The Philadelphia Flyers came away with two big points in Buffalo after a tremendous effort against the Sabres. It was an offensive outburst like we haven’t seen all season, with six even strength goals pacing the Flyers to a 6-3 win against a fellow playoff contender.
There were six different goal scorers for the Flyers, with five players picking up multiple points in the game. Radko Gudas led the way with a goal and two assists.
The Flyers got nearly a full sixty minute effort from all four lines. It was the type of effort this team is going to need to get down the stretch and a fantastic start to the biggest week of the season so far. They’re one-for-one, with two games left this week against teams that are direct competition for the final Wild Card spot in the East.
Despite giving up two one-goal leads in the first half of the game, there was never much doubt as to who the better team was on the ice Tuesday night.
Steve Mason came up big in the first period for the Flyers to keep them in it. A save here or there doesn’t seem huge in a 6-3 win, but Mason made a few key saves early on in a close game to keep the Flyers’ spirits high.
The Flyers carried play throughout a good chunk of the first period and the second, before piling on with two goals in the latter half of the second stanza to take their first two-goal lead of the game.
From there the orange and black scored twice in the opening minutes of the final frame to put the game away. Score effects took over a bit after that, with the Sabres pushing back as the Flyers played prevent defense with a four, then three, goal lead. Eichel’s second goal of the game gave the Sabres a slimmer of hope but the Flyers quickly shut that down.
The Flyers had a chance to put this game away in the first period with a few power plays, but special teams play was the difference-maker early on. The Flyers went 0-for-3 in the first period, while the Sabres scored two power play goals in just 18 seconds on their first two man-advantages. Luckily the penalty kill bounced back, and the Flyers kept the pedal to the metal at even strength to dominate the Sabres.
- Score effects impacted the Flyers’ forwards usage a bit as well. The top-three lines (the first line especially) got a lot of time in the first two periods, while being held back in the third as they played their depth lines with a three-plus goal lead in the third period.
- The top line were on fire in Buffalo. They’ve been generating chances for a few games now, but have yet to find the back of the net. Well, that changed on Tuesday night. Claude Giroux and Jordan Weal each scored a goal in the win. The trio were among the top three lines that were dominating nearly every shift in the first period. They lost some of the wind in their sails after a failed power play, but they got it back in the second period.
- Weal had an especially good game as he started the play that resulted in his goal, and set up Giroux’s goal from along the wall. It’s looking more and more like he belongs. On his goal he batted the puck down out of midair in the defensive zone to start the rush the other way. He drove into the offensive zone and dropped the puck off while continuing towards the net. After a pass across the ice Weal found the puck bouncing in the back of the net off of his skate to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead.
- Giroux also looked good again, as he has been for the past couple of games. He looked particularly fast and good in transition in the first period, much like he did Thursday night against the Panthers. He also finally got rewarded with a goal, as he got to the front of the net and dug out the rebound for the Flyers’ fourth goal.
- The second line had another rough game. They didn’t play particularly well in Washington, and struggled in Buffalo. It was the only line to allow a goal, and only Voracek was on the ice for Weal’s goal. Plus-minus isn’t a great barometer, but in this case it correlates with the underlying statistics. The second line got dominated across the board, from shot attempts to scoring chances. They allowed a team-high seven scoring chances against while generating just four for a team-low 36.36% scoring chances for.
- The line only had a few strong shifts, with the rest not producing much. Valtteri Filppula is great at carrying the puck in, but there were only a small handful of times where the second line got anything going in the offensive zone.
- Dave Hakstol may elect to keep the winning lineup together, but if not you could see a change here. Travis Konecny is showing that he’s back to full health and deserves to play in the top-nine, even the top-six. On the other hand, everyone’s favorite even strength whipping boy Brayden Schenn could see a demotion.
- Watching the third line these past few games has been something special. Sean Couturier has been on top of his game, with Nick Cousins and Matt Read right by his side.
- Couturier was all over the ice for the Flyers in this one. He made a great play in the neutral zone to steal the puck and push play the other way, leading to the deflected point shot for the opening goal. He then stripped a forward of the puck in the offensive zone, allowing Radko Gudas to knock it free back to Couturier who sent Gudas in for his short-side snipe. Finally, he helped set up Weal’s goal after receiving a drop pass from the driving forward, waiting to fire it across the ice to Voracek, who found Weal in front.
- He didn’t receive an assist on the first goal, but made up for it with those two later in the game. He has been showing off his full skillset over the past few games and it is fantastic to see.
- Travis Konecny is officially back. He made his return to the lineup on Saturday, but made little impact. That all changed on Tuesday night with a goal and an assist in just under 14 minutes of ice time, including 11 minutes at even strength. He made a great play in the offensive zone to then get the puck back to the point for a Michael Del Zotto shot that deflected in off of Chris VandeVelde. Later in the game he showed off his nifty skating and stickhandling to get around a defender and snipe a goal on Robin Lehner.
- Konecny and VandeVelde each scored a goal, with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare apparently setting the tone early in the game with a fight. It was an effective game for the fourth line at even strength, although their penalty killing left much to be desired.
- The only lineup change I could see is the aforementioned promotion of Konecny into the top-nine. He definitely deserves it, and is a more flashy, skilled, offensive-minded forward than a few of the guys on the second and third lines. Konecny should get a shot either in place of Brayden Schenn on the second line, or on one of Couturier’s wings.
- The Flyers top pair seem to be back to their “bend but don’t break” type of hockey. Andrew MacDonald and Ivan Provorov were arguably the team’s worst pair on the evening, with Brandon Manning giving them some competition. MacDonald screened Mason on a power play goal and it deflected in off of his stick, but besides that there were only a couple major errors by MacDonald.
- Normally you can say that Provorov played well despite MacDonald, but he wasn’t too noticeable either. That is a good thing for defensemen, as Provorov didn’t give up much in the defensive zone.
- Michael Del Zotto and Radko Gudas are re-emerging as a great middle-pair option for the Flyers. They combined for five points on the evening while also playing good defense. They helped generate a defense-high eight scoring chances four while allowing just four against, resulting in a 66.67% scoring chances for.
- Each of these defensemen were battling injuries earlier in the season, but they look like they are both on top of their game and can perhaps take some pressure off of the top pair if they continue their strong play.
- Brandon Manning has definitely regressed since the beginning of the season. He and Shayne Gostisbehere played a solid game for the most part, but Manning had a few questionable decisions that led to scoring chances against. Luckily Steve Mason came up big.
The Flyers succeeded by cycling down low as well as getting shots from the point. Three of the six goals were scored in the dirty areas, with the other three coming just outside the low slot. The low-to-high plays in the zone worked for the Flyers, as they got two deflection goals as well as a rebound goal in Buffalo.
The Sabres had plenty of chances of their own in front as well, but Steve Mason was a brick wall. He only got beat by screened shots on the power play, and then a nice move by Jack Eichel with the game already decided..
The Flyers had a nice first period that carried over into the second. Score effects took over in the third, but the Flyers were still able to match the Sabres in scoring chances.
Shot attempts of 33-20 through two periods is nothing to sneeze at, even if it was against a team like the Sabres.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick
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