Flyers 5: Takeaways from Monday’s Flyers-Sabres Game
The Flyers weren’t going to win every game of the season. That’s simply unrealistic. But there are expectations to at least be competitive, at least try to keep each game somewhat interesting.
The Flyers failed miserably at that on Monday night.
Perhaps it was overlooking an opponent that didn’t make the playoffs a season ago. Perhaps it was a sense that, even when they don’t have their best, they have been getting bounces and finding a way so far this season. Whatever the reason, it is no excuse. The Flyers didn’t have it on Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres. That’s a game they can no longer get back.
The good news is that they get back on the ice right away against the same team with a chance to prove otherwise. It would certainly take a lot to replicate the way this game went.
Here are 5 takeaways from Monday’s blowout loss to the Sabres.
1. “I’m Embarrassed By How We Played Tonight”
Alain Vigneault didn’t hide his frustration after the game. The expectations are high, and early in the season can dictate how the season will go. Losing 6-1 to a team that didn’t make the playoffs a season ago and that doesn’t appear to have near as high a chance to do so this season in a difficult division isn’t the way to start.
From the start, the Flyers didn’t seem to have anything working for them. They had a couple of good shifts early and quickly drew a penalty to get a power play. But pretty much from the end of a rather lackluster power play for the remainder of the game, they didn’t have anything to match the Sabres’ intensity.
Buffalo came out hungry for their first win of the season. When they really got ahead, they started to push even harder, ensuring that this result would go their way.
On the other end, it was an embarrassing effort for the Flyers, a team that had two days off to find their footing. No one could fault the Flyers for some struggles on Friday when they lost a player just moments into the game. That’s understandable in a strange season where every game matters, training camp was shortened to a week and you didn’t have the benefit of a preseason.
But after a day of recovery and a day of practice, it was as if the Flyers didn’t work on anything. They looked lost, slow and sloppy from the start. They had their share of those moments in the first two games too. It just didn’t hurt them.
2. “We Just Got Out-worked”
The goalie can take the brunt of any loss. There is a lot that falls on his shoulders. In this game, Carter Hart was not at his best by any stretch, but he didn’t exactly have much help either.
Hart was shown the door after the Sabres made it 4-0 in the second period, making 18 saves on 22 shots. By that point, a game that had somehow looked manageable – a 1-0 deficit after the first period and 2-0 early in the period – had snowballed before the game had reached the halfway point.
Hart’s quote here though speaks volumes to what was going on. At the time Hart was pulled, not only was the score 4-0 in favor of Buffalo, but shots were 22-9 as well. This wasn’t just a game where the score was getting out of hand. This was an onslaught.
The reason for such a disparity in the shot totals was the lack of work ethic that the Flyers displayed. They lost battle after battle along the boards, behind the net, in the neutral zone. The Sabres came in on the attack, pressuring the puck carrier in the neutral zone and giving their all on the forecheck to not only win battles, but maintain possession. It led to much more extensive time in the attacking zone.
The Flyers could barely establish offensive zone presence for more than a shift. They were flat-out stymied in this game.
3. We Need to Be Better with the Puck”
This is another glaring concern. In addition to the lost battles, the overall play with the puck was atrocious. The Flyers haven’t played perfect with the puck in any game this season. The key to the first two games was making plays when they were needed. They showed they could score. They showed they could capitalize on an error.
In this game, they couldn’t get out of their own way. There were errant exit passes. There were own-zone turnovers. There were forced passes in the offensive zone, trying to create something that wasn’t even there for the taking.
Vigneault made a great point about what this can do for the opposition. Unforced errors with the puck help to fuel the transition game of the opposition. It gives them the opportunity to come back down the ice with speed and numbers.
What it did for the Flyers was keep them on their heels for most of the night. It prevents you from getting effective minutes in the offensive zone. It prevents you from navigating the neutral zone to gain entry with control. It prevents you from even exiting your own zone.
The Flyers don’t have much time to correct this, but they need to in order to be successful moving forward this season.
4. “We Just Need Guys to Step Up”
The Flyers played most of Friday’s game without Sean Couturier, and while the structure defensively was certainly off at times, they weathered the storm and found a way to win. Two points in the standings is never ugly, no matter how the game looked on the ice.
The belief is that the Flyers have the forward depth to account for Couturier’s absence offensively, but the big question was filling his shoes defensively.
It was unfair to use this game to completely judge Morgan Frost, a player making his season debut, playing for the first time since last March, serving as a direct lineup replacement to Couturier for the first two periods of this game. He didn’t play overly poorly in his first game, showing moments with and without the puck. But on a night where the team collectively didn’t play well, it’s not fair to single out Frost and try to nit-pick at everything specifically involving him.
The bottom line is that this team needs more from everybody. They need players to step up in every aspect. They need more production and better defensive responsibility and discipline from their forwards. They need structure and support from their defensemen. They need their goaltending to be on point.
Now, it’s understandable that this puzzle isn’t completely together in one piece three games into the season, especially with the lack of a preseason. It could take five, six, seven games into the schedule before it really starts to look like it is completely clicking. But it certainly can’t look like this, not if the Flyers want to be well above water when their top-line center does return.
5. “It’s Payback Already”
Now to the good news from this game: it’s only one game and you get to face the same opponent tomorrow.
This unique schedule doesn’t help teams much when it comes to games like these. This is immediately a lost game in the standings, no matter if it comes now or in April. But this unique schedule also means that the Flyers get to come right back and face the same team again the next day. There’s no time to wallow in the defeat or have to keep it in the memory bank too long.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who scored the lone goal in the loss, noted that playing the same team the next day means “it’s payback already.” That’s certainly the right mindset. It gives you a chance to face the same team, avoid making the same mistakes and get back on the right side of the result.
It’s also important to look at this game and remember that it is one result on a 56-game schedule. Sure, each game holds more magnitude, and this is a lost game for sure. But there is a chance to erase it as quickly as the next 24 hours. Make the most of that opportunity, and this game becomes a little less difficult to take.