Flyers-Sabres 10 observations: Gudas' game, Weal's speed, Giroux's goal and more

Flyers-Sabres 10 observations: Gudas' game, Weal's speed, Giroux's goal and more

Without stating the obvious, the Flyers' current four-game road trip figures to be the most pivotal of the season given the team went into Tuesday's game at Buffalo three points out of the wild card.

No one knows what the damage might be at the trip's conclusion on Saturday evening, but things really do have to pick up for Dave Hakstol's group if there are going to be playoffs this April at the Wells Fargo Center.

With apologies to former Inquirer colleague Bill Lyon, here are 10 things I think I think about the Flyers' 6-3 rout of the Sabres, who have lost seven of their last eight games (see Instant Replay).

The only minus Flyers were Ivan Provorov, Brayden Schenn, Andrew MacDonald and Valtteri Filppula.

The Flyers scored three goals in the second period to break a 1-1 tie (see game story). Their 68 goals in the middle stanza is nearly double (35) what they have scored in the first period this season.

1. Doug Allen sounded like he lost a little juice during the singing of the national anthems of both Canada and the U.S. Didn't even entice the crowd to join him like he usually does.

2. When was the last time Sean Couturier stripped a player of a puck and linemate Matt Read scored as a result? That's what transpired early when Couturier stunned Jack Eichel and Read redirected a Radko Gudas point shot for a goal. Cherish it. Could be a while before it happens again. It was Read's first goal in 12 games.

3. What a goal from Travis Konecny in the third period to make it 6-2. His last goal came in January before a lengthy injury. What was interesting was he went into the zone alone off the wing against four Sabres, who gave him space to skate and then scored to the far side of the net.

4. Michael Del Zotto had a nice setup at the right post on the second-unit power play in the opening period and failed to beat Robin Lehner. Del Zotto has not scored a goal since Dec. 14 at Colorado -- the final win for the Flyers in their 10-game win streak. Yes, he missed 10 games with a bone bruise, but this is the time of the season when setups like that matter greatly and Del Zotto is an offensive defenseman. Del Zotto and partner Gudas were both plus-5 in the game, a season first. Del Zotto lost a goal late to Chris VandeVelde on a scoring change.

5. Buffalo came into the game tied for first overall in power-play efficiency (22.9 percent) and made mincemeat of the Flyers on its first two chances with Evander Kane scoring to make it a 1-1 game and then Eichel scoring later.

6. Gudas was part of yet another Sabres turnover in the second period and shot one up high off the underside of the crossbar to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. Gudas deserves credit for having turned his game around this season since beginning it on a suspension. He has found a way to play physical, cause havoc and turnovers without taking a bad penalty and is no longer actively on the referees' radar every game.

7. The Flyers' PK units were not very good. Eichel scored on the Sabres' second power play just three seconds after the drop of the puck. The Flyers have given up three power-play goals over their last two games.

8. Jordan Weal's go-ahead goal late in the second period at 3-2 was the result of a transition line created out of the Flyers' coming off the penalty kill with Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Weal has two goals in eight games, which puts him among the Flyers' top six scorers at the moment. His speed added an element to this game.

9. If you blinked late in the second period, you missed Claude Giroux's first goal in 13 games and 13th marker overall to give the Flyers a two-goal advantage. More significantly, Giroux has just three goals over his last 30 games. If the Flyers don't make the playoffs, that stat that will likely stand out.

10. It probably doesn't get enough credit but Couturier's unit with Read and the ever-irascible Nick Cousins did a superb job of applying defensive pressure to Eichel's line in this game.

Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

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Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 shots for his fifth shutout of the season, Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, and the Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday night for their 10th straight win.

Pierre-Luc Dubois had two assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved to 42-28-5 and joined Philadelphia (1984-86) and Pittsburgh (2010-13) as the only NHL franchises to record 10-game win streaks in consecutive seasons.

The shutout was the 24th of Bobrovsky's career and his seventh straight win. Sonny Milano, Seth Jones and Thomas Vanek -- into an empty net -- also scored for Columbus, which moved into a second-place tie in the Metropolitan Division with idle Pittsburgh, each with 89 points.

Florida dropped to 37-28-7. With 10 games left in the season, the Panthers remained a point behind the idle New Jersey Devils for a playoff spot (see full recap).

