Flyers-Sabres 10 observations: A lifeless, inexcusable effort in Buffalo

Flyers-Sabres 10 observations: A lifeless, inexcusable effort in Buffalo

The Flyers closed out two road games with two losses Tuesday night against the Sabres in Buffalo.

Dave Hakstol's club was competitive in losing, 2-1, in Columbus on Sunday.

But not this one.

The Flyers were lifeless and listless during their 4-1 spanking they earned on their own by the Sabres. They were no-shows. Despite a push in the third period, this was one of the Flyers' poorer road performances and efforts this season.
 
With apologies to Bill Lyon, here are 10 things I think I think from this less-than-thrilling affair in upstate New York.
 
1. The game was not even six minutes old when Nicolas Deslauriers egged Brandon Manning into a fight. It was rather one-sided, but Manning gets major props for taking on a better fighter than himself. Manning has had four bouts this season and never backs down.
 
2. The Flyers' power play got one late and is now 4 for its last 34, but what happened on that first PP? They had six shots — six! — against the 29th-worst penalty kill in the NHL and couldn't dent backup goalie Anders Nilsson. Brayden Schenn had three of those shots, and he scored on the second man advantage, but the game was over by then.

3. Speaking of shots, Shayne Gostisbehere, whose overall game is slumping, had a couple of decent shots in this game at both 5-on-5 and on the power play. Gostisbehere seems like a ghost of himself from a year ago, when he set a Flyers rookie defenseman record with 15 goals. He has just four this season — on course for eight — and hasn't scored in 19 games.
 
4. Nice play by Andrew MacDonald, who got turned inside-out by Evander Kane but still forced the speedy winger to the outside for a backhander on Steve Mason. Alas, as the game went on, MacDonald's defensive play got worse. He finished as a minus-2.

5. The Flyers have had mostly dominant second periods this season, but they more or less rolled over against the Sabres with a poor effort Tuesday. They simply didn't try very hard, which is inexcusable.
 
6. How do the Sabres get a power-play goal on just one shot? Believe it or not, Buffalo has the higher-ranked PP — seventh vs. ninth. The problem was, the Flyers couldn't get a clear and had a tired group of penalty killers stuck on the ice, while the Sabres moved the puck quickly at will.

7. Kane had several scoring chances in this game, but the Flyers' letting him score with 8.9 seconds left in the second period was inexcusable. That made it 3-0. Game, set, match. There is no excuse giving up a goal in the final minute of any period. Period.
 
8. Claude Giroux has not played very well of late and hasn't scored in eight games. He was snoozing on the ice in the slot when he allowed William Carrier an uncontested easy score. The captain was minus-3 in this game.
 
9. Mason failed to come up with any kind of momentum saves in this one. From a strategic standpoint, he should have been pulled after the second period, if for no other reason than a momentum shift. That said, the Flyers had a series of turnovers and lazy players that allowed that scoring chance at the very end of the period.
 
10. Don't look now, but the Flyers have lost seven consecutive road games. They last won on Dec. 14 in Colorado, which coincidentally was the final win of their 10-game win streak.

Sloppy second period dooms Flyers in loss to Sabres

Sloppy second period dooms Flyers in loss to Sabres

BOX SCORE

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Flyers have been at their best in the second period this season.

Except when they play the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres scored three times in the second period of Tuesday night’s 4-1 victory over the visiting Flyers (see Instant Replay). They also outscored the Flyers, 3-0, in the second period of their previous meeting on Oct. 25 at the Wells Fargo Center, before the Flyers came back for the 4-3 shootout win.

In their other 40 games, the Flyers have outscored opponents, 53-34, in the second period. They rank second in the NHL in second-period scoring behind the New York Rangers.

The Flyers were pleased with the way they played for two-thirds of Tuesday night’s game. But the wayward second doomed them to their ninth loss in 11 games.

“First and third, we played some good hockey and the second period was a little different,” captain Claude Giroux said. “We didn’t support each other as much. First and third period, we played as a unit of five. It makes our job a lot easier when we play together.”

Sam Reinhart’s power-play goal on a tight-angle wrist shot from the left side of the net gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead 5:15 into the second period. The Flyers’ struggles snowballed from there.

“After we gave up the PP goal against, from there we didn’t check well the rest of the period. That was the difference,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Coming back into the zone on our rush coverage, we didn’t sort.”

That’s how the Sabres got their second goal 3:24 later. William Carrier was uncovered skating up the left side and beat Giroux to a rebound for a wrist shot that Steve Mason had little chance to stop.

“Unfortunately, in the second there we were off our game plan and we paid for it,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said.

Evander Kane gave Buffalo a 3-0 lead with just nine seconds left in the third period. Kane came up with the puck after it bounced off MacDonald’s skate and whistled a high wrist shot past Mason.

