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Flyers 5, Sabres 2: Keeping it rolling

Some observations for your morning...

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Well there you have it, folks! No Stadium Series hangover to be had here, just a good hockey game for the Flyers. They quelled our concerns and got themselves the edge in the season series with the Sabres. Not too bad of a night. Not too bad at all.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

1. The power play!

It was another one of those games, the ones we get every once in a while, where we don’t even have much time to make note of how the Flyers look to start out the game, what the tone might be, anything like that, before they’re gifted a chance to get themselves on the board from a penalty drawn and a chance on the power play. And, in this case, the Flyers took that chance and… didn’t really do anything with it. They struggled to get set up and couldn’t generate much offensively. Indeed, they spent just as much time playing defense, having given up the first shot of the game while they were on the man advantage.

The first attempt was certainly a bit sloppy, but the Flyers were able to get themselves back on track in their subsequent attempt. Again they were held off the board, but they were able to get a bit of good puck movement going, and put up two shots. We would have liked for them to get one past Carter Hutton there, but no matter, they would have things under control at 5-on-5.

2. The power play goal that wasn’t a power play goal

That said, the Flyers got themselves on the board on a goal that came just 12 seconds after the first penalty expired, and which came from their second unit being on the ice and starting to do some good work, but, of course can’t be called a power play goal. So we’ll just call it a nice goal for Oskar Lindblom.

He’s continuing his recent surge, continuing to put points up on the board while also maintaining his sound play across the board. Scott Gordon praised him particularly for his play along the boards, after the game, and made note that he was particularly effective in making plays in close—that is, rather than having to get a full extension to be able to do something with the puck, he’s able to play it in his skates, or maneuver with it 10 or 15 inches away from him. it’s details that are working, and it’s making him an even more sound player. That isn’t news, we knew that Lindblom was a “sound in his details” kind of player, but it’s all starting to come together as the more tangible offense keeps clicking.

3. The new guy’s got jam, eh?

One of the story lines heading into this game was that of the new face in the lineup in the form of Ryan Hartman who, of course, came over in the trade that sent Wayne Simmonds to Nashville. It was still an open question just what the Flyers have in him, so eyes were turned on him. And, well, he certainly made a first impression.

Yep, that’s early in the first period, and him laying a huge hit on Rasmus Dahlin, earning a full roar from the fans in attendance. He made note after the game that this was a key piece to his game, bringing a physical element while also bringing a bit of a scoring touch. It was the physicality that was distinct last night, but the offense was starting to bud. He put up four shots on the night, and an adjusted 58.85 CF%. A big hit and a goal might have been too much to ask for a first game, but, all the same, he seemed to fit in nicely (something Gordon attributed, in part, to similarities in theirs and Nashville’s systems, making the transition a little easier for him). it’s a small sample, and the open question of his ability remains, but we certainly appreciate the introduction.

4. Congratulations, Phil Myers!

We can’t really bury the lede on this one. After Lindblom got the Flyers on the board, Jake Voracek increased their lead to two, and along with this goal came an assist for Philippe Myers, marking his first NHL point.

And this is a neat milestone, and we’re glad to see him reach it, and it also came in what was overall a very solid game for Myers. He only ended the night with one shot to go along with that one assist, so the defensive side of his game was where he really shone. He was winning races and battles and proving disruptive to the Sabres attempts to get set up, like here, where he breaks up an entry attempt all but perfectly.

He’s getting himself more and more chances as he goes on, here, seeming to be getting even more comfortable with the NHL pace with each game he plays. He doesn’t look like an AHL call up dropped into NHL action and told to figure it out, he looks like he belongs.

5. Killing penalties

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but it was another mixed bag for the Flyers’ penalty kill, last night. They had three looks, and, just like the power play, got off to a bit of a rough start. They gave up a goal on their first chance, and, in a way, it looked like vintage Flyers penalty killing—a failed clear finding its way back down low in the zone and the puck somehow got over to an open Jack Eichel in the left circle, and he’s not going to miss from there. It was just what he was hoping for.

But, on their other two attempts, the penalty killers were able to get settled and be more disruptive of Buffalo’s attempts (while also registering a shot after a bit of zone time for themselves), being more aggressive in getting after the puck and being more conscious of actually executing on their clear attempts. It was good to see them respond this well, but old habits die hard, it seems, and they haven’t flushed the old ways all the way out of their systems just yet. But they’re getting there.

6. Brian Elliott is still doing the thing

Well, after getting the start in Saturday’s outdoor game, it was yet another start for Elliott. It was a little surprising, perhaps, but he still came in and performed admirably. It wasn’t a perfect game—he had a couple of instances in which he almost certainly wasn’t tracking the puck perfectly—but he still came up big where they needed him. Like here:

All told, he stopped 34 of the Sabre’s 36 shots for a .944 save percentage, and banked himself another win. And we’re happy to see Elliott getting these results. In the words of James van Riemsdyk, he’s been “the consummate professional” in the face of the injury and all he’s gone through this season. So, in a way, it feels extra rewarding to see him coming in and performing well.

7. James van Riemsdyk, hello

Speaking of players who are still out here doing their thing, van Riemsdyk certainly fits this bill. After his stint on the fourth line for Saturday’s outdoor game, he found himself bumped back up to the third line with Scott Laughton and our new pal Hartman, and the three seemed to find some pretty immediate chemistry. Laughton and Hartman didn’t pick up assists on van Riemsdyk’s goal, but the trio were still threatening across the whole of the night, combining for a total of 10 shots at 5-on-5. But, of course, let’s not forget about that goal.

That, friends, is what van Riemsdyk was brought to Philadelphia to do—get himself to the front of the net and hunt for rebounds and deflections. It wasn’t the prettiest of goals, but it was perfectly executed, considering that ultimate aim. It’s just about the pinnacle of getting the job done.

8. Travis Sanheim!

It’s all come full circle, more or less. Last season, Sanheim’s first NHL goal came against the Sabres, and now he’s picked up another against them.

And, in a way, this is something that perhaps we’ve come to understand as a quintessential Sanheim goal—where he flexes a bit of that stellar skating and activates on the rush to create a more dangerous chance. It’s a delight when it happens, and it will never stop being a delight.

But beyond that bit of flash that comes with scoring a big goal like that one, Sanheim had himself a very solid night, registering two shots and an adjusted 69.15 CF% at 5-on-5. We’ve made note of it before, but it bears repeating, since Scott Gordon took over, Sanheim has been given a much more significant role, and he’s positively run with it. He’s proving that he can handle tougher competition and provide a more well rounded game. And he just seems to just keep getting better.

9. Kill your narratives

There was a lot of baggage that came with the Flyers into this game, in the wake of the Wayne Simmonds trade. No matter the outcome, whether they did or did not show up to play, it was bound to be notes as due to of in spite of the lack of Simmonds. And, while all feelings had are valid, that’s also probably a little unfair. We want to resist the urge narrative-ize this one to death. At the end of the day, this was just another hockey game, and the players came to do their jobs. They kept their heads down, and they performed well. It was a solid win, even if it came against a tired team, on the second game of a back to back, but the result remains, and that’s worth taking more or less in a vacuum. The players deserve credit for that.

10. The only damn thing I know

With Ivan Provorov and Jack Eichel doing a bit of sparring in the corner in the first, and then Jake McCabe going after Nolan Patrick later on in the period, it looks like the league has instated some new rule saying you can only fight guys with the same number as you. Kind of weird, I know, but I don’t make the rules.

And, that considered, with the warpath Shayne Gostisbehere’s been on these last two games, it’s a miracle Jeff Skinner made it out of this one unscathed.

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