Flyers
The Sabres snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Monday night, extending their historic losing-streak with a 4-3 overtime loss to the bumbling Flyers. (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Before this game (actually, a few days ago, to be completely honest), I did some reading. I know, a college student reading something outside of class is rare, but I assure you it wasn’t anything academic. Just some NHL power rankings in fact. Most of it was what you’d expect. The Lightning, Avalanche, and Maple Leafs near the top; the Senators and Red Wings near the bottom. As always, my main prerogative was finding where the Flyers ranked. But the biggest surprise was seeing who was ranked 31st.

Sorry, what was ranked 31st. It was the Ever Given. Or “that boat,” as the byline referred to it. Better know as the ship blocking the Suez Canal for the last week before recently being freed. Right below the Ottawa Senators. But as the article’s writers Sean Gentille and Dom Luszczyszyn correctly pointed out, “It’s hard to be a bigger wreck than the Buffalo Sabres, but That Boat found a way.” I had a hearty chuckle, then read the next line and realized which team hadn’t been ranked yet.

“Somehow, it’s still not the biggest shipwreck of the week.”

Yes, the Philadelphia Flyers were ranked thirty-second. Out of 31 NHL teams. Behind an inanimate object making headlines for gross incompetence. They’re not the only team to be ranked 32nd recently, but I think the Flyers had the weaker opponent/obstacle in front of them (at least in terms of hockey ability; the Ever Given definitely takes the cake when it comes to raw size). And you know what I think about that ranking after how they played tonight?

It was too high.

When you’re pl%aying a team on as long a skid as the Sabres’ one, there’s a certain pressure to deal with. Nobody wants to be the team that loses to a team in free-fall; just ask the 2017-18 Flyers, who lost to the then 0-10-1 Arizona Coyotes in late October. That pressure is amplified with where Philadelphia is in the standings; on the outside looking in, with playoff odds between just 10 to 15%, according to most models. Losing to the Sabres right now would be bad for any team; for the Flyers, it would be the latest punch-line in what’s been a Murphy’s law campaign so far.

That pressure only amplified as the first period progressed. Buffalo definitely looked like a team hungry to snap their skid, outright dominating the Flyers to the tune of a 13-8 shots edge and a 66.92% xGF at 5-on-5. The Flyers tested Linus Ullmark just once in a twelve-minute span. Brian Elliott could only make so many quality saves before a wide-open Henri Jokiharju beat him five-hole to open the scoring. Yes, a five-hole shot, even one that wide open, is somewhat stoppable. But Elliott had already made several A-quality saves over the course of the period. This was a case of the team letting down their goaltender, not the other way around. Full stop.

https://twitter.com/2Murphy8/status/1376680273891504130
Hard to blame a goaltender getting defense like this. Side note – I see the third line is on the ice, because there’s Patrick and Lindblom at the top of the right circle, so… WHERE IS JAKE VORACEK?

The second Sabres goal, scored just after a successful Flyers PK early in the second? Yeah, you need your goaltender there. After Elliott couldn’t stop a Sabres dump-in, Cody Eakin went short-side off a quick feed from Tobias Rieder. That’s one of the goals were used to seeing go in, one where the goaltender isn’t totally at fault, but certainly could’ve erased only a decent chance. It’s just the way things have gone all season long, so naturally, it’s 2-0 Sabres just like that.

Philadelphia sort of found their legs a little bit as the period progressed, but they were still a mess far too often. The Sabres came dangerously close with a couple of net-front scrambles and odd-man rushes (you’d think someone struggling as much as Jeff Skinner would have their stick on the ice during a 3-on-2, but I digress). Eventually, the dam burst on a bar-down goal from Brandon Montour right from the slot. Yeah, we’re back to the defense just giving the goalie no shot after he held down the fort for as long as you can expect.

It’s over. This season is so over. And it doesn’t just have to do with tonight. It’s losing 9-0 and 8-3 to the Rangers. It’s blowing a 3-0 third-period lead in what should’ve been a universal good game 24 hours after that 9-0 beatdown, turning Oskar Lindblom’s late-winner almost irrelevant. Then getting clocked 6-1 by the Islanders two nights later. Every feel-good win — a 3-0 comeback at Pittsburgh, that late Lindblom winner, Sam Morin’s first NHL goal — all followed by an embarrassing defeat the very next game. Seventeen games on the schedule this month and not one shred of consistency. Sorry, that’s wrong — they’ve been consistently off their game all month.