“It’s a tough one to give up,” MacDonald said. “Anything late in the third period like that. There’s a big difference between being down two and three going into the third. We had the same mindset going out. We knew we had to battle back. But the third one made it tougher.”

The Flyers were able to score three goals in the third period the last time the two teams met. But on Tuesday, they could only muster a power-play goal from Brayden Schenn — after Mason was pulled to make it 6-on-4 — with 2:07 remaining.

“In the third, we pressed hard,” MacDonald said. “But it was too little, too late.”

Mason said the Flyers’ second-period wounds were self-inflicted.

“We did it to ourselves,” Mason said. “We were sloppy and they came with speed off the rush and we’ve got to do a better job in the second period overall. I think when we go back and look at the tape, it was a lot of what we did wrong in the second and not what they did to force us. It was all our own doing.”

Flyers-Blues 10 observations: Disheartening 1st game back from holiday break

Flyers-Blues 10 observations: Disheartening 1st game back from holiday break

Expectations were high coming out of the Christmas' break that the Flyers would travel to St. Louis and start a new winning streak that had carried them through much of December.
 
Instead, what we saw from Dave Hakstol’s Flyers during Wednesday Night Rivalry was more of a thud than a thunderous, ‘We’re back.’

Here are 10 things — it's hard to find good things to say about that game — I think, I think about the 6-3 loss to the Blues.

1. A pet peeve of mine. Where does NBC get the idea that the Flyers and Blues are legit "Wednesday Night Rivals?" They meet twice a year. That’s it. This isn’t 1967 with Al Arbour’s Blues playing them 10 times in the old Western Division. That was a rivalry. Back then, not now.
 
2. Got to like the Flyers' first goal of the game off yet another terrific setup from left wing Travis Konecny to Wayne Simmonds. The entire line touched the puck, starting with Brayden Schenn and finishing with Simmonds' 17th goal of the season. Konecny showed a lot of spunk once again and had two assists in the game.
 
3. You can rave all you want about the Flyers' winning percent of their faceoffs, but the bottom line is, the Flyers lost the key faceoffs they needed to win on special teams. Two lost draws on the PK resulted in two goals from the Blues.
 
4. On the subject of the PK, the Flyers made great strides during their 10-game win streak on penalty kill, going from 23rd when the streak began to ninth shortly after it ended, going back to a 3-2 shootout win against Washington right before the break. They went into New Jersey having killed off 16 straight power plays, and then gave up two goals.

Against the Blues, the Flyers had little pressure on their PK and ended up yielding two more goals. The PK is trending downward, falling to 19th now, a steep drop from being inside the top 10. The power play is seventh in the league.
 
5. Continuing the special teams theme, let’s look at the power play. It was No. 1 in the NHL on Oct. 31 and has been falling since. It was 0 for 13 over the previous five games going into the Blues' game, and went 1 for 4 in Wednesday's loss. The Flyers aren't getting good looks or shots lately and against the No. 2 ranked penalty kill, the Blues made it look easy, clearing the puck time and again. This is a team that lives and dies by its power play and when it's not working and other things aren't going well, it usually has an impact in the loss column.
 
6. Did the Flyers peak too early? They are 1-3-1 since their 10-game win streak ended. It's a fair question. Granted, the team was exhausted at the break from playing 36 games in 69 days, but Haktol's club could not have looked worse in the third period against St. Louis. What happened to the momentum gained from Brayden Schenn's go-ahead goal early that period? Barely two minutes later, the Blues scored twice to snatch the game right back. The one tangible you could count on from the Flyers during their win streak was that they owned the third period. They dominated those periods and they didn't roll over. On Wednesday, they did roll over.
 
7. Where was this big push the Flyers were expecting to get from the return of Sean Couturier? He had no impact whatsoever on the game and didn’t even register a shot on goal in 18:15 of play with Nick Cousins and Dale Weise.
 
8. The defense didn’t look very good. Even rookie Ivan Provorov, who was a rare minus-2, struggled on his side of the puck. Radko Gudas had a poor game, as did Andrew MacDonald.
 
9. Goalie Steve Mason gave up five goals on 24 shots. The power-play goal to Kevin Shattenkirk was the direct result of Mason’s indecision and miscommunication with MacDonald, which is not something you see Mason do very often.
 
10. Listen to this quote from Hakstol: “Tonight we just wanted too easy of a night. We wanted to play too easy of a game. We have to be better, and we’ll address that. We’re not going into easy places to play here the rest of this road trip. We’ll sort it out and get back to work tomorrow, and that’s the bottom line.” I can’t agree more, but it makes me wonder why the Flyers thought a Ken Hitchcock team would go easy in the night? His clubs are defensively tenacious and they came at the Flyers in waves all night. What could have possibly made them think it would be an “easy” third period? This stat is telling: the Blues had 21 blocked shots to the Flyers' 10.