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Flyers 3, Sabres 1: NBD

Some observations for your morning...

Buffalo Sabres v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Well, gang, they did it! The Flyers got themselves to nine wins in a row and that’s pretty neat if you ask us! They’ve got a couple of tough games on deck this week, so it will be interesting to see how they fare and if they can keep this thing rolling, but that’s a concern for another day. Now, we’re just going to relish this win for a little bit longer. Here are five big takeaways from this one.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

1. Having a normal one

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but this wasn’t exactly a stellar start for the Flyers. They came out looking a little bit flat, but overall they just weren’t really executing on the plays they were trying, on plays that they would normally be executing with ease. And whether that was because of mental lapses or physical fatigue, or whatever else have you, it was turnover city and it was messy and it’s not really a surprise that we hit the first intermission with a shot total 13-4 in the Sabres’ favor. It got a little better for the Flyers as the game went on, they did respond some (though Buffalo still controlled possession for the rest of the game), but all in all, they just really didn’t seem to have it.

And we do understand why this may have been the case—this was their third game in four days, they had to do a bit of travel earlier in the week, and they were probably feeling a little worn out. That’s a tough week in the NHL, so them looking a off is understandable. They just have to make sure that this was all it is, and that they don’t let that same messiness spill into next week, when we’ve got Boston in town.

2. The power play gets some looks

But, if there was one positive that we could take from the Flyers’ first period performance, it was that the power play looked pretty good! They had to chances back to back in the first period and then that was just about it for the rest of the game (save for a 21 second look to close out the whole game), and there were some good things happening there. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t all sustained zone time, but the Flyers did still get eight shot attempts and four scoring chances out of those first two attempts, and with a couple of passing plays in front that didn’t quite connect had them looking dangerous, like they were just short of knocking on the door. And sure, we would have liked for them to come out of those two with something to show for it—an early lead in the first period when they were still playing even more poorly could well have gone a long way in taking the wind out of the Sabres’ sails—but it didn’t go that way this time. All the same, we can appreciate their process, what was working there.

3. It’s Claude Giroux’s world, folks

It’s almost funny: not too long ago, we were saying that it had been a bit since we’d seen Giroux have one of those games where he just takes over and wills the team to victory, and then we got one, and now we have another. The Flyers’ offense wasn’t clicking terribly well and they were going to need a jolt from somewhere to get much of anything going for them. Apparently what it took was Giroux stepping up and putting the team on his back a little bit to make something happen. He had a pretty great individual night, with the two goals, of course, but also three individual scoring chances and two high danger chances. He was also one of just three players to come out of this one with a CF% above 50 (51.52 percent) and one of eight with an xGF% above 50 (58.15 percent). The team was better with him on the ice, they were winning their matchups—he was the difference maker for the skaters.

He didn’t end up being the only Flyer to get on the scoresheet, as Joel Farabee picked up a goal that Giroux described as “all hustle,” as he put in a little extra work on the forecheck and forced a turnover on Carter Hutton for a goal, and we definitely don’t want to take that away from him, especially considering how much he deserved that one. But still, Giroux was the one leading the charge last night. It was his show, at least among skaters.

4. ...but also Carter Hart’s world?

So, given that offense was hard to come by in this one and that the Sabres really did get the bulk of the chances, goaltending really became the key to winning for the Flyers, and probably to the shock of no one, Hart was able to deliver a huge performance to keep this game from getting out of hand. Hart faced 39 shots last night (and had 65 shot attempts thrown in his general direction) as the Flyers struggled to break out of their own end and prevent the Sabres from getting too much extended zone time. Some credit should still go to the skaters for their dedication to blocking shots—this was a pretty brutal game in that regard—as only 12 of those 39 shots that made it to Hart could have been considered high danger, but the point remains that Hart was the difference maker here, and if the Flyers had gotten something closer to a league average performance from him, this game would have gone a lot differently. Full stop, he’s really the reason they won this game.

He’s playing some of his best hockey of the year right now, and it’s, honestly, just a delight to see.

5. I kind of did ask for this

And, before we go, maybe it’s time for a little perspective. In the preview for this very game, I made the point that, as they were facing a weaker opponent on paper, the Flyers didn’t need to come in with a ton of flash and play their biggest game of the season, they just needed to do enough to beat this team, and that’s kind of what we got last night. The Flyers, save from a small handful of players, really didn’t have themselves all that great of a night. Decision making wasn’t great. Execution wasn’t great. It just all wasn’t really coming together for them, but they had a couple of guys step up, and that ended up being all they needed.

And maybe it’s a testament to the depth and overall talent of this team, they they can show up and play at far less than their collective true talent level, and on some nights, it’s still enough to get them the win. Obviously we don’t want to see them pulling this night in and night out, but last night at least, it was enough.

The only damn thing I know

The Flyers have really been stepping up their in-arena music selection this season, and it kind of felt like it was emo night last night, and I was really into it. It was a nice mix of older classics and some perhaps more niche selections (I was particularly fond of them pulling out “Flashlight” by the Front Bottoms), and it was all just great. More emo nights at Flyers games, please. I’m asking nicely.