Flyers 5: Takeaways from Tuesday’s Flyers-Sabres Game
Much like the first two games the Flyers played this season, Tuesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres wasn’t perfect. It was enough to get the job done, especially with more adversity thrown their way.
The Flyers got an outstanding performance from Brian Elliott in goal. They got clutch goals when they needed them the most to take control of the game on the scoreboard. They lost two more players due to injury, and await the update on both, but saw players step up in big situations.
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s 3-0 Flyers win against the Sabres.
1. Moose Crossing
From start to finish, Brian Elliott was on top of his game. The Flyers opened things up by taking two penalties early, giving the Sabres an early 5-on-3. Elliott made his first big save of the night there, stopping Taylor Hall from the slot.
As the Sabres grabbed some momentum through the first period, Elliott remained outstanding, making a number of incredible saves. There were a couple of Jeff Skinner at the side of the net that specifically come to mind. He stopped Sam Reinhart from in close a few times. He also had the benefit of getting help from the posts a few times too.
After the first period, the pace of the game seemed to settle more and Elliott maintained his sharp play. His positioning was good and you could see how well he was tracking from the start.
You can’t expect perfection every night, but with Carter Hart getting the bulk of the playing time, having another goalie you can turn to and trust to be successful and help the team win will be crucial. Elliott showed his ability in this game, and just how reliable he can be for this team as things go forward.
2. Konecny Strikes Again
After getting back in the scoring column on Friday, Travis Konecny was at it again on Tuesday. Late in the second period, Konecny found some open space and Oskar Lindblom made a nice play to get the puck to him in open space.
Konecny cut in on goal on the breakaway, went to the backhand and slipped the puck through the five-hole of Carter Hutton for the game’s first goal with 2:09 remaining in the second period.
First of all, it was once again a timely goal for Konecny. As the Flyers had done in the first two periods of last Wednesday’s win and as Konecny had done on the transition rush in Friday’s third period, the Flyers got a goal late in a period or at a timely moment when it was really needed most.
To that point, the Flyers had been getting good zone time, certainly much better than they had on Monday, but were still watching the Sabres draw closer to scoring and getting the better of the chances. Konecny’s goal seemed to turn the tide and crush some of the Sabres’ energy.
If you were worried that Konecny had lost his scoring touch from one bad playoffs, think again. He’s now up to four goals on the young season in four games, and following a night when everyone on the team collectively wasn’t close to their best, Konecny led the way with the offense again.
3. Stepping Up
It’s been a rough first four games on the injury front for the Flyers.
Shayne Gostisbehere was placed on the COVID-19 unavailable list a few days before the season began, and remains on there over a week later. Sean Couturier played 45 seconds of the team’s second game and then left with an injury that will keep him out for two weeks at least. Now, two more players could be looking at missed time.
Late in the first period, Phil Myers collided with Jake McCabe and was in discomfort. He left the game then and did not return. In the second period, Morgan Frost – fresh into the lineup for Couturier – took a hit behind the Buffalo net and came off the ice huddled over in pain, perhaps somewhere near the wrist or arm. Both players will have MRIs and an update is expected on Wednesday.
That left the Flyers with 11 forwards and five defensemen for the remainder of the game, and in front of Elliott, that group stepped up following those losses to score the three goals needed in this game and keep the foot on the gas to finish off the result. It’s not going to help this team long-term to be dealing with injuries, and we won’t jump to conclusions on either player who left the game on Tuesday, but it certainly doesn’t look good early on.
That said, the Flyers definitely got guys to step up in their place. One notable one in particular was Travis Sanheim, who played over 25 minutes in the game and had a really strong defensive showing, making good plays in one-on-one situations and covering his ground nicely.
“I think we will see it a lot more this year with guys stepping up. There are minutes out there that need to be eaten up by our D,” Elliott said. “He’s a big, strong guy. It’s nice to see when he can make that nice little quick play to the middle and we are out of our zone in a hurry. The more he plays, the more confident he will get. He can step up in the offensive zone, too and create some damage up there, too. It’s nice to see for sure as a goalie.”
The Flyers will be looking for more of that in games to come, especially if they will be without some bodies for longer than expected.
4. “Our Best Compete”
So let’s get to beyond the scoring and the injuries and the goaltending in this one, and get to the play in front of Elliott. Was this a perfect game from the Flyers? No. Was it more of what they need to be doing to have success? Yes.
From the very start of the game, you could see that the Flyers were playing with much more energy and dedication to compete. It doesn’t always translate to perfect execution, and the Flyers still struggled in that area during the first period, but as the game progressed, there was definitely more sustained time in the offensive zone and a stretch of time when the Sabres didn’t have the same push at 5-on-5.
Buffalo did get some power-play opportunities that shifted the momentum at even strength and forced the Flyers to be better in their own end and weather the storm. Even though the Sabres finished with 40 shots on goal, that would be more of a reflection of their surges late in the third after the Flyers had essentially sealed the deal with the second and third goals. As the game was nearing the halfway point, the Sabres had just 12 shots on goal. They found another gear when it came to throwing shots on net and trying to make something happen.
You certainly can’t overlook the effort the Sabres put in either, but the Flyers really did show a lot of compete in their game, especially once they were down to 11 forwards and five defensemen. Alain Vigneault agreed.
At the end of the day, I thought the guys in front of [Elliott], this was in my estimation, our best compete,” Vigneault said. “We weren’t perfect out there. They obviously had some good looks. As far as competing, working hard and trying to play the right way, this was our best game so far this year and we have to continue to get better.”
It’s an area the Flyers will continue to address, but they finally started to show shades of the team they can be with sustained pressure offensively. As they get away from home for the first time, that could only help the team grow even further.
5. Hitting the Road
Next up for the Flyers is their first road trip. They will play the next four games away from home, starting on Thursday in Boston against the Bruins.
There’s not much to be said for playing at home. You go to practice, you go to the arena, you go back home and pretty much don’t go anywhere else. But players are still able to live somewhat normal lives when the team is at home. On the road, it’s a different story.
Travel is different. Staying in a hotel – and not being able to go anywhere – is different. This can be a thing that unites a team and brings them closer together or it can be a process that translates to the play on the ice.
This gives the Flyers their first opportunity to be on the road and together completely as a team. Two games in Boston for the remainder of the week start the schedule, and then they should get some brief time back at home before heading to face New Jersey for two games next week.
Their play in these next four games specifically could certainly set the tone for how the rest of the season could go, especially as they come closer to ending January and embarking on the remainder of the season.