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Flyers 4, Sabres 3: Skirting disaster

This was an awful game of hockey, but the third period was pretty OK.

Philadelphia Flyers v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Folks, I won’t beat around the bush: this game stunk and made me so angry that I popped a gasket. Let’s dive in.

What went right?

Well, uh, not much! The Flyers were sluggish, disinterested and received no help from Brian Elliott after a few initial big saves. Kevin Hayes netted a goal early in the third, but aside from that the whole roster looked dead in the water, including the best players on the team.

Claude Giroux added another tally to make it 3-2, replicating Philadelphia’s blood-boiling trend of “I really liked our effort in the third period” games. To those who are massive Rasmus Ristolainen fans, I implore you to look at the play below. Yikes.

The Flyers battled back to tie the game late on a prayer from Sean Couturier, because of course the Sabres couldn’t win outright. It was frankly hilarious to watch a clash of two teams that didn’t want to win.

To sum up the feeling that everyone had at the end of the third period, our very own Kurt R. weighed in:

The Flyers created a 2-on-1 in overtime thanks to some tenacious work by Claude Giroux in the boards, and the Orange & Black pulled out a win by the skin of their teeth thanks to Ivan Provorov’s game winner. Neat. Unacceptable, but neat nonetheless.

What could have been better?

From the get-go, the Sabres jumped on Philly and never looked back. Buffalo attacked the slot, had no trouble gaining the zone and peppered old man Brian Elliott with shots. The Moose made a few nice saves, but eventually he coughed up a wide-open goal that he’d probably like to have back.

The structural understanding that this team possesses is nonexistent. The defense backs all the way up and rarely challenges zone entries, the forwards blast the zone and can’t keep track of their coverage in the defensive zone, and the goaltending isn’t good enough to compensate. The Flyers had one of the worst showings of gap control across the board that I’ve ever seen and generally looked like they were playing in fog. That’s how you get stuff like what’s shown below.

Oh wait, you’re telling me there’s an even more embarrassing screenshot from this game?

When the entire team is standing around like a bunch of headless chickens, it might be time to blow it up. That’s ESPECIALLY true if you’re doing so against the worst team in the league. It was a pathetic showing from the Flyers tonight and something needs to happen in the near future to make sure the players wake the hell up. If Chuck Fletcher doesn’t fire somebody soon (most likely an assistant coach), he’s simply being negligent.

To top things off, Joel Farabee and Oskar Lindblom were benched in the third period. What a wonderful decision by Alain Vigneault to punish two of the only players who haven’t posted a truly awful performance in recent memory. Nolan Patrick also rode the pine, but that was obviously a bit more reasonable given his performance this year. Baffling stuff from a staff that increasingly looks like it doesn’t have any answers on how to turn the ship around. Shortening the bench is one thing, but the chosen players in question were nonsensical.

Three Big Things

  1. If the Flyers didn’t feel like this game was enough of a wakeup call, nothing will be. The result of this game provides momentary happiness, but it mostly feels empty when considering the opponent. It’s like being proud of beating a dog in chess, if I’m being honest.
  2. Alain Vigneault deserves some heat for his decision in this game to bench some good young players. Joel Farabee and Oskar Lindblom didn’t have their best efforts of the season, but the selective accountability being given to players on the roster is infuriating. It’ll be interesting to see how that choice plays out in the coming weeks.
  3. Make. A. Move. Something has to happen if the Flyers want to keep fans mildly engaged and invested in this season. Philly can’t afford to play like this against a single opponent for the rest of the season, or they will inevitably plummet to the bottom of the division.

Postgame Tunes

Don’t know why, but this song feels fitting.

Good night, good hockey, and as always, go Flyers.