What more is there to say, gang? The Flyers, looking like they might be inching back towards getting on track, had a chance to snap their losing streak with a trip to Buffalo to face off against a not very good Sabres team. And instead of doing that, they got absolutely walloped, dropping this one 6-3, extending the winless streak to 11 games, and heading home on a very sour note.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.
This one was just brutal
We probably should have known from the moment that Rasmus Ristolainen said there was “no better place to turn this around than in Buffalo” that this one was not going to go well. And not only did it go badly, it somehow went even worse than we could have imagined.
To echo Mike Yeo’s comments from after the game, the team just wasn’t “ready to go” in this one. They came out flat, lax in their defensive efforts, and it all spiraled badly from there. This showing was listless throughout, and the team kept being hindered by ugly breakdowns in their defensive structure, and exposing their goaltenders as a result.
And this is a real shame for a number of reasons, but chiefly because just a few days earlier, we were feeling like they might just be getting back to trending in the right direction. We talked after Thursday’s game about how they looked like they might be starting to shake the fatalism that’s been plaguing them for what feels like eons, but this game was a dramatic backslide into that again. It’s like one step forward, two steps back.
Goaltending didn’t sink this one, but it didn’t really help
Now, it’s easy to look at a 6-3 loss and pin it all on the goaltender, and while that wasn’t completely the case here, this also isn’t one where the goalies bear zero blame either. Martin Jones got the start in this one, and we didn’t really see him at his best. His reactions weren’t as quick as we’re used to seeing, and he got burned a couple of times for it. He gave up four goals on eight shots in the first period and was pulled for Carter Hart to come in. And Hart was a bit steadier in this one, but he did still give up two more goals against. And those were tough, the defense broke down in front of him to open up those chances, but he still got beaten pretty cleanly by those shots by Peyton Krebs and Jeff Skinner. So it goes.
This was a particularly brutal defensive showing, and that can’t be overlooked, but when you mix that with a sort of middle of the road outing for the goalies, you get a game that starts to inch toward blowout territory.
Special teams struggled
It was, if nothing else, a weird showing for the Flyers’ special teams units. The power play had a tough time with their entries again, and we didn’t see them moving the puck as crisply as they’ve at least done in flashes over this stretch. That said, they did get some nice looks, and one of Claude Giroux’s two goals came on the man-advantage. in 7:22 of 5-on-4 power play time, the Flyers put up 18 shot attempts, 11 scoring chances, and six high danger chances, which should be a good thing, but the feeling remains that they just didn’t look especially threatening for most of that time.
On the flip side, the penalty kill struggled pretty mightily as well. The numbers might suggest a fine enough showing. Like, hey! They only allowed six shot attempts, three scoring chances, and zero high chances, that’s not too bad right? And yet, the Sabres put up three goals on the power play, and frankly really embarrassed the Flyers.
Rasmus Ristolainen pointed to this after the game, that if you look at the teams that are winning a lot of games, they’re tending to win the special teams battles in those games, and he's pretty dead-on there. There’s certainly more at work with the Flyers in this skid, but this special teams struggle is certainly a real factor as well.
Wade Allison and the emotional roller coaster
With the news coming on Friday that Joel Farabee is now going to be out for a few weeks with an upper body injury, that opened up the door for Wade Allison to be called up at long last. He made his season debut yesterday, and it was certainly what we would call a high event game for him. As we’ve talked about already, this was not a good game for the Flyers, but for what it’s worth, there was a lot to like in Allison’s play. He brought good energy, was tenacious on the forecheck, and even had himself a couple of nice scoring chances that he only just missed on. In short, he was as advertised.
The bad news, though, was that he left the game late in the second period with a lower body injury. And there wasn’t really anything super dramatic that happened—earlier in the period, he look a spill in front of the net and seemed to be laboring a bit as he skated off, but it was easy to look at that and attribute it to fatigue at the end of a long shift. He sat for a bit after that, and then stopped up kind of funny later in the period and seemed to feel something he didn’t like, and went off to the locker room.
And if we want to pull a bit of optimism, this doesn’t automatically mean that his injury is bad or will keep him out longer term. He is only three games back from his last injury, and the game was really effectively over by the time he left, so it is easy to envision the training staff deciding to be extra cautious and holding him out for the rest of the game. We’ll hear more about his status over the next few days, but you can’t blame us for trying to hold on to some optimism—Allison is a player who’s already been through the ringer this season, and you’d hate to see him dealt another big blow.
Bad news bears
And on top of Allison missing the end of the game and maybe going to be missing some time going forward, this one also saw Zack MacEwen getting a little twisted up late in the third period and leaving the game early as well, laboring as he skated off.
And it’s just like... too much, you know? Every team deals with injuries throughout the course of a normal season, that’s to be expected, but this really is creeping up on “this team was somehow horribly cursed by a witch” territory. And while we’re waiting on some concrete updates from the team, with them moving Sean Couturier from IR to LTIR, it seems like some not great news is on the way. LTIR moves can be backdated, so it doesn’t necessarily mean anything has changed with Couturier’s timeline, but with a move to free up some cap space, that suggests they may be expecting someone else to be moving to IR and needing to call up... someone else. Fun times, folks.