Flyers, Briere Need a Slump Buster... Will It Be Sabres on Saturday?

Flyers, Briere Need a Slump Buster... Will It Be Sabres on Saturday?

A little over a week ago, there were a few stories running about how the Flyers' remaining stretch wasn't too bad, facing mostly teams outside the playoff bubble, nothing to worry about, etc. Then said stretch began, and with it, a bit of what you might call a Flyers slump. Three of their last four losses have been to teams with sub-.500 records, two of which were below the current eighth seeding, with one coming against the last place team in the East. 

What may have been overlooked or glossed over when poring at the favorable remains of the schedule was that the teams just outside the playoffs are playing to get inside that bubble, with their remaining games requiring a playoff-like intensity. The Flyers, meanwhile, are comfortably going to make the postseason, although they obviously have seeding to play for, if not the pride of being the best. 

Maybe the reminder of what it feels like to lose and have to answer questions about "intensity" and "wanting it" and your mistakes rather than the gorgeous goals and big saves you made will help the Flyers get back on track today. Let's hope so, because although they're set to face a team not currently in the playoff seedings, if we've learned anything this week, it's that a ninth place team can be pretty dangerous. 

The Sabres are three points out of eighth and four points out of seventh, but also neck and neck with the surging Maple Leafs in trying to oust a team above them. On Thursday, we got a good look at what kind of motivation that can impart in a team, when Toronto came in and took down the top team in the conference. The Sabres will no doubt see the Flyers as somewhat more beatable than they appeared during the stretch leading up to the All-Star Game. 

The Flyers may be without Jeff Carter again today, although not due to the flu that kept him out of Thursday's action along with Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo. Carter's grandfather passed away. No word yet on today's actives and inactives. 

Before the Maple Leafs game, we importuned Kris Versteeg to light the Flyer fire against his former team. He kindly obliged. Today, we wouldn't mind seeing Danny Briere do the honors against his former team. It's been over two weeks since Danny last scored, and he has only two points in his last six games. After a hot January, Briere scored only twice in the month of February. What gives, Danny?

Briere has six points in two games against the Sabres this season, and the Flyers scored in bunches both times (11 total goals).

In a perfect little Flyers Saturday, Briere would net a pair, both on the power play, the Flyers would win, and we'd have three slumps busted at least temporarily. We'll settle for the W any way it comes though, and again, we're not worried about the team or any of its players. This type of slump is about as normal a thing as there is in hockey. 

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Radko Gudas

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Radko Gudas

There are good penalties. And bad penalties. And penalties which aren’t even penalties.

The last one would perfectly describe Radko Gudas’ hip check on Miles Wood that was whistled as clipping by referee Dan O’Halloran in the second period.

Even Wood was laughing as Gudas went to the box, realizing what a break he had gotten – a power play for nothing.

“He’s a pretty quick D-man,” Wood said. “I don’t think it should have been a call, but it was a good hit by him.”

That gave the Devils a power play. Then, when Wayne Simmond argued the call with O'Halloran, Simmonds drew two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. The resulting 5-on-3 New Jersey power play saw the Devils score to break a 1-1 tie.

Minutes later, the Flyers had a bad line change and it was 3-1. Game over. The Devils would go on to win, 4-1 (see game story).

Bottom line? The Gudas call changed everything.

“I was really surprised,” Gudas said. “I didn’t think it was a penalty at all.”

Is this oversimplifying the game to say everything changed with that one call?

“Are we really simplifying it?” Gudas asked. “I think that after those calls we have to get together as a group and make sure we kill these off. Unfortunately, we let them score on that power play. It was just unlucky.”

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol called it “an excellent hit” by Gudas. He wouldn’t go deeper than that.

The six muffed power plays gave him enough reason to believe the Flyers could have gotten back in it. His Flyers are 3-9-3 since winning 10 games.

You can’t underestimate how those two calls turned the tables on the Flyers in this game.

“Everyone has their own opinion on the hit and we were obviously frustrated on the hit,” Travis Konecny said. “We thought it was a clean hit and we reacted to it. We have everyone’s backs.

“We have all had the one’s where we are angry with the ref and the one who made a hit like that. There is a time for that moment there.”

Goalie Michal Neuvirth thought it was a difference maker.

“Oh, absolutely, we were playing better in the second period,” he said. “I thought we had a momentum. You know stuff like that 5-on-3 for two minutes, it’s tough to defend.

“I think it’s taking way too many penalties lately and you got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are on quite a nice roll.

Anders Lee scored two power-play goals to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving New York its third straight win and fourth in the last five games.

"We've been keeping it simple of late," said Lee, who has four goals in two games against the Kings this season. "We've been getting shots on net and being more effective. I'll do my thing down low."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Jason Chimera also scored and Jean-Francois Berube stopped 34 shots to earn his first win in his third start of the season (see full recap).

Hartnell snaps tie as Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets would just as soon forget the second period of Saturday's game, when the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it.

Columbus didn't play much better in the third but withstood 15 shots and killed three penalties. Midway through, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game , and the Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2.

Columbus got the win despite being outshot 37-20.

Hartnell scored in the first period and then netted the tiebreaker, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a horrendous second period - in which they managed only two shots on goal - to beat Carolina for the second time this week (see full recap).

Beagle scores in overtime, Capitals beat Stars 4-3
DALLAS -- Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Saturday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated behind the net and put the puck in front to Beagle. His wrist shot beat goalie Kari Lehtonen, who got tangled with a defender and lost his footing.

The Stars led 3-1 and didn't allow Washington a power play until the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie scored with the man advantage in the first 5:26 of the period.

Adam Cracknell and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas on plays that originally were ruled no goal. Patrick Eaves had a goal and an assist for the Stars (see full recap).

Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL -- The Sabres couldn't score from in close on All-Star goalie Carey Price late in regulation Saturday night.

So Zach Bogosian teed it up from a ways out in overtime to lift Buffalo.

Bogosian scored his first goal of the season in overtime and the Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams.

Buffalo nearly broke through against Price near the end of the third period. Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on a breakaway at 19:40, and then with six seconds remaining, he robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save (see full recap).