If nothing else, it’s been an eventful start to the week for the Flyers. Sunday saw them riding a four game winning streak, and trying to make it five as a tired Maple Leafs team came to town. Things, of course, did not go as well as they might have hoped, and a decidedly messy showing for the Flyers ended in a 6-2 loss for them.
It was an effort that John Tortorella was, understandably, quite critical of. “We self-destruct the shit out of ourselves,” he said after the game, “We just can’t overcome some of the things we give them for free – and I’m not taking anything away from Toronto. They played a good game. Just too many things for free.” The message, in short, was that the Flyers needed to tighten some things up—they could have been in this game more, but the self-inflicted wounds were too much in this one.
The good news is that they were getting a chance to redeem themselves right away last night in Buffalo, and that they did, all in all. The Flyers had a legitimately strong start to this game. The energy was good and they got themselves on the board after a bit of good work along the boards in the offensive zone (by Patrick Brown and Nic Deslauriers) got the Flyers possession of the puck, which was then nicely kicked out from below the goal line to Zack MacEwen who was parked around the crease.
The Flyers would go one to score two more goals in the first period alone, turning the tables and taking advantage of a bit of loose play, a few turnovers, by the Sabres.
Now, it wasn’t a perfect game for the Flyers, in complete fairness. They got a hot start, to be sure, but things did begin to fall off for them as the game went on. They came out of the first period with an adjusted 81.72 percent in the Expected Goals share, but that dropped off to 44.07 percent in the second period, and then down to 29.61 percent in the third, as the Sabres started to find their legs and dial up the offensive pressure.
And for as much as they were doing some good work early, they also had a bit of luck working in their favor in that Craig Anderson clearly just did not have it for the Sabres in this one. But the good news for the Flyers was that Samuel Ersson showed up for them in a big way—he played lights out in this game, bailed them out several times, and ensured that the work the Flyers did early in the game was enough to secure the win (and his own first NHL shutout, to boot).
Opportunism is really the thread that carried them through this last game. They made the most of an opposing goalie not playing very well, and they made the most of a few turnovers committed by the Sabres for scoring chances and goals. They also made the most of the fact that they had a chance to rebound quickly with this game—remember, this game was supposed to take place in March, but was rescheduled due to another weather postponement in Buffalo last month. Otherwise, they would have had to stew in the bad feelings from Sunday’s loss all the way up until their next game on Wednesday. Players talk all the time—as Travis Konecny did after Sunday’s game—about appreciating the quick turnaround time in this sport, and they had an extra chance for that, to turn the page quickly and respond to their coach’s calls for them to be better, gifted to them last night. And, credit to them, they took that opportunity and ran with it too.
We wouldn’t call this the Flyers’ most complete showing of the season, but to say that that’s what they needed to deliver to get things moving in the right direction again would be an overstatement, expecting too much. They cleaned up some things in their game, not everything, but enough that combined with some stellar play from their goaltender, they were able to eek out a win over a team that’s been playing quite well of late. The next test will be how they’re able to keep this rolling with two games against a healthier Capitals team coming up, but at the very least, they were able to take a step back in the right direction last night.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick.