Sabres 6, Flyers 1: Things get worse

I should’ve knocked on wood. Stupid.

The Flyers certainly played a hockey game tonight. It was a pretty bad time for everyone involved besides the Sabres. What happened in it? Guess you’ll have to read below.

First Period

Aside from Sean Couturier hitting the post on the opening play of the game, the Orange & Black came out flat in the first period, again playing dump-and-change hockey and looking lackadaisical on the forecheck. For a team that generates the fourth highest share of their shots via the forecheck or controlled cycles established by said forecheck, that’s less than ideal.

Things were chaotic through the first eight minutes or so, but a Sam Reinhart goal that’ll end up on Weird NHL’s blooper reel helped the Sabres take control. Honestly, at this point the luck of the Flyers this year is comically bad. The deflection off of Braun here is peak “maybe we’re cursed” material. It’s depressing to think that after the unlucky 2018-19 season that we all suffered through a while back, the Flyers are still a cocktail of cosmic humor and searing pain.

After breaking even in terms of xG for a few minutes, the Sabres scored again thanks to Curtis Lazar, and from there ran shit for the rest of the first period. It was a not-so-great start for Justin Braun, whose blocked shot started the play that resulted in Buffalo’s second goal of the night (although, to his credit, he played the subsequent partial breakaway reasonably well. Gotta cover the trailer, boys).

The Flyers didn’t do much of anything for the remainder of the first period, as per the norm. Chances were had, goals were almost scored, and none of that mattered because “almost there” just isn’t good enough for this team anymore. When the development period for a gestating core runs out, it’s a results-oriented game, and the results were poor.

Second Period

The Flyers took the reins in the second period, crushing the Sabres in both shot attempts and xG through the first fourteen minutes or so. The puck retrieval on every line was better, the vets looked dangerous, and it helped that Buffalo took a penalty early on (a Tage Thompson high stick). Ivan Provorov managed goal to make things a bit closer, even if it was a bit fluky. In a game where Braun had already netted an own-goal, an own-goal by Buffalo was only fair trade.

Unfortunately, these are the 2020-21 Flyers we’re talking about. Someone was bound to make a defensive gaffe, and everybody’s least favorite defenseman Erik Gustafsson was the player of choice tonight. After floating around and leaving his man visibly open on three or four plays, the Goose got bodied in front of the net when Steven Fogarty (not related to John) potted his first NHL goal.

The onslaught of horrific defensive plays wouldn’t stop there. After a few neutral zone sequences that were about as fun as a splinter under your fingernail, the Flyers gave up an entry and sustained some pressure. Justin Braun got caught puck watching, and Casey Mittelstadt, he of “what a bust” fame, scored a goal five-hole on poor Brian Elliott. Alex Lyon came into the game immediately afterwards. Things were not going well, folks.

A Henri Jokiharju delay of game gave the Flyers a power play with a chance to make things a little more interesting, but alas, Philly couldn’t score despite a few quality chances. It’s worth noting that Alex Lyon made a nice save or two in this period before time expired. Is he the answer in net? Probably not, but honestly at this point he can’t be much worse than the standard offerings on a team with a collective save percentage of .825 (!) or so.

Third Period

The beginning of the period saw a few notable plays, including a stellar back check by Michael Raffl (noted player of 500 games) that prevented what would have likely been a great chance for the Sabres. Another “so close” play occurred when a pass to a wide-open Travis Sanheim swung wide. The Flyers clearly looked better on the forecheck (notice how I’m emphasizing the importance of that), but it all felt too little, too late.

Claude Giroux and Jeff Skinner went into the boards hard when the captain assisted in breaking up a 2-on-1. Giroux came up gingerly and skated to the bench, but looked fine later on. Subsequently, Alex Lyon had to make a big stop on a Tobias Rieder shot before getting toppled into the net. Nobody responded. Shocker. The Sabres tilted play back in their favor after that, racking up shots and generally wreaking havoc in the offensive zone with minimal effort.

Claude Giroux again tried to do it all himself, stealing the puck and getting a nice shot off for a rebound, but nobody was home to clean up the garbage. Alex Lyon continued to make saves that no other Flyers goalie this season could provide, cementing just how dire this nightmare reality is. When people are comparing you to the very end of the Michel Therrien Canadiens, you’ve truly reached a new low.

Oh yeah, the Flyers got a power play opportunity late in the period thanks to a Tage Thompson trip. Did it matter? No. Repeated failures on entries and breakouts handed Brandon Montour an empty net goal with 5:07 left in the third. For good measure, Montour added another goal on a justice Lyon rebound, notably dunked home in front of a staring Erik Gustafsson. Fire that Swedish pylon into the sun at this point.

From there, everyone just kinda skated around and looked like they wanted to go home. Good for the Sabres, to be honest; they deserved to win this game as opposed to the Flyers. Congrats on not setting the all-time record for futility, I suppose. As for Philly, the season reached a new low, and all of the worst doubts that the fanbase held about this team were confirmed. They’re dead in the water. Everything sucks.

Three Big Things

  1. It’s time to blow stuff up. As my father, who rarely texts me in the middle of games, so eloquently put, “Lackluster. Disjointed. Uninterested. Fundamentals missing. D zone coverage lacking.” Thank you, old man, for succinctly summarizing everybody’s feelings about this team. Players need to be moved, people need to be fired, and a shred of properly placed accountability needs to be found.
  2. This season might get even worse, folks. Brace yourselves as we slog through more upsetting Carter Hart starts, annoying coach quotes and a general lack of anything good happening. This is what it feels like to be back at the bottom. I’m sure you all know the feeling well.
  3. Alex Lyon played well tonight. I’d like to see him get another start sometime soon while Brian Elliott takes a break, but with Carter Hart coming back from his “rest and reset” period I’m not sure that will happen. Kudos to him for coming off the bench and playing a mostly solid game. Made a few big saves, generally didn’t have a big goof-up, etc.

Post Game Tunes

Losing sucks, but this song is helping me stave off the special blend of anguish that it bestows.

In the time of chimpanzees, the Flyers are indeed monkeys. Good night, and as always, go Flyers.