Buckle up, Philly fans: you’re entering the Age of Tage. The Flyers hit the road after a blowout loss to the Leafs for their first game against the Buffalo Sabres this season. It’s the first time they’ll be facing Tage Thompson, who’s already scored over thirty goals and has three hat tricks this season—including one five-goal game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It appears that Thompson’s scoring surge last season was no fluke, and that he is going to be a star player for a Sabres team on the rise. They’re 8-2-0 in their last ten, and are still very much in the mix for a wildcard spot in the competitive Atlantic Division. Even if they miss this year, there’s a lot to like about their roster: young, talented players like Thompson, Owen Power, and Rasmus Dahlin make up a core that’ll keep the team competitive for years to come. Maybe Flyers management will take note.
The Sabres’ biggest issue this season has been in net. Veterans Ben Bishop and Eric Comrie are on injured reserve, which has left 41-year old Craig Anderson to shoulder the load. He’s posted a very good .923 save percentage, but he can’t start every game—enter Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Besides having one of the most fun names in hockey, UPL, as he’s called, has been a savior for the Sabres. His .902 save percentage might not be as good as Anderson’s, but UPL’s sporting a 9-3-1 record in 13 starts this season, and currently on a personal six win streak. Pretty good for an emergency loan player.
Players to Watch
I will continue to put TK here as long as his goal streak continues. He’s up to six games now after scoring against the Leafs—which must’ve felt great after he got tackled by Mark Giordano in an earlier matchup this year. Konecny briefly went up the tunnel after the goal, giving us all a scare that he’d reinjured his hand, but all seemed well and he quickly returned.
Tony DeAngelo & Morgan Frost
These two are paired together because they did not have a good showing against the Leafs. TDA was benched after a single second period shift, perhaps rightfully so after four horrendous turnovers, one of them leading to a Leafs goal. Frost wasn’t benched, but two of his failed plays turned into goals against. It’ll be interesting to see what John Tortorella does with both players in their match against the Sabres.
If you’ll recall (how could you forget, honestly), Ristolainen used to play for Buffalo until the Flyers acquired him in exchange for Robert Hagg, the 2021 14th overall pick, and a second round pick in the upcoming 2023 draft. How’s that panned out? Not great. Ristolainen, in the first year of a five year, $5.1 million AAV contract, has two points in 32 games and was healthy scratched earlier in the year. Still, facing off against your old team can lead to some unexpected opportunities—maybe Risto will go on a tear back in his old stomping grounds.
The man’s a walking highlight reel. It seems like every game he’s making some incredible play or scoring a ridiculous goal. Thompson finished last season with 38 goals and 68 points; in 37 games this season he has 31 goals and 56 points. Not only is he replicating last season’s scoring leap, he’s improving—to the tune of a 19.1 shooting percentage which, funnily enough, is comparable to Travis Konecny’s 19.4. What a weird season, you guys.
The game starts at 7 p.m. at KeyBank Center in Buffalo as the Flyers look to get back in the win column.