They had to lose eventually. They did not have to lose in such an awful fashion.
This one was a stinker. A dud. An abysmal effort that showed the Flyers at their very worst. Already short-handed with Sean Couturier out for a minimum of two weeks, the Flyers lineup shuffle was minimal l but the difference between with and without Couturier was rather stunning.
The Flyers faced a young and hungry Sabres team and seem frightfully ill-equipped to deal with them. In every aspect of the game, the Flyers were in 2nd. The Flyers lack of team speed showed as the Sabres thwarted most counter-attacks and were able to launch their own with little resistance.
Lack of practice and chemistry has shown with the defense. Ivan Provorov hasn’t taken to being paired with Justin Braun quite as he did to Matt Niskanen last season, and there are some grown pains with the Gustafsson Hagg pairing. What may be most concerning is the lack of obvious improvement from the Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim pair. Both were expected to make strides this season but have yet to meet that expectation.
The offense has the same problems that plagued the orange and black in previous seasons. The Flyers couldn’t complete passes and transition through the neutral zone. That lead to them failing to get shots consistently and present an effective attack. With the Sabres stacking the neutral zone the Flyers were forced back on defense frequently and the Sabres outshot the Flyers badly in the first period.
The Flyers were down an 11-4 margin on the shot sheet and 1-0 on the scoreboard after the first period. Curtis Lazar grabbed a bouncing puck in the neutral zone and drove wide beyond the outstretched stick of Phil Myers and ripped a backhand shot. It appeared to tip off Myers and ended up beating Carter Hart, who was slightly off-angle.
The 2nd period saw the Sabres really stretch their lead. Sam Reinheart scored consecutive goals, and Lazar added his 2nd of the contest. Braun had a breakdown on Reinheart’s first, failing to block Taylor Hall’s passing lane on the powerplay and being so on top of Hart that he knocked the stick from his hand. On Reinheart’s 2nd Hart failed to be able to play the puck, Myers lost the race to the puck then blocked the wrong side on the boards, and Sanheim found himself in the wrong spot on the ice, failing to recover when the puck arrived at Reinheart’s stick in the slot.
Lazar’s 2nd goal came when the Flyers began to chase the Sabres around and simply could not control the puck and exit the zone. Gustafsson lost coverage in front of the net and the tap in was the end of the evening for Carter Hart. He made 18 saves on 22 shots.
Brian Elliot entered the game and will start the next contest against the Sabres but there was not the bounce that would get the Flyers back in this one. Instead, they got pinned in their zone again and after Robert Hagg iced the puck, lost the ensuing faceoff and Henri Jokiharju threw a shot on net that found Eric Gustafsson’s skate and then the back of the net.
The Flyers found a brief escape with their only goal of the game. A Sanheim breakout pass to Michael Raffl saw him make a strong shoulder dip and survive a check attempt to create a 2 on 1 opportunity. He flopped a pass over to Nicolas Aube-Kubel for everyone’s first of the season.
The game was unfortunately not over. NAK took a double minor by hitting Rasmus Dahlin with a superman punch which will be looked at and on the ensuing powerplay, Victor Olofsson benefitted from the Taylor Hall, Jack Eichel combination to seal the game at 6-1.
The Flyers let themselves get punched in the mouth. Rasmus Ristolainen was allowed free reign and took successful runs at Jake Voracek and Travis Konecny. After the game, Alain Vigneault stated the players should be embarrassed by what happened. He sent his message and we’ll see if it translates to the Flyers performance tonight.