a lead they would put a death grip on.
Just two and a half minutes later, another lucky bounce generated from a relatively normal play to the net. This time, Kevin Hayes' elite puck protection lead to a spin-o-rama pass to the front of the net, where the puck hit JVR's left skate and spun right round, baby right round off something else, then JVR's OTHER skate, and then across the goal-line. James van Creasesdyk scoring from his office, doubling up the Flyers lead.
To add insult to injury, Ralph Krueger decided to challenge the goal for goalie interference. There was a little bit of contact between Hutton and JVR, but it was caused by a bump from defenseman Henri Jokiharju. Not only did the goal stand, the Flyers were given a power-play as a result of the failed challenge. But it's ok, the Flyers power-play is trash, I'm sure the Sabres will be fi-HOLY SMOKES, KEVIN!
Kevin Hayes got the puck in the very, very high slot, and in a burst of Christmas magic, deked a Sabres defender out of their skates, faked out the cameraman - you know what happens next the entire building yells "SHOOT" in unison. But Hayes found Steady Eddie Nisky with enough space to go Christmas shopping, send a letter to the North Pole, and leave milk and cookies for Santa before anyone on the Sabres could close in and stop him from hitting a wide-open net to give the Flyers their first 3-goal first period of the season.
But the Sabres' giving spirit was far from over. The Flyers power play earned another chance to operate thanks to a Rasmus Ristolainen holding penalty. Ivan Provorov took a wrist shot, which is always a good way to start a power play. You get the chance for a deflection, maybe a rebound, it gets momentum going, and... did that puck seriously go in?
Yep! Provy scored his league-leading 5th power play goal of the season (he had 5 in his first three seasons combined), turning the game into a rout. And if THAT's not enough to convince you this game was a laugher, how about Jokiharju poking in the rebound of Tyler Pitlick wrist shot 62 seconds later? Or would you like Sean Couturier trying to find JVR backdoor on another power play try, only to doink his pass of Ristolainen's skate? You know, it's Christmas - why not both?
The only blemish on the game was a power-play re-direct goal from Victor Olofsson mid-way through the 3rd, preventing Carter Hart from recording his second career shutout. But it hardly diminished another exemplary effort from the Flyers, this one with more polish and precision than Tuesday's. The scoreboard certainly reflected their improvements, even against a team much higher in the standings.
Just about everyone has been their best selves over this brief two-game homestand (especially Carter Hart). The Flyers have been sensational at home all season long; their 12-2-4 record (which includes the Prague game) is third in the entire NHL. The key is taking that momentum with them on the road. That part needs to be cleaned up.
The good news is emotions shouldn't be running low on Saturday, as the Flyers rematch against Ottawa for the first time since their chirp and combat-filled contest two weeks prior to puck drop. They'll return home on Festivus, then go on a six-game road trip after Christmas break. It's been amazing to see the Flyers turn things on like they have over the last two games, and it really seems like their play is coming into form. All is right in Flyers-land right now; let's try to keep it that way for as long as we can.
The Flyers have points in thirteen straight regular season home games (10-0-3) against Buffalo, dating back to March 5, 2011.
Dating back to that weird goal in Colorado last year, Mikhail Vorobyev hadn't scored in his last 24 games at the NHL level. It's also his first point in the NHL since his first game of the year (October 21), snapping a 10-game drought.
Advanced analytics have said that JVR is due for a breakout for a long time. The Flyers team leader in Expected Goals For% is starting to turn the corner, scoring at a point-per-game pace over the last 10 games (six goals, four assists).
It shouldn't seem like a surprise that the Flyers are undefeated this year when scoring five plus goals (6-0). But the goaltending woes in previous years prevented just about any total from seeming like a lock for victory. Not so much this season.
No player has had a bigger bounce-back this season for the Flyers than Ivan Provorov. In addition to just looking better on the ice and turning around his advanced stats, Provy scored his eighth goal of the season tonight - one more than he had all of last year.
Happy birthday to one of the many great voices of the Flyers, radio play-by-play announcer Tim Saunders, who celebrated his birthday Thursday night in style with the big win.
POG Helmet Standings Update!
Raff, Steady Eddie, Moose, TK, JVR (aka Goblin) - 2
Starter, #OskarStrong, Coots, Phil, Snowman, Jake, Pits, Laughts, Kase - 1
It's not too late to write-in Oskar Lindblom as captain of the Metropolitan Division for this year's All-Star Game! Submit up to 10 ballots by midnight on Friday by writing-in Lindy's name for the Metro at: https://www.nhl.com/all-star-ballot
The Flyers players all started wearing Oskar Strong t-shirts under their jerseys Thursday that you can purchase yourself as that final stocking stuffer at: https://www.biscuittees.com/
1st - James van Riemsdyk (PHI) - 2 Goals, 80.77% CF, 83.40% xGF
2nd - Travis Konecny (PHI) - 3 Assists, 78.57% xGF
3rd - Kevin Hayes (PHI) - 2 Assists, 73.91% CF, 79.19% xGF
BUF - 10/21 vs. LA (15-18-3, W2)
PHI - 12/21 @ OTT (14-18-3, OTL1)