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Ugly first period dooms Flyers in 5-2 loss to Sabres

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Things on the hot seat today: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and Dave Hakstol.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Anaheim Ducks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers dug themselves a massive deficit on the road against the Sabres and weren’t able to recover, losing 5-2 in Buffalo to make it four-straight losses.

Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds provided the only offense for the Flyers, who fell to 9-10-2 on the season with 20 points. They are currently tied with the Penguins at the bottom of the Metropolitan and one point ahead of the Eastern Conference’s worst team in the Panthers, who have played three less games than the Flyers.

But hey, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Here are five observations from last night’s proceedings in Buffalo, where the Flyers did not leave anyone feeling all too thankful for anyone in the Orange and Black.

Another ugly start proves fateful

Buffalo came out and blitzed the Flyers in this one, scoring three times in the first 10 minutes and then a crushing tally with seconds remaining in the period to put the 4-0 score up.

The Sabres got the jump on the Flyers and didn’t let up, controlling the puck and the pace of things early. The pressure and speed of the Sabres gave the Flyers’ forwards and defense fits, with Dale Weise and Christian Folin feeling personally victimized by being out for three of the four goals in the first 20 alone. The Sabres’ speed to the outside gave Folin a lot of problems and he was often seen being blown by at a high speed.

It didn’t help that not only could the Flyers not contain the Sabres, they couldn’t keep the puck long enough to generate chances for themselves at the other end. They managed just seven shots at Carter Hutton, with most of them coming after the Sabres had already put them in a vice on the scoreboard.

It’s another slow start for the Flyers —who insist they’ve been better starting games recently— but the proof is in the pudding and they’ve been bad starts, Brent.

The goalie wasn’t real good

Alex Lyon, come on down, you’re the next contestant in the Flyers’ crease of doom! Lyon, yet another Flyers goaltender who has been hurt to start the season, made his first start for the Orange and Black this year and it was not a good one. The former Yale product was yanked after allowing four goals in the first period, the last of which coming with just eight seconds left before orange slices with the gang.

Lyon gave up a juicy rebound right in the slot off a Jason Pominville shot and Jeff Skinner made it 1-0 less than four minutes in. Then sloppy play from the Flyers in the neutral zone resulted in a turnover that sent Buffalo in, then Tage Thompson worked around Radko Gudas to stuff home a nice finish. Perhaps a poke check as Thompson burrowed in would have helped, but hey. Evan Rodrigues would take advantage of yet another loose rebound from Lyon on the power play to make it 3-0, though heavy traffic in front of the crease did impede Lyon a bit and he didn’t get much help from the defense to clear bodies or the puck from the danger zone (Archer voice).

The kill shot for Lyon in this one was John Larsson’s twisted wrister with eight seconds left in the first, beating the netminder clean to the short side on a rush past Folin on the outside. It was a great shot, but came from the circle and there was no screen in front to make it 4-0. Sensing that things perhaps were already out of reach and not getting many saves, pulling Lyon wasn’t a tough call for Dave Hakstol in this one.

Power play blows key chance

After goals from Giroux and Simmonds to start the second to pull within 4-2, the Flyers’ maligned power play was given a prime chance to cut the lead to one early in the third period.

Sensing the importance of the moment, the captain pulled off an incredible individual effort on an entry into the Sabres’ zone, but was stopped not once —but twice— by Carter Hutton. Giroux danced around the defense at the blue line and cut in towards Hutton with a quick wrist shot that was denied and then fought through a check to get to the rebound that glanced off Hutton’s pad.

Those, however, would be the Flyers’ lone shots non that crucial power play, and would prove to be the lone man-advantage on the night. It was a prime chance wasted as the power play continues to confound with all that talent and skill producing the NHL’s 25th-ranked unit.

The penalty kill

Evan Rodrigues’ first period power play goal comes at no surprise as the Flyers have now given up power play goals in 16 of their 21 games this season. Though they did kill off two other Sabres power plays, the Flyers continue to rank second to last in terms of penalty killing at 68%, sitting only ahead of the Senators, who have a video out showing just how much they feel about their penalty kill early in the season.

The penalty kill struggles are in no way new for the Flyers, who have gotten away with it in recent years thanks to power play and 5-on-5 success, but the fact that this team continues to give up more than a power play goal per game (24 in 21 games) is simply staggering. So hard to win games when you do that.

Hakstol’s seat getting hotter

With the loss, the Flyers have now lost four-straight and needed a historic comeback against the Lightning to make this stretch look just a little better. This comes on the heels of a 5-0-1 streak through the west coast that seemed to balance things for Dave Hakstol’s club. Instead, they’re right back into a tailspin and face the red-hot Rangers and Maple Leafs to close out the week.

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos mentioned earlier this year that coaches on the hot seat included Edmonton’s Todd McLellan (fired), St. Louis’ Mike Yeo (fired), and Los Angeles’ John Stevens (also fired). Another name on Kypreos’ list? You guessed it, Dave Hakstol.

With the Flyers floundering and looking unmotivated and disinterested most nights, is it time for a change in an important year for Ron Hextall’s vision of the rebuild? There could be whispers from above that Hextall will have to make a move —and fast— to save the sinking ship that is the Flyers’ 2018-19 season already.

That’s all, folks. But as always thanks for reading and I speak for everyone here at BSH when I say Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your time with your families and we’ll be right back here to talk Flyers hockey on Friday. Cheers!