You can’t pull off an improbable playoff come back when you’re throwing away points in territorial beatdowns to the Devils and Sabres. This defense and goaltending wouldn’t win the Memorial Cup, let alone the Stanley Cup. January’s playoff aspirations have faded into lottery prayers for May (or whenever they hold it). They’ve unofficially run out of time this season.

The 2021 Flyers season is over, and Chuck Fletcher better be ready to make changes if he wants the 2021-22 campaign to be anything different. After last year’s promising season, it seems like the Flyers are farther away from contention than when Fletcher first arrived. They have more pieces, yes, but that’s what makes this step back so much worse. At least when the 2018-19 Flyers lost, they usually did so with dignity (ok, maybe not so much). This year’s team is rapidly becoming a punchline that hockey writers will reference to appear humble in future articles (“I may seem smart, but remember, I’m the idiot who had the 2021 Flyers as a dark horse Cup contender.” *Room explodes in laughter.*)

Bottom line: this team is never winning anything again. Good night.

WOW. So, yeah, they didn’t… ah, what’s the word for it… oh, right, actually lose. I’m as stunned as you are. A one-timer by Kevin Hayes that deflected off Rasmus Dahlin’s skate, the post, the Hubble telescope, Linus Ullmark’s back, and the aforementioned whatever that thing in the Suez Canal is called (I’m starting to see why Sean and Dom just called it “That Boat”) got Philly on the board. A Claude Giroux tap-in off a Sean Couturier feed cut the lead on to one. An everything but the finish power-play nearly tied it. A wonky redirect that’s basically the modern remake of this from Couturier actually tied it. And Ivan Provorov’s forehand-backhand five-hole goal won it forty-two seconds into overtime.

The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 4-3, in OT, over the Buffalo Sabres. I somehow get the sense that no matter which of these teams cheer for, you’re pretty upset right now. Both have good reasons to be. This is the type of game a team only wins because somehow legally has to. The Sabres have lost eighteen straight. The Flyers once again won a game in a way that’s impossible to feel good about.

Philadelphia didn’t deserve a single point for their performance tonight. Somehow they got two. It’s games like these that I think prompted my parents to teach my sister and me when we were little kids that the worst F word was “fair.” Neither team got what they deserved tonight. But at least the Flyers got what they needed.

If there’s one team that can choke harder than the Flyers right now, it’s the Sabres. As the adrenaline rush from doing Ivan Provorov’s overhand-arm-pump celly subsides, man, I’m genuinely sorry, Sabres fans. For the second straight game, the Sabres entered the third period twenty minutes away from winning their first game since February 23. They were outscored 5-0 in those two third periods. They’ve now tied the 2003-04 Penguins for the longest losing streak in NHL history at 18 games.

The Flyers may be incredibly frustrating, but at least they’re not actively depressing. Their losing streak is going to end eventually based solely on the law of averages (preferably not tomorrow or against the Flyers at all, please). But man, I don’t know where Kevyn Adams goes from here. Every team goes through dark days. Not everyone goes through what the Sabres are going through right now. As a wise man once said, “I know things aren’t exactly where you want to be right now. But I promise you they improve.” Unfortunately, I (not a wise man, in case the whole “I’m gonna recap every Flyers game” idea didn’t give that away) can’t promise when that will happen. It’s a tough spot, no doubt about it.

Now, Flyers… *cracks knuckles* what do you have to say for yourselves? This comeback absolutely does not absolve them of the egg they laid for forty minutes against a horrible team, to put it mildly. Claude Giroux said postgame “they have to learn from this.” I think their performance itself shows they haven’t learned enough from the first thirty-three games. Considering all of the other failed attempts at firmly grasp momentum, I highly doubt this game is the mythical turning point towards success this sputtering team has been searching for. It would be pretty fun it does become that, though.

