Sifting through the ashes of the Flyers' 1-0 loss to the Sabres to open the playoffs, it's hard to come down too hard on them despite losing a game we really wanted to see them win. They played well overall, with a single play that was by no means terrible leading to the game's only goal. The Flyers generated some very good scoring opportunities, but couldn't beat Ryan Miller, nor his defense, which clamped down on the slot and surrounding area once the Sabres had the lead.
Jeff Carter appears to be having a bit of trouble finding the puck.
Fulfilling our greatest concern going into the playoffs, the lack of any ability to score on the power play doomed the Flyers more than anything in this one. At even strength, they had pressure on Miller early and often, screens, and even some shots off of rebounds, but just couldn't beat him. The Sabres blocked shots efficiently, and the Flyers attack faded late.
The good news is, the Flyers looked a lot better in this loss than they had in their poor stretch run to end the regular season.
The bad news is, there's no place for "better" in the best of seven series, no moral victories—particularly when you get shut out.
Miller didn't need to be particularly stellar, although that is the hallmark of some of the best goalies. They make it look a little easier than it actually is. He was in position all night and seemingly saw the puck through a few pretty good screens. The Flyers could certainly stand to get a few more shots through traffic though, if not some deflections.
Particularly early on, the Flyers pressure was great, and throughout the game there were some good opportunities. It just didn't happen. The Sabres were strong in blocking shots and shutting down lanes toward the net.
The Briere line was on the ice for the game's lone goal, but they had a decent game overall. Danny Syvret's man scored the game-winner, as the annoying Patrick Kaleta got past him to slam home a long rebound. Syvret didn't have a terrible game, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Chris Pronger suit up in the next game if he can grip a stick.
The problem wasn't Syvret though. The defense overall was very solid, from the forward lines on back. Sergei Bobrovsky wasn't a concern at all despite the one long rebound that left open the deciding scoring opportunity. A failed brief 5-on-3 opportunity and an overall 0-5 power play sank the Flyers' chances in this one. At first, the inability to score felt like the Flyers were knocking on the door and would soon break through. As the game wore on past the halfway point though, it began to feel like exactly what it would become. The Sabres found the net once in their 25 shots on goal while the Flyers couldn't beat Miller in 35 shots.
James van Riemsdyk was the Flyers' best player tonight, selling to block shots and generating some of their better scoring opportunities. He looks like he could break out in a big way if the Flyers can help get him going.