I have a hard time pulling together a ton of strong feelings about this game so I'll try and keep this part brief.
The Flyers used 40 kinda-good minutes of hockey tonight to beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 and pick up points in their ninth straight game, which is the longest point streak they've had in four years. They did this and got away with it, despite completely sleeping through the second period and not really playing all that great in the third period, because the Buffalo team they were facing is very not good.
It's hard to explain what happened in that second period there -- the Sabres were taking play to the Flyers on a fairly regular basis, and managed to tie the game thanks to an unfortunate sequence where Claude Giroux and Braydon Coburn simultaneously took penalties to put the Flyers on a 3-on-5 which they could not kill all of. Ray Emery had to make a number of key saves in the second and third period to keep the score where it was, and it was possibly one of the worst periods of the Flyers' season, given the situation/circumstance/opponent.
Other than that frame, the Flyers played OK, I think. It's tough to draw a lot from games like this, since, y'know, these are the games the Flyers should be winning. And the fact that they were a kinda-flukey Michael Raffl third-period goal away from maybe not winning this game should be a bit of a cause for concern, given that -- with this team, somehow, still on the fringes of the playoff chase -- these are the ones that you can't slip up on.
But no harm no foul. I guess.
Other thoughts and things:
* Another night, another game with points for the Flyers' new cool line, which is of course the one that has Wayne Simmonds on Sean Couturier's right wing, with Matt Read on his left. Simmonds and Read teamed up for the Flyers' first goal of the night, marking the fourth straight game with points for each of them. This isn't the first time that the Flyers have tried that trio together, but this appears to be the most successful they've been. Mostly I think Coots and Read are just happy to not have Umberger on their wing. But yes, that line's been fun to watch.
* Michael Raffl was back in the lineup, and even beyond his weird wraparound goal, I noticed he, Umberger and White teaming up for a number of chances. That's a good sign. His speed and smarts always help this team. There have been a lot of calls for him to return back to Claude Giroux's left wing (more on that in a second), and I would be totally OK with that happening, but I don't mind having him a bit farther down the lineup -- if he can pick up the play of otherwise-nondescript guys like Umberger and White, there's a lot of value in that.
* The top line was not bad but didn't have any points so it wasn't exactly good either y'know? On the one hand they've got a lot of bad puck luck going for them, and save one real ugly shift with about two minutes left I thought they did better defensively than they have been lately. But the simple fact of the matter is this: when your two best players -- guys who have spent all year at the top of the NHL's scoring leaders list -- have gone without scoring for this long, eventually someone's gotta step in and do something. Which is the long way of saying that it wouldn't be surprising to see Brayden Schenn not on the top line -- with Raffl in his place -- on Tuesday against Columbus. (Personally, I wouldn't be opposed to breaking up Giroux and Voracek to see how that works, but that's a discussion for another day.)
* Braydon Coburn played for the first time in about a month. He only took one shift in the third period, and that's because that shift ended with him making a terrible turnover that sprung the Sabres on a 2-on-1. Emery bailed him out, and that was the last he'd see of the ice. He also had to trip Chris Stewart to prevent a possible breakaway in the second period, which led to that 5-on-3 goal for Buffalo. Before that, he had also stood up a number of Sabres forwards at the blue line, and put together a good possession night despite largely playing alongside Nicklas Grossmann. Basically, whatever your feelings about Braydon Coburn already were, tonight's game probably confirmed them.
* Another really strong game for Ray Emery. He's done everything the Flyers could have asked for sans-Steve Mason.
* Zac Rinaldo's suspension is now over. Before this game I was fairly positive that he'd be back in the lineup on Tuesday, and if you made me bet on it one way or the other, I still think he is. That said, on Raffl's game-winner, Ryan White (the guy who would most likely end up being benched for Rinaldo) ended up making a great play to get the puck to Raffl as he was getting hit. Seems like the kind of play that would get Berube's attention? Who knows.
* Flyers are now five points out of the last playoff spot, with Boston having a game in hand. If you're into that, and all.
As if the past two games weren't fun enough, now we get to do them again at home! Columbus on Tuesday, Buffalo on Thursday. Go Flyers.