The Flyers may have yielded a chunk of their home ice advantage with their loss on Thursday night, but with a win today and a split in the first pair, the Eastern Conference's top road team should still be in plenty good shape. Despite the frustrating 1-0 result, the Flyers showed some great things in the opener. There's certainly room for some very specific improvements though, and no room for regression in any areas.
Image by Fresh Design/Doug Zenzel
For instance, they can't afford not to come out hungry and ready to hit and grind out puck battles. That was something they did well early in the opener and can't dial back at all. If anything, they need to ratchet it up, and they have to keep it going whether they falter or not. The Sabres showed that they can exploit a mistake, and to be honest, I don't think we saw the best of what they have to offer either. The Flyers need to prepare for an even better Buffalo effort today. And, as just about everyone has rightly suggested, they need to do a better job of making Ryan Miller uncomfortable.
They appeared to be well on their way to executing that strategy in game 1, when before the five-minute mark, they already had Miller throwing his catching glove into Mike Richards' face. They seemed to let up though, and after their power play's futility climaxed with a failed half-minute of 5-on-3 action and the Sabres found the net, the Flyers were pressing in the wrong ways. Carrying the puck into traffic. Shooting at defenders (although credit the Sabres for some masterful shot blocking). I'm all for confidence, but not if it's going to lead to turnovers.
Today, it's gotta be somebody's job to trespass, if not vandalize, that crease. Scottie Hartnell, you know your talents. Of course, it doesn't have to be any one guy, and the other edge of the sword is the need to stay out of the box to the degree possible. Hartnell is a known goalie antagonist, and he and the others will be watched for exactly this strategy.
On the right side of the law, the Flyers need to generate more traffic out in front, with any luck doubling up the screen width by keeping a defender busy in tight as well. The problem is, Ryan Miller is pretty good at picking up shots through screens, as he showed on Thursday. The Flyers actually did a lot of the stuff they need to do today, it just didn't happen for them due to a combination of missed targets, great goalie positioning, and blocked shots.
Defensively, the Flyers were very good overall. If they replicate that effort, and Sergei Bobrovsky can be as solid as he was on Thursday, that should be enough to support an offensive showing of two or three goals.
A few of us will be at the game today, so it may be a while before you hear anything further.
LET'S GO FLYERS