Flyers’ Win Ends Skid, But Concerns Remain

Published on March 11th, 2013

By Anthony Mingioni

Entering Sunday night, the Philadelphia Flyers had reached a crossroads to their season. With three consecutive losses to Eastern Conference rivals, two of which were winnable contests against the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the level of urgency for the season was approaching red alert status.

As goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov succinctly put it: “We all can read. We all can count.”

Therefore, the Flyers 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres was important in helping them to recoup some of the confidence that had been lost in a crushing 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon. But on the flip side, the team’s narrowly avoided blowing a two goal lead in the third period, so how much confidence was garnered is open to question.

For the most part, Philadelphia was able to carry play through two periods, entering the offensive zone with speed on numerous occasions against a Sabres’ defense that had moments where their coverage was lacking or puck handling was suspect.

However a 3rd period turnover by Claude Giroux on the point led to a two on one shorthanded break that was finished by forward Jochen Hecht caused the Flyers to lose grip on a game that they could have been up by three or four goals.

If not for great stops by goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov on Sabres’ center Cody Hodgson and a goal mouth clear by Brayden Schenn, the Flyers might have been discussing how they could’ve blown two multi-goal leads at home in less than a week.

Instead they begin preparations for two big games against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday and Friday as they attempt to begin yet another climb back to .500.

The game was a physical affair with three 10 minute misconducts and three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties calls, but the Flyers were able to channel their aggression and caused the Sabres to take 10 total penalties, one of which included Sabres’ defenseman Mike Weber getting an instigation penalty for a fight with Wayne Simmonds.

“They were giving us shots after we ran into the boards,” winger Scott Hartnell said. “They were mostly clean hits and Simmer [Simmonds] had a great fight for us.”

The most notable example of this was forward Zac Rinaldo’s work with five hits in 7:42 ice time and his late first period agitation of Sabres enforcer John Scott which earned a 10 minute misconduct, followed by his drawing of a high sticking call on Jochen Hecht, which would lead to center Claude Giroux’s power play goal just 17 seconds into the second period.

“(Rinaldo) brings it every night,” Giroux said.  “I can’t remember the one game but he didn’t come and show up and play.  He has our back.  He goes out there and he hits hard.  Some guys hit hard and he just runs through guys.  I think we’re pretty lucky to have him on our side.

The Flyers came out of the gate with enthusiasm, getting a couple of chances in the opening two minutes, starting with Jake Voracek going wide on a wrist shot on an initial rush. It was then followed by a goal mouth scramble in which center Brayden Schenn’s entire line I(with  Simmonds and Danny Briere) had opportunities to shovel the puck in.

Winger Simon Gagne finally got the Flyers on the board as his hard wrist shot on a quick break into the zone trickled past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. It was a play beautifully set up by defenseman Kimmo Timonen, whose pinpoint pass crisply cleaved the Sabres defense and sprang Gagne at the blue line.

The Flyers second goal of the period came off a shorthanded tally by forward Max Talbot. After Simmonds took an ill-advised slash on Sabres’ defenseman Andrej  Sekara following a scoring chance, Ruslan Fedotenko picked the puck off of forward Tyler Ennis in the neutral zone and led a counter rush that led to the goal.

Finally, 11 minutes into the period, the Sabres got their first sustained offensive zone pressure as a result of a turnover by winger Jake Voracek. Working quick plays against a slow to rotate Flyers defense, Brian Flynn was able to find a rebound off to Bryzgalov’s glove side and put behind the Russian net minder.

The Flyers are aware that while the end result count, the fact that they struggled against a Sabres team that was inept for long stretchs in their own zone, means that they’re by no means out of the proverbial woods yet.

“Our playoff lives are on the line right now and it’s going to take a lot to climb back in it,” Brayden Schenn said “We believe in this room that we can. And we still have a lot of hockey to be played. The schedule is not that hard in the next two weeks so it’s good time for practice time, a little bit of rest and some games mixed in there as well. So, it’s going to help us. And we need to climb back in and can’t take a game off.”

Concerted 60 minute efforts, even against a struggling New Jersey team, will be necessary for them to make up the standings ground lost from the week before.

Notes:

Head coach Peter Laviolette moved center Sean Couturier back onto the third line after briefly being on the fourth line, while putting defenseman Bruno Gervais into the lineup in place of Erik Gustafsson. Gustafsson had been a minus-six in his last four contests and had an underwhelming performance in Boston on Saturday…Claude Giroux won 18 of 30 faceoffs (60 percent)…Philadelphia’s power play finished two for nine.

Flyers Wayne Simmonds scuffles with Sabres Mike Weber | Source: Derek Brad

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