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Sabres 5, Flyers 2: Feels about right

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sigh

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back, everybody! Does it feel like it’s been forever since we’ve had a game? It’s only been since Saturday, but the Wednesday thing really throws us off. Anyway, the Flyers were back at it tonight at long(ish) last against the Sabres. And this is about the point where we should drop some feelings about the Sabres but… we’re coming up with a blank. Remember that video of Jeff Skinner doing a double axel? It was from when he was a Hurricane, but that was pretty neat.

Anyway, there was a game that happened. And it started out with some drama. The Flyers got the first shot of the game but play was quickly turned the other direction and sent into their own end. And it was there that Ivan Provorov turned the puck over in the corner and gave it to Skinner for a great chance in close, but Alex Lyon (freshly recalled from Lehigh Valley) was able to scramble to cover up.

And then, well, it didn’t really get much better. The Flyers got a bit of time outside of their own end and looked like they might be turning around, but this was not the case. They allowed Jack Eichel a clean entry into the zone and he carried it all the way in to the goal line and chipped it out for who else but Skinner. And the Flyers had given up the first goal of the game for the fourth game in a row.

And we were literally not even done talking about that goal when we had another to talk about. A turnover at the Flyers’ own blue line gave Tague Thompson the puck, and he just walked it right in on goal through the defense and zipped it past Lyon. Two goals. More angst.

If you’re wondering how the Flyers looked after this, it wasn’t a whole marked improvement. They, again got a hot second’s worth of pressure before being hemmed back in their own zone. It wasn’t a goal from that play, but it did result in Jordan Weal taking a holding penalty, and we would get our first look at the penalty kill of the night.

The Flyers lost the opening faceoff and the Sabres promptly got the puck deep in for a bit of scrambling in front, but the Flyers were able to knock it away, but not out. Their next shot trickled through Lyon but we was able to spin around and knock it away. They weren’t so lucky on the next one. Lyon left a rebound out front and Evan Rodrigues didn’t let it stay there. With a bit more push it was past Lyon for their third goal of the game inside the first ten minutes.

Continuing with play, all we really have is to ask the Flyers, “hey guys, have you considered not turning the puck over so dang much?” The Flyers were starting to look a little more settled, but they just couldn’t hold onto the puck. The Sabres were swarming every loose puck and weren’t losing many races.

Ironically, the Flyers’ best chance of the early goings came off a Sabres turnover, when Shayne Gostisbehere stole it away and put it in net from between the circles. Carter Hutton stopped it. But it was something.

The last minute of the period saw the top line buzzing—they were able to sustain some pressure in the offensive zone, got a couple of looks, but Hutton kept them off the board. And we were very close to saying that the Flyers could end this one on a positive note, were it not for the counter rush and goal for Johan Larsson inside the last ten seconds.

And then Larsson and Scott Laughton fought. And, mercifully, the period was over.

AFTER ONE: Sabres 4, Flyers 0

And we’re back for the second period, now with 100 percent more Cal Pickard! Alex Lyon was pulled and now it’s Pickard time! He had a chance from Jason Pommonvile to face on the first shift, but he stopped that. So there was that.

From there we hit one of those “running and gunning but not putting up any particularly dangerous chances” stretches, which was fun for the activity level, but, well, not really for the lack of consequence. But the Flyers were looking like they had significantly more energy than in the first twenty minutes.

And it was some momentum that the Flyers were building, and it wouldn’t be too long before they were finally able to do something with it. Just past the five minute mark, the top line got buzzing in the offensive zone, and it was a perfect quick pass play culminating in Claude Giroux getting the Flyers on the board. Finally.

But before we get too excited, we had to watch the penalty kill again. With Sean Couturier going off for high-sticking, the Flyers had a big task ahead of them. A would-be breakout was broken up at the blue line and the Flyers were stuck in their own zone while the Sabres got to cycling. But the Flyers did well to neutralize their threats and kept the puck cleared out of the zone. With the exception of Pickard coming out to play the puck and getting stuck with it while the Sabres pressured, this penalty kill wasn’t all that scary. Which is a massive win in and of itself.

We hit another stretch of run and gun through the middle of the period, but the Flyers gave us another good thing to report. With an offensive zone draw, Weal won the faceoff and quickly got the puck to Travis Sanheim at the point, who threw it in on goal. Hutton stopped it, but didn’t corral the rebound, and Wayne Simmonds picked it up and knocked it in. And the Flyers had gotten themselves within two.

The last few minutes of the period saw a few more chances on the rush for the Flyers, but they couldn’t seem to close on any of them. We had another gathering in the corner, as well, which saw Travis Konecny looking like he wanted to fight the biggest Sabre on the ice, but that was broken up too. And we hit the second intermission without incident.

AFTER TWO: Sabres 4, Flyers 2

The momentum that they held at the end of the second period was carried pretty handily into the third. The Flyers came out with some jump and maintained possession in the offensive zone to notch a couple of close chances for both the first and second lines, but again they lacked the finish.

They had the Sabres chasing, and you know what that usually means? They’ll eventually commit a penalty. And they did! Rasmus Ristolainen went off for interference and the Flyers had their first chance on the power play.

It looked just about how we’ve grown accustomed to it looking—the first unit got a couple of good looks but couldn’t close on them, and the second unit struggled to even get set up in the zone. And after a strong game on Saturday, the power play came up empty.

The middle of the period really saw the Flyers taking over—they held on the momentum and were working at generating chances while keeping the danger out of Buffalo’s game. There was even more momentum building and we were getting excited about it, and then… well, bad things have to happen so they did. Pickard stopped a breakaway chance for Rodrigues but in the process, committed a trip. So the Flyers went back to the penalty kill.

The good news is, in short, that they did it! Not only did they keep the Sabres neutralized in their own end, but they also managed a pair of shorthanded chances. And then they had another on the rush immediately after, with Konecny on the rush right out of the box, but he couldn’t get the shot past Hutton.

The Flyers had a couple more chances, but their Big Chance came just outside the final two minutes, when they pulled Pickard to bring out the extra skater. And it went… poorly. The Flyers got to cycling but Eichel chipped it out for the chance on the empty netter. He missed, but got the puck in the zone and got it over to Sam Reinhart, who put it away.

And that was just about all she wrote. With a bit more cycling the Flyers left the period without another goal. Chances on chances on the game, all for naught. Alas.

FINAL: Sabres 5, Flyers 2