Wrapup: Sabres 6 - Flyers 1
The Philadelphia Flyers got thoroughly outworked, outhustled, outchanced and outhit on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The result was an ugly 6-1 blowout loss. Philadelphia was not nearly good enough on either side of the puck, and a dialed-in Sabres team made them pay.
Curtis Lazar (1st) sent the Sabres to the first intermission with a 1-0 lead. Sam Reinhart (1st, and 2nd) extended the lead with two goals in the first half of the second period. Lazar (2nd of the game) had a slam dunk goal to make it 4-0 and end Carter Hart's night early. Henri Jokiharju (1st) and Nicolas Aube-Kubel traded off third period goals. Victor Olofsson scored a garbage time goal of his own with 1:11 left in the game.
Hart stopped 18 of 22 shots before being pulled at 8:09 of the second period. Brian Ellliott went the rest of the way, stopping 12 of 14 shots. Carter Hutton denied 21 of 22 Flyers shots.
There wasn't much positive news to take away from the game from a Flyers' standpoint.
"I think if I’m a player, if I’m part of the coaching staff which I am, I’m embarrassed by how we played tonight. I’m happy we can get right back at it tomorrow and prove what type of team we are. That’s the opportunity we are going to get. Within a little while here, we will be right back out on the ice. I expect a much better game from us. Much better execution. Much harder to play against and I’m confident that that is what we are going to see tomorrow," Vigneault said after the game.
The Flyers went 0-for-1 on the power play and 1-for-2 on the penalty kill.
For analysis and period-by-period stats from the game, click here: Trampled by Buffalo
GAME 4: FLYERS vs. SABRES
In the final game of a season-opening four-game homestand and the second half of a back-to-back set, Alain Vigneault's Philadelphia Flyers (2-1-0) will rematch with Ralph Krueger's Buffalo Sabres (1-2-0) at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night. Game time is 7:00 p.m. ET. The game will be televised locally on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
On the heels of Buffalo's 6-1 win on Monday, tonight's game is the second of eight meetings between the teams. The clubs will play each other at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo on Feb. 26 and 28. On March 9, the teams come back to Philadelphia. Next, there's a back-to-back in Buffalo on March 29 and 30 before the season series concludes at the Wells Fargo Center on April 11.
The Flyers will not have a morning skate today. Brian Elliott, who relieved Carter Hart in the second period last night, was already the scheduled starter for this game regardless of the outcome of the first game. That plan is still in place, per Vigneault.
Vigneault made large-scale line combination changes in the third period of Monday's game. He changed around all three defense pairings: Travis Sanheim moved from left to right defense and skated with Ivan Provorov, Erik Gustafsson moved from right to left defense and skated with Phil Myers, and Justin Braun moved down to the third pairing to skate with Robert Hägg. Up front, three of the four right wingers shuffled lines, with only the fourth line holding untouched. Travis Konecny moved up to Kevin Hayes' line. Joel Farabee went to Nolan Patrick's line. Jakub Voracek went to Morgan Frost's line.
On the whole, Vigneault said, the bottom six of the Flyers' forward lineup outplayed the top half of the lineup but, collectively, the performance was nowhere close to what was needed.
"I thought for the most part Scott [Laughton's] line played hard tonight. They did a lot of good things. Morgan [Frost], for a guy that hadn’t played [since March 11, 2020] I thought for the most part he played a good game. He played a smart game. Obviously, we can all play better and that is what we’re going to need to do tomorrow," Vigneault said.
Whether any of the third period changes hold -- or if there are other alterations -- remains to be seen. Vigneault will speak at 4:30 p.m. ET this afternoon.
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (COVID-19 protocol) remained off the ice on Tuesday and was placed on non-roster status because he is ineligible for injured reserve. He has been out unavailable since Jan. 9. The Flyers activated forward Connor Bunnaman from the taxi squad to the game-available roster yesterday.
The Sabres were by far the hungrier and more assertive team on Monday. A game-day decision on Monday after leaving the Sabres' return game 2-1 loss against Washington and then missing practice on Sunday, Sam Reinhart took first-star honors on Monday with power play and even strength goals that turned a 1-0 lead into a three-goal cushion.
Carter Hutton, who was not originally supposed to start on Monday but got the call after Linus Ullmark was excused to attend to a personal matter, flirted with a shutout until an otherwise meaningless goal by Nicolas Aube-Kubel got the Flyers on the board late in the game. Hutton wasn't tested much in the game, but made the saves he needed to make.
Statistically, the Sabres had the edge on Monday in every meaningful process category: shots on net (five on five attempts were slightly in Philly's favor, but meaningless to how this particular game progressed), blocks, hits, quality of chances, turnovers, faceoffs and special teams.
"We really, really were able to build off of the second game against Washington. Today, we took our chances and used them. More than anything, one of our best neutral zone games since I’ve been here in both directions. Just the way we defended, the gapping of the defensemen, the tracking of the forwards was outstanding right through the game," head coach Ralph Krueger said after the game.
"Then the importance of the power play and its need to be the difference-maker. Great penalty kill early in the game. Strong power play. That combination really launched the kind of game we want to play and build on. We’re just really pleased to get a confirmation of the process like this here today in Philadelphia."
The Sabres, like the Flyers, will not have a morning skate on Tuesday. Krueger will speak after a team meeting, including a potential update on Ullmark and his availability. The head coach indicated that it will be up to the player on when and whether he wants to discuss the nature of his personal situation.
(based on Monday's starters and original Tuesday plan)
28 Claude Giroux - 13 Kevin Hayes - 86 Joel Farabee
25 James van Riemsdyk - 19 Nolan Patrick - 93 Jakub Voracek
23 Oskar Lindblom - 48 Morgan Frost - 11 Travis Konecny
12 Michael Raffl- 21 Scott Laughton- 62 Nicolas Aube-Kubel
9 Ivan Provorov - 6 Travis Sanheim 61 Justin Braun
6 Travis Sanheim - 5 Phil Myers
8 Robert Hägg - 56 Erik Gustafsson
37 Brian Elliott
[79 Carter Hart]
PP1: Provorov, Giroux, Hayes, Frost, TK
PP2: Farabee, JVR, Patrick, Voracek, Gustafsson
Scratches: 14 Sean Couturier (costochondral separation), 53 Shayne Gostisbehere (COVID-19 protocol, INR), 3 Mark Friedman (healthy) , 82 Connor Bunnaman (healthy).
4 Taylor Hall - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
68 Victor Olofsson - 12 Eric Staal - 24 Dylan Cozens
13 Tobias Rieder - 20 Cody Eakin - 74 Rasmus Asplund
53 Jeff Skinner - 27 Curtis Lazar - 15 Riley Sheahan
19 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 62 Brandon Montour
33 Colin Miller - 10 Henri Jokiharju
40 Carter Hutton
[34 Jonas Johansson]
PP1: Reinhart, Eichel, Hall, Olofsson, Dahlin
PP2: Skinner, Cozens, Staal, Thompson, Ristolainen
Scratches: 44 Matt Irwin (healthy), 21 Kyle Okposo (upper body), 28 Zemgus Girgensons (IR, hamstring surgery), 35 Linus Ullmark (personal), 72 Tage Thompson (healthy).