What it is, objectively, is two important points for a team that frankly has few if none to waste. The Flyers limp, crawl and hobble their way to one point back of the Bruins for the last playoff spot in the East. Yes, Boston does have three games in hand and an 80 to 95% chance of making the playoffs, depending on your model of choice. The Bruins have seemingly been in the Flyers heads’ during their five meetings this year, all of which have gone Boston’s way. And I can say with absolute certainty that if the Flyers play like they did tonight ever again, they will lose, and if lasts for longer than a game or two, they will miss the playoffs.

It’s not a great position to be in. But as their opponent tonight can speak too, it’s not the worst one. What matters is what you do with it. Tonight offers very little confidence that their first consecutive wins in thirty-one days will turn their season around. There’s no time for the moral building block of rebounding from rock bottom. The Flyers stayed out of that pit tonight, but just barely. They still have plenty of work to do if they want their season to be remembered for something better than whatever tonight was. And they can’t feel sorry for themselves or the Sabres when they rematch in the must-see comedy event of the year Wednesday night.

Carter Hart didn’t dress tonight and won’t play in Wednesday’s game, which is followed by the Flyers first two-day break since February 25-26, giving him some time to reset. I was planning to break down this article a little more tonight, but I think you’ve read enough. Assuming Wednesday’s game plays out somewhat normally, I’ll go over it then.

Lindies

Can’t take sole credit for this title, even if I probably would’ve come to it myself. These two amazing sources of Flyers content had the idea first.

Well, the Flyers did win, but I don’t think I’d call their performance acceptable.
https://twitter.com/charlieo_conn/status/1376705376700223491
I think Charlie meant movable here, but you get the point.

If you’re looking for signs of progress, Sabres fans, at no point in this losing streak did the Sabres ever hold a three-goal lead before tonight. That’s something, right? Yeah not really, I tried. How about that Buffalo has led going into first intermission eight times this year, and three of those games have been against the Flyers? Yeah, that one just makes us both sad, I’m sorry.

I genuinely hate to add salt on the Sabres’ wound, but rookie Dylan Cozens was injured and did not return to tonight’s contest.

https://twitter.com/BuffaloVogl/status/1376678439084826627
Vogl replied to that Tweet by noting Cozens was “cradling (his) left arm” as he left.

If you’re on the “goaltending is the main catalyst for this nightmare year” train, here’s some ammo for you.

If you’re not an analytics person, translation: no team in the last fifteen years has had worse goaltending than the 2021 Flyers.

If you’re looking for positives from this game (other than the two points) — first of all, you must be the biggest optimist ever. Second of all, the fourth line of Raffl-Laughton-NAK was phenomenal, creating some nice cycles and chances. They were the only line AV didn’t break up in the 3rd period. Phil Myers also took a ton of shots but rarely hit the net. One of those misses was a heady intentional decision, though. Kevin Hayes improved after a few early turnovers, scoring the 3-1 goal and drawing a penalty.

It was easy to miss admits the aforementioned line juggling, but Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick, and Joel Farabee were benched for the entire third period. None of the three played extraordinarily terribly (other than the breakdown on the first goal, which featured Lindblom and Patrick), so it seemed like a curious decision (although I guess it paid off). I’ll let my mom sum it up best.

Flyers

Couple of milestones on the Flyers blue-line tonight. Justin Braun reached the 700 games played mark in the NHL, and Travis Sanheim celebrated his 24th birthday. Brian Elliott improves to 17-2-2 lifetime and 4-0-0 in 2021 against the Sabres and collects his 250th career victory. Certainly, a memorable one (among other words) to say the least.

Congratulations to Scott Laughton and his fiancee Chloe Abby on getting engaged Sunday!

This is the only thing too sweet for me to be cynical about. At least involving the Flyers, anyway.

3 Stars

3rd: Ivan Provorov – Goal (5), Assist (12), 6 Shots

2nd: Claude Giroux – Goal (9), Assist (18), 4 Shots

1st: Sean Couturier – Goal (10), Assist (16), 4 Shots

Next

3/31, 7 PM – PHI @ BUF

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Advanced Stats via Natural Stat Trick