It’s another Saturday matinee for the Flyers, and their second matchup of the season vs. Buffalo. After a frustrating loss at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, the Flyers will look to rebound against one of the best up and coming teams in the league. The Sabres beat the Flyers 5-2 in their first meeting this season, and have put together an extremely impressive start to their season going 17-8-4, good for third place in the Atlantic Division behind Tampa Bay and Toronto.
The Flyers meanwhile, continue to sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, tied with New Jersey for the last spot in the East. This game vs. Buffalo begins a long road trip for Philadelphia, that after tonight features the Western Canada road trip. Due to that, reigning AHL MVP has been called up in Phil Varone. Varone will most likely have his seat reserved in the press box, but it will be interesting to see if he gets in the lineup at all over this stretch.
This road trip could prove as a make or break for the Flyers season, especially if the other teams in the Metro are able to gain some ground, including the Devils. Getting off on the right foot tonight will be huge, and if results are not seen, we might see the first big moves of Chuck Fletcher’s reign as head honcho of the Philadelphia Flyers. But hey, getting a little bit ahead of ourselves here, let’s focus on what the Flyers can do to beat Buffalo tonight.
1. Let’s play a full 60 minutes for once, shall we?
Thursday night vs. Columbus was a sight all too familiar to Flyers fans over the past couple of seasons. The team didn’t show up for the first 40 minutes, then turned on the jets in the final 20 all to lose in overtime on a horrific play. Buffalo has gotten above average goaltending all season, so waiting until the very end to show up simply isn’t going to work against this team. Whether it’s the players, or the coaches, someone needs to get this team to play a full 60. This has been a recurring issue and for a team already fighting for its playoff lives, it cannot continue all that much longer.
At the very least can we just not go down 4-0 in the first period like last time? I don’t know about you all but that kinda takes me out of the game off the jump, ya know?
2. Big test for Provorov and Gostisbehere
It’s been asked the entire year essentially, where have Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere been? The Flyers top two defensemen have struggled all year, but now look to get back on track with new defense coach Rick Wilson. Things generally got off on the right foot against Columbus.
Despite a blunder in overtime by Provorov vs. Columbus, it was overall a solid game for the struggling defenseman. Now, he goes up against the likes of Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner for a highly talented Sabres top six. A solid showing by Provorov and Gostisbehere alike could hopefully indicate the two have turned the corner defensively. We saw the impact of Travis Sanheim on Thursday, it would be great to see similar play from the Flyers top pairing. The tasks won’t get any easier over the Western Canada swing, as the two will face the likes of Scheifele and Laine in Winnipeg, Gaudreau and Monahan in Calgary, and of course the best player in the world Connor McDavid in Edmonton. Starting this road trip strong would be fantastic for the Flyers prize defensemen.
3. Forward depth needs to produce
The Flyers three goals vs. Columbus were scored by Claude Giroux and Sanheim, the first-line winger and the third-pair defenseman. The depth goal scoring for Philadelphia was supposed to be a strength coming into this season, but they’ve gone dry in recent games. Nolan Patrick has struggled, Jordan Weal was replaced, Wayne Simmonds has been streaky as most primarily goal scorers are, and overall the top line has had to carry the team offensively. Players like Patrick, Simmonds, James van Riemsdyk, and even Jakub Voracek need to produce more.
Voracek is on a three-game point streak, but we’ve seen Voracek get all of his points in bunches before, then become irrelevant for a few games. Consistency is key with Voracek and they’ll need it even more with him playing on the “third line.”
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Couturier — Konecny
van Riemsdyk — Patrick — Simmonds
Raffl — Laughton — Voracek
Lindblom — Lehtera — Weise
Provorov — Gostisbehere
MacDonald — Hagg
Sanheim — Gudas