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Preview: Please win

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With little hope for the postseason, the least the Flyers can do is defeat the Sabres decisively.

Philadelphia Flyers v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Sara Schmidle/NHLI via Getty Images

Coming off of a big win to close out the season series against the Bruins, the Flyers are set to take on the Sabres today in another matinee smackdown. Will the Orange & Black emerge victorious, or will the team and its fans suffer another undignified defeat? What are the storylines, who should you be watching, and when exactly is the game taking place? All of that (and more) below.

The Flyers

The outlook for this team is an intriguing one that changes by the day. Many of the season-long concerns surrounding the roster have been eased by recent trends throughout the lineup, at least from the perspective of this writer. While there are still things that are worthy of some drastic change (Ivan Provorov’s failure to develop into a number one defender, Phil Myers bottoming out, Nicolas Aube-Kubel regressing to below replacement), the more worrying stuff on the macro level has shifted. Carter Hart no longer looks shattered, and Travis Konecny is back to scoring at a clip similar to his production from 2019-2020.

Philly generally has the appearance of a mediocre team by xG numbers, which is a pretty fair assessment with all things considered. The Flyers are consistently finishing their chances above expectation, but their latent talent across the roster is struggling to execute processes like their forecheck, set plays and special teams. Luckily, there’s been some amount of improvement on the penalty kill recently; the Flyers managed to hold a top ten Boston unit in check yesterday.

Philadelphia Flyers Vs Boston Bruins At TD Garden
Joel Farabee is the clear breakout player for this team, but his recent cold spell is cause for pause.
Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The problems for this game come from a few unexpected places, namely Joel Farabee. The young breakout winger has had a fantastic year, but he’s faded down the stretch a bit after being separated from James van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier. With lesser support and a dysfunctional power play, the scoring has dried up for Beezer. His assist yesterday marked the first point he’d tallied in nine games, and with dreadful underlying numbers in recent weeks the overall direction of Farabee’s season isn’t ideal. Today will be a chance for the young gun to turn things around and ensure he ends the year strong.

The Sabres

What the hell is there to say about Buffalo at this point? Most of this roster will inevitably be torn asunder when the season ends. Taylor Hall is all but gone at this point, Brandon Montour just got shipped out, and essentially any pieces of value not named Dylan Cozens or Rasmus Dahlin are available for trade. With Jack Eichel still injured, this group is mostly buoyed by the eternally underappreciated Sam Reinhart. Still, there isn’t much to note here that’s positive. The Flyers should absolutely beat this team, especially with them missing Montour thanks to the recent trade.

Washington Capitals v Buffalo Sabres
Jacob Bryson isn’t a flashy player, but he embodies all of the positive qualities of the prototypical NCAA product; intelligent, level-headed, and capable despite a lack of outstanding physical traits.
Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

A player to watch on the Sabres is young Jacob Bryson. The former Providence Friar has impressed in the NHL whenever I’ve gotten the chance to watch him, displaying a good head on his shoulders that’s propelled him on an otherwise stagnant Sabres squad. On a team with abysmal analytical numbers across the board, Bryson stands out as a player who’s been able to tread water. He’s a promising asset that may become a quality second pairing defender sometime soon.

Three Big Things

  1. Carter Hart has to continue to assert himself as the de-facto future of the franchise in goal. It’s going to take a sustained run of success and quality performances to prove that he’s recovered from March’s hellish collapse. I personally already think that he’s proven his struggles circumstantial at worst, but I know it would be preferable for him to provide further evidence of such.
  2. Joel Farabee needs to have a big game. After playing well all year, Beezer has been relegated to bottom six minutes and less than favorable deployment from Alain Vigneault. If he isn’t able to correct this tailspin, he could add his name to the ranks of youngsters who’ve had stretches of milquetoast or disappointing play this year.
  3. Look for James van Riemsdyk to have a big outing. The big winger has gone quiet lately by his standards, but he’s still clearly doing all of the little things well. Those successful puck retrievals and board battles are eventually going to manifest into goals, and against a weaker team like Buffalo the environment is optimal for success.

Game Day Tunes

In honor of a man the world recently lost, I present an all-time banger. Feel free to look up the clean version if you want, but it just sounds wrong to me.

Happy game day, and as always, go Flyers.