Maple Leafs top Predators in Matthews’ return
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Auston Matthews had a goal in his return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 10 games and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday night.

The Predators had been 14-0-1 since their previous regulation loss on Feb. 17.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner each had a goal and an assist, and William Nylander and Jake Gardiner also scored for Toronto, which has won five of six.

Morgan Rielly had three assists for the Maple Leafs, and Tyler Bozak had two. Frederik Andersen stopped 23 shots.

Viktor Arvidsson and Scott Hartnell scored for Nashville. Pekka Rinne had 23 saves (see full recap).

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings
DETROIT -- Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves for his third shutout of the season, and Brett Connolly scored the game's only goal on a third-period breakaway to lift the Washington Capitals to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

The Capitals have won six of seven and lead Pittsburgh and Columbus by four points atop the Metropolitan Division as the regular season winds down. Washington has turned increasingly to Grubauer of late after Braden Holtby struggled in February and at the beginning of March. Holtby wasn't available Thursday because of an injury coach Barry Trotz described as a tweak.

The Capitals took the lead with 13:19 remaining in the game after Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet couldn't control the puck near Washington's blue line. Connolly and teammate Jakub Vrana went the other way on a two-man breakaway, and Connolly beat Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot to the glove side. It was his 15th goal of the season.

The Red Wings had a goal called back for goalie interference in the first period -- replays showed Tyler Bertuzzi appearing to make contact with Grubauer in front of the net. Detroit squandered a great opportunity in the second when the Red Wings had a two-man advantage for the full 2:00.

Andreas Athanasiou had a breakaway in the third, but couldn't beat Grubauer. Athanasiou had another chance in the final minutes, but his shot deflected wide as Grubauer tried unsuccessfully to grab it with his glove.

Detroit has lost 11 of 12 (see full recap).

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers


Who can I trust?

That’s the underlying question Dave Hakstol is attempting to answer almost nightly as the Flyers inch their way toward a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was no different in the Flyers' frantic 4-3 win over the Rangers Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

“We were sporadic. The first three or four minutes of the game, we weren’t sharp or crisp,” Hakstol said. “Honestly, we got back on our heels in the last part of the third period. There are things that we obviously have to clean up.”

The cleanup crew Hakstol is looking for must possess a trustworthiness factor that makes each player dependable during crunch time. Against the Rangers, the Flyers' coach was forced to lean heavily on a handful of guys who weren’t even on Hakstol’s roster during the first half of the season.

Matt Read replaced Travis Konecny (who scored two goals) on the top line, and was counted on defensively where Konecny came up short in the previous two periods. Read played 13:52 to Konecny’s 12:29.

“He wasn’t taking care of the puck very well,” Hakstol said of Konecny. “Individuals have got to be better at this time of year and how we manage the puck and the mentality that we’re going to do things with.”

“It’s just part of buying in and doing things for the team” Konecny said. “I have no problem with it. It’s a matter of getting the two points. If that’s the way we’ve got to win, then we’ve got to do that every time.”

The 21-year-old Oskar Lindblom scored the eventual game-winning goal on the opening shift of the third period, and the second-line winger was consistently shifted until the final four minutes of regulation.  

“Everybody’s different. It depends on the player,” Hakstol said. “Oskar is a guy that has come in and fit into the structural part of our game very well if you watch Oskar’s game. He’s just very intelligent in terms of playing within a system. He always finds a way to be on the right side of the puck.”

And then there’s goaltender Alex Lyon, who stepped up following his strong performance in relief of Petr Mrazek Tuesday night in Detroit. 

When the defense in front of him broke down, Lyon answered the call and preserved the Flyers' lead throughout times in the second period and even during a spotty third period.

“I was actually thinking about it before the game today,” Lyon said. “Every game is so different, and you feel different. Circumstances are different, the team is different every day, so I think the best guys are those who can adjust to that, so I try and take a page out of their book.”

And with his 33-save performance, Lyon has put himself in position to start Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.

If there’s a doghouse for those who perform poorly, then consider this to be Hakstol’s safe house. They may not be the Flyers' best guys, but as of now, they’re the reliable ones.

Or as Hakstol is looking for — those who play on the right side of the puck.