The Flyers started a five game road trip with a pit stop in Buffalo before heading into western Canada with a nightmare of a game on the night before Halloween. The Flyers ghoulish effort led to a 3-1 loss that drops the team back to .500 on the season at 4-4-2.
After two lackluster efforts in Philadelphia this week, one of which a 4-3 overtime decision against these Sabres, Dave Hakstol decided to mix up his forward lines, sending Jakub Voracek to the second line and promoting Wayne Simmonds to the top line. With Sean Couturier still on the mend (thanks again, Rinaldo) Scott Laughton was chosen to center the second line, and Michael Raffl centered the third line.
The defense was also juggled, as Hakstol decided to scare us all the day before Halloween by putting Luke Schenn and Nick Schultz together. Michael Del Zotto and Mark Streit were also paired together, with Evgeny Medvedev and Radko Gudas rounding out the defense. Being the second game of a back-to-back, Michal Neuvirth was tabbed as the starting goalie, making his first appearance since being injured in the first period against Boston on October 21.
Opposing them were the Sabres, a 3-7-0 team near the basement of the Atlantic division, with the ever-dreaded back-up goaltender in Linus Ullmark in net. Ullmark's only other game this year was a 28-save effort where he allowed 4 goals in a loss to the Devils on October 24.
Whenever a young goaltender is in the net, it behooves the opposition to put as many pucks on the net as possible in hopes of shaking his confidence, and making him think about every shot he faces instead of letting him get his legs underneath him and into the flow of game. The Flyers didn't really do that in the first, with just seven shots on goal compared with Buffalo's 15.
The lone tally in that period came on a great individual effort by Jack Eichel, who beat Neuvirth stick side. Medvedev looked silly on the play, but this is Eichel we're talking about so it's not like it's going to be the last time someone will be posterized by him. The Flyers did have some chances though, with Read and Voracek combining on a dangerous chance that trickled just wide in the opening minutes.
The second period, well I'm not going to mince words, was downright awful for the Flyers. It started out innocuous enough, with a power play on a too many men on the ice penalty on the Sabres, while not threatening, wasn't terrible in that Buffalo didn't have chances of their own. The rest of the period was about as one-sided as the Flyers had in this young season.
The Flyers committed four minor penalties, the first of which was converted by the Sabres when Zemgus Girgensons screened Neuvirth on a shot from the left faceoff circle by Ryan O'Reilly. The Flyers were able to kill off the other three penalties, which included 1:12 of 5-on-3 time, on some good patience and Neuvirth. On the other end of the ice, Ullmark was able to carve jack-o-lanterns as the ice was tilted in Buffalo's favor, even when not on the power play, for much of the 2nd period. After two, the Sabres led 2-0, and had amassed 31 shots to the Flyers 14.
The third period was the Flyers' best of the night, although that isn't saying much given the quality of the first two. An early Flyers power play was killed, and after his penalty expired Nicolas Deslauriers took a beautiful feed from Ryan O'Reilly and tucked it past Neuvirth for Buffalo's third goal. The teams would exchange penalties before a good play from R.J. Umberger deep in the Sabres zone set up Mark Streit at 16:34, but it was too little too late as the Flyers lost a game they should have lost by probably a lot more than they did. In the closing minute, Josh Gorges laid a hit on Matt Read that will probably get him a call from the NHL office. Thankfully Read was not hurt and remained in the game. The final shot tally was 36-28, Sabres.
* Foligno and Luke Schenn fought in the second period. While we're not sure what precipitated it, it definitely did not change the momentum of the game as the Sabres spent the next several minutes in the Flyers end.
* Ryan O'Reilly earns the first ever BSH Gold Star of the Game. He was clearly the best player on the ice for either team. He certainly is one of the most under-appreciated players in the league today.
* Eichel is the real deal, and was making his presence felt all game. The kid will be a force for years to come.
* Every season has its ups and downs, but with the Flyers punting against another near-bottom dweller, the questions surrounding this team's performance against non-contending teams will continue to increase until they start beating these teams. Or they start losing against everyone. Either one...
* Sean Couturier's absence is really starting to manifest itself on this team. Same thing could also be said about Bellemare, and those two are arguably the two best defensive forwards on the team. The penalty kill, while a respectable 5 for 6, gave up a lot of high-quality chances that either missed the net or were muted by Neuvirth.
* Claude Giroux was attempting several cross-ice passes on the power play, with varying amounts of success. The offensive attack as a whole was stunted, perhaps as a result of trying too hard. It seems like the power play needs to relax a bit more, not put as much pressure on Voracek and make the natural play instead of the forced one.
* Hakstol shuffled the lines extensively before the game, and perhaps as a result, the passing this game was not up to snuff. Additionally, the team looked lost at times, and my dad and I were often commenting on how the team wasn't moving while watching the game.
* Usually, when a goalie lets in three goals, he has had a mediocre outing. That is not the case this night, as Neuvirth was sharp all night, stopping David Legwand on three separate high-quality chances in the second and third. The goals he did let in were the result of some great passing plays by the Sabres.
* Like in his previous game, Nick Schultz wasn't good on the penalty kill, and his failure to at least try to get Girgensons away from Neuvirth led directly to Buffalo's second goal.
* The penalty kill seemed to use both a box, which they used most of last season, and a triangle-and-1, which they had been using most of this season. The triangle-and-1 seemed to work better of the two.
* Zone exits were a problem all game, which led to a lot of pressure by Buffalo. This was especially true in the second period. On the other end of the ice, Buffalo seemed to be able to exit the zone at will, and the Flyers just never seemed to generate sustained pressure to test Ullmark all game.
Sadly, Charlie O'Connor had a prior engagement, so no morning observations will be made for this game. I recommend looking at the last game's observations, picking the worst ones from that list, and you'll probably be pretty close.
The next Flyers game is on Monday night in Vancouver, starting at 10 p.m.
Comment of the Night:
That’s the worst performance I’ve seen from them since Tuesday.
- Rayray11299, who speaks the profound sage wisdom of 1001 truths