Less than 24 hours from their last meeting, the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres took the ice at the Wells Fargo Center once again. Instead of a flat start for the Flyers, the boys looked ready for tonight’s game. The first period was much more physical altogether than their previous meeting. The Flyers threw their bodies around and also threw the puck at the net much more. The penalty kill came up big early, killing off a 5 on 3 and leaving Buffalo scoreless through the first.
The second period started similar to the first, with lots of hits and even more shots for the Flyers. Once again, the penalty kill units got it done after killing off a Jake Voracek tripping minor halfway through the second period. The Sabres continued to pressure the defense and Brian Elliott towards the latter end of the period, but “Moose” stood on his head to give the Flyers a fighting chance. Philadelphia scored the lone goal after a Travis Konecny breakaway chance when he decided to go five-hole against Carter Hutton late in the period.
Buffalo started off the third period with a goalie change, slotting Jonas Johansson in the crease in relief of Carter Hutton. Johansson kept the Sabres in the game by making some incredible saves that seemed unlikely. The Flyers were able to get some breathing room when Kevin Hayes fed Jake Voracek on a 2 on 1 to extend their lead 2-0 further. Kevin Hayes sealed the deal with an approximate 200′ blindly shot empty-net goal to lead the Flyers to a shutout for Brian Elliot over the Sabres.
Philadelphia Versus Buffalo : Three Observations
New Look Lines and Pairs
Alain Vigneault had decided to mix things up a little during this game and went with different linemates and defensive pairs. This came as a shock to most since the lines used during warmups were the same as last night. Through the first period, the lines and pairs looked like this :
The power-play units even got a makeover as well during this game. Mixing things up throughout the lineup was the wake up that this team needed. Each line can create chemistry quickly, and the Flyers proved that tonight. The lineup continued to change throughout the night as the team had to deal with some adversity.
Injury List Getting Longer
Late in the first period, Phil Myers took a normal looking hit that landed him missing the entire second period. This hurt the Flyers on the backend due to Myers playing major minutes night in and night out. And as physical as this game was, Myers would have been extremely helpful with his size and strength. A similar normal-looking hit happened to Morgan Frost late in the second period as well.
During an offensive zone shift, Frost skated behind the net to play the puck and got bodied by Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe. Landing awkwardly and holding what looked like his shoulder/arm, Frost headed down the tunnel with Trainer Jim McCrossin. Two players that could significantly change the game’s outcome were sorely missed in the second half of the game.
Who might AV and company use if Myers and Frost aren’t healthy enough to play on Thursday against the Bruins? With Couturier out for two weeks, expect to see Chuck activate Connor Bunnaman off of the Taxi Squad and slot in somewhere on the third or fourth line. Once again, Vigneault will have to play matchmaker with his lines, but he will have plenty of options. In the absence of Myers, Mark Friedman would be the likely candidate to slot in on the blue line. Gostisbehere is still on Non-Roster Status, so the “next man up” mentality will be instilled in Friedman.
Midseason Form Moose
Brian Elliott took over the crease as planned for the Orange and Black in the latter end of the back to back against Buffalo. Turns out, that was the best decision Alain Vigneault made during this Buffalo series. Moose turned away 40 shots in his 41st career shutout. At 35 years young, Elliott is still proving that he has what it takes to play in the NHL. Coming up with big saves and shutting the door on multiple penalty kills, Elliott stood tall in the crease.
Brian Elliot remains a smart signing by Chuck Fletcher in the offseason to serve as a mentor for the young Carter Hart. Showing Hart what it takes to bounce back in a game after getting blanked the night before is exactly what the young netminder will have to learn as his career progresses. Let’s expect to see more of Elliott in the 7 remaining back to back sets that the Flyers have to endure this season.
A bounce-back shutout win is exactly what the Flyers and their fans needed after their previous outing with the Sabres. At times, the play was still sloppy, but this team dug in and kept playing hard to come out on top. Once again, the fourth line of Laughton, Raffl, and Aube-Kubel appeared as the strongest of all the lines and seemed to create a lot of animosity for Buffalo.
Ivan Provorov once again proved that he was “The Russian Machine” after playing a strong and commanding game. Provy blocked a shot on a first-period penalty kill that went off of his hand, and he just shrugged it off and hit the ice for his next shift. Early in the second period, Provorov skated down on Carter Hutton and got hit late, causing him to crash into the net. Needless to say, this young veteran has earned that “A” on his chest and every minute of ice time that he is given.
Philadelphia has a day of rest before traveling to Boston to take on the Bruins in TD Garden on Thursday, January 21st. Expect young netminder Carter Hart to reclaim the crease against Boston in which he had posted a 2-1-0 record, and a .898 save percentage against the Bruins last year.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire