Flyers-Sabres: Postgame Review
The Flyers closed out a four-game homestand and entered their bye week on the right note, scoring a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
While the break will serve as a time to evaluate the first half of the season, for now, we're just going to focus on the game and the Flyers finding a way against the Sabres.
Let's hit it with our Postgame Review.
- Back-to-Back - The Flyers have played three sets of back-to-backs over the last three weeks since right before the Christmas break began. The Flyers have won the back end of those back-to-backs the last two times and nearly came away with a victory in Columbus after opening up with a dud against the Sabres.Make no mistake about it, this was not a good start for the Flyers, both in terms of playing a lowly team like the Sabres and maybe slipping to the level of competition and potentially as a result of the back-to-back.
Still, the Flyers have been pretty good on the back end of these, and that will help them improve their performance on the season as things continue.
- Couturier Continues to Surge - What more can you say about Sean Couturier? What I've liked most about his game lately isn't the scoring as much as the different ways he is scoring.Couturier scored on the power play and added an empty-net goal in this game. He scored at even strength and into an empty net on Saturday. On Thursday, he had an even-strength goal. It seems like every goal is different and comes in a different situation.
It's part of what is separating Couturier from a player like Claude Giroux or Jake Voracek. Those guys are piling up the points for sure, but Giroux isn't out there regularly in the last minute of a one-goal game and Voracek is certainly not part of the penalty kill/last-minute standoff with an extra-attacker on the ice. Couturier uses his defensive instincts and is now turning that into points late in games and it is padding his numbers.
- Neuvirth Delivers - What a way for Michal Neuvirth to welcome himself back.It's been Brian Elliott's net for the last month and Neuvirth isn't going to reclaim it completely any time soon. But Neuvirth's performance was crucial to the Flyers win on Sunday.
Neuvirth set the tone with his glove save from point-blank range on Sam Reinhart on an early penalty kill. He looked poised in traffic, and the Sabres fired through bodies quite a bit in this game. For not having any action, except for a third-period relief appearance on Tuesday, in over a month, he looked excellent and completely in control.
- Finding a Way - The Flyers two wins against the Sabres this season have not been pretty. In reality, if the Flyers weren't able to hit the empty net twice, this was another 2-1, hold on for dear life kind of game.The Sabres have given the Flyers fits in recent years, even as one of the NHL's worst teams in that time. And in some of those games, you just have to find a way.
This was the Flyers finding a way to win. The third period wasn't a period where they necessarily sat back and didn't try to extend the lead, but they also struggled to get the push offensively they were looking for. Ultimately, sometimes you have to hope bounces go your way and you can put yourself in a good position to keep the puck out of the net and play as mistake-free as possible.
It wasn't a lights out third period for the Flyers, but they didn't make any glaring mistakes that ended up in the net. That's enough to put a good finish on a week that started as lousy as it gets and go into the break with some momentum.
- Off to Break - This isn't just a break, this is the deadly break. The Flyers do not respond well to time off and that has been a problem for several years.So as the Flyers carry a three-game winning streak and wins in four of their last five games to the mandatory bye week, they need to enjoy the recent success and be prepared to show the same kind of work ethic and effort to try to replicate the success of the past month or so.
Dave Hakstol noted this in his postgame press conference. The Flyers lost 10 straight games. They dug a hole. And they have climbed back out of it to be part of the playoff picture again, still on the outside looking in, but far from dead. If that's the goal, then the effort needs to be there and they need to finish the games they have in their grasp. Just like Sunday's.
It starts back up on Saturday night against the upstart New Jersey Devils, and we'll see what kind of team shows up.