Tonight's game was billed as either a "must win" or a "should win," mainly because of the implications for what it meant going forward. And while we all kind of expected the Flyers to emerge victorious, it was nice to see them do it in such a dominant fashion.
The Flyers definitely played the first period as though they were expected to win -- they outpaced the Sabres in both shots and overall possession, and looked like the better team (they are). After some scoreless play, Matt Read finally got the Flyers on the board, delivering a shot past Nathan Lieuwin to give Philadelphia the 1-0 lead. The Sabres responded to that goal by…flat lining in shot attempts for the remainder of the stanza.
Honestly, that period played out pretty much exactly how you'd expect it would -- the Sabres are not very good, and were playing that way. Still, despite being somewhat predictable, it was nice to see the Flyers with a lead.
At the start of the second period, the Flyers picked up right where they left off, largely driving possession and spending a good amount of time in the offensive zone. That play finally paid off when Zac Rinaldo -- yes, that Zac Rinaldo -- scored to widen the Flyers' lead. That lead got even wider a few minutes later when Brayden Schenn deflected a shot into the net on a power play. And then wider still when Lecavalier scored late in the period to give the Flyers their fourth goal of the game.
All told, after 40 minutes of play, the Flyers led 4-0 on the scoreboard, 15-3 in chances, and 29-11 in shots. Yup, that second period was some typical Buffalo Sabres hockey, and it was absolutely glorious to watch.
The early stages of the third period were defined by a five minute major dealt to the Flyers (more on that later) that the Sabres ended up scoring on. Yeah, the goal sucked, but at that point it was largely academic given the Flyers' lead. It mattered even less when Brayden Schenn scored his 20th of the year just a few minutes later to regain the four goal lead. The Sabres eventually got one back, but the Flyers ended up skating to a decisive 5-2 win.
*Some goofy looking lines tonight, perhaps most notably the fact that Rinaldo got time on the third. That was a result of: 1) Steve Downie still being out; 2) Tye McGinn being scratched, and; 3) Jay Rosehill playing. I don't quite understand the whole Rosehill playing right now, but oh well. While we're talking about line combinations…
*Michael Raffl centered the second line tonight, which was … odd. We all know that this team has a logjam at center, but slotting Raffl (who seems comfortable enough on the wing) into that spot seems unnecessary and frankly misguided. If you insist on shaking things up, why not let Vinny play center on the second? -- he looks good enough there on the fourth line and has shown an uptick in his play lately. Raffl ended up having a bit of an off night too, so...
*This weekend was really weird for the Flyers' offense, with both Jay Rosehill and Zac Rinaldo scoring rare goals. If Nicklas Grossmann scores in the next game, I'm going to say that the fabric of space-time has been fully torn.
*Zac Rinaldo took a butt load of penalties tonight, the worst being a match penalty for an "attempt to injure." There's been a lot of talk recently about whether Rinaldo helps or hurts in terms of penalties, but tonight it was pretty clear that he was a loose cannon. I fully suspect he'll end up sitting a few games for his play tonight.
Next game is Tuesday against the Panthers. Go Flyers.