The Buffalo Sabres are still the Buffalo Sabres.
Even on the brink of having their first successful season and making the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, they can still collapse and look like they’re trying to tank for Connor McDavid all over again.
Thanks to the Sabres not really caring about shooting the puck and letting the Flyers walk all over them in a three-goal first period, Samuel Ersson earns a shutout in his fifth ever appearance and fourth start in the NHL and the Flyers earned a well-deserved 4-0 win that had a dash of offense, some mediocre defense, and a really good dude in between the pipes.
Before this game could even really get going and after just a couple whistles, the unlikeliest of scorers managed to score a goal which quintessentially describes his game.
Zack MacEwen managed to get on the board, his first goal in 28 games, and he did it by barely even looking at the puck. The fourth line powered its way through the ice to try and disrupt the Buffalo net and somehow the puck ended up in the back of the net after taking a couple bounces off some bodies. Scoring without any real intention or shot attempt is a skill and MacEwen displayed it.
The Flyers went on to have an abnormal surge of offense, as the Sabres essentially allowed them to waltz right into their zone and force some saves. Philadelphia had the first six shots on goal of this game and Buffalo needed a streak of luck and a breakaway to get their first real chance against Samuel Ersson.
And of course, that led to another easy zone entry and another shot on goal that went past Craig Anderson. This time, the puck actually came off a stick.
Textbook sharp shooting from Joel Farabee pic.twitter.com/QPY14W3N2O— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 10, 2023
You can almost hear a feint woopwoopwoopwoopwaaaaah as Anderson does his best Curly impression for a Three Stooges tribute act.
Stumbling goaltender aside, Joel Farabee absolutely let it rip after exposing a Buffalo defenseman for being a little sloppy with the puck at his own blue line. That laser was Farabee’s ninth goal of the season and he has now scored a goal in three of his last four games. Pretty damn nice!
Just 87 seconds after Farabee scored, Noah Cates got on the action as the Flyers were getting rewarded for their avalanche of chances in the first period.
It wasn’t as pure a goal as Farabee’s snipe or as whimsically silly as MacEwen’s, but it was just simple, pure, and clean hard work where Cates was able to score his fifth goal of the season on an impressive full-team forecheck that put the Sabres under pressure.
The first period ends with the Flyers up by three goals and controlling the game more than they ever have this season (probably). They already had nine high-danger chances, compared to the Sabres’ two and had taken a whole 18(!) more shot attempts than their opponents. Some beautiful hockey. It was weird.
While the middle frame wasn’t as fun or exciting or full of that good stuff known as “goals,” it just pushed the Flyers further into domination over their opponent by shutting them down and letting Ersson take care of the rest.
Because of the nature of the sport and score effects being what they are, Buffalo managed to get more offense going through the second period than they did in the first, finishing with more than double the shot attempts and a whole lot more everything else. But still, Ersson stood on his head and looked completely comfortable taking this period as his own and cleaning up any defensive miscues the Flyers blue line had. Honestly, it’s weird to see someone other than Carter Hart do this sort of thing.
The second period finished with zero goes scored during the 20 minutes, so the Flyers still led by three goals and had a miraculous 29 shots on goal. It was insane.
To start the third period, well, the Flyers went ahead and furthered their lead after not scoring a goal in the 20 minutes prior.
Some can only dream of having the connection that Kevin Hayes and Wade Allison have. pic.twitter.com/PW3rwpHXTi— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 10, 2023
Wade Allison gets his fifth goal of the season on a quintessential Wade Allison goal where he just knew where he needed to be and let his centerman Kevin Hayes do most of the work to earn the tally.
After this, the Flyers really let everything go. The Sabres had the puck so damn much and had a hell of a lot of offensive control compared to our favorite team. At 5-on-5, the Flyers managed to get just seven entire shot attempts in the entire third period; just completely sitting on the back foot and hoping that they can get enough saves from Ersson to keep a well-earned 28-save shutout.
Somehow, Ersson’s record remains a perfect 4-0-0 and he is making some decisions even more difficult for this team. Either way, it was nice to see this team dominate and get a win, even if we don’t want to think about it when the summer rolls around.
Can Samuel Ersson do this forever?
There is a timeline for the Flyers’ goaltending situation. Carter Hart is here, Samuel Ersson is here, and Felix Sandstrom is down in the AHL on a conditioning stint that can only last 14 days. So, the Flyers have some time to make their decision, but unfortunately Ersson is the only one that doesn’t require waivers to be sent down to Lehigh Valley, but, like, c’mon. With some performances like this, you might just need to send Sandstrom (who has an .888 save percentage in the NHL, so it’s not like he’ll get claimed anyways) down to the AHL and keep Ersson where he is thriving.
Depth scoring is nice to see
Even if Travis Konecny clearly wanted to join in on the scoring fun, he still finished the game with two assists and more depth guys get in on the fun. None of the four players that scored goals tonight for the Flyers have hit double digits halfway through the season, so, generally, it does feel like a more healthy win than just relying on Konecny to do all the heavy lifting offensively.
Next, the Flyers are hosting the Washington Capitals on Wednesday which is a game that could go either way, oddly enough. We do know that Alex Ovechkin is going to score at least one goal, though.