The Flyers washed out the bad taste of Buffalo from a few weeks ago.
Claude Giroux scored the go-ahead goal shorthanded and the Flyers rolled the Sabres, 6-2, Saturday at KeyBank Center.
Has Anthony Stolarz supplanted himself as the No. 1 goaltender and how did the Flyers cope without Sean Couturier for the first time this season?
Here are my observations:
• With Couturier unavailable for this game, I don’t think Dave Hakstol had many solid options before ultimately moving Claude Giroux back to center for the first time since the end of the 2016-17 season. I didn’t like the idea of moving Nolan Patrick into that role against the lethal Jack Eichel line as Patrick hasn’t looked engaged too much lately.
The Flyers' first goal doesn’t happen without Giroux taking the faceoff on a set play from the left circle.
Right off the faceoff and straight into the net!— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) December 8, 2018
JVR gets the Flyers on the board. pic.twitter.com/l7WOdBb8ax
• Buffalo struck first with two goals from Eichel, taking full advantage against the Flyers' fourth line and the pairing of Radko Gudas and Robert Hagg. It was impressive how Eichel backchecked and started the breakout from Buffalo’s end. Jori Lehtera simply couldn’t keep up with a much quicker Eichel and Gudas gave Eichel too much space to fire off the shot that gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead.
• Stolarz continues to build on his confidence and has proven, if anything, he can be a dependable backup in the NHL. He had a handful of spectacular saves in the first period to keep it a one-goal game.
Stolarz also had a breakaway save on Eichel in the second period and then stopped Kyle Okposo’s one-timer with the low glove.
For his 6-foot-6 frame, Stolarz has looked really good at sealing off the bottom third of the net.
• Will a little bit of offense carry over and give Ivan Provorov some confidence at the defensive end? Provorov’s goal was a big boost for the Flyers, with him pinching in on a pass from Scott Laughton. I think Provorov needed a jolt like that to his game after the overtime finish against Columbus and how he got turnstiled by Buffalo’s Tage Thompson in the first period.
• The Flyers committed their first penalty with the game tied at 2-2 as Travis Sanheim was called for holding the stick, which I thought was a ticky-tack call — two players jostling for position just outside the crease.
However, it led to the Flyers scoring a shorthanded goal as Giroux snapped a shot high glove on Linus Ullmark, who never flinched. It was the same exact shot Giroux lasered past Sergei Bobrovsky on Thursday. It was also Giroux’s first shorthanded goal since Nov. 23, 2015.
*AUDIBLE GASP*— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) December 8, 2018
This Giroux shorty is straight-up nasty. pic.twitter.com/YMlVxhvJ4D
• Giroux’s increased presence on the penalty kill coupled with the return of Michael Raffl has me convinced the penalty-kill issues are personnel problems and not as many issues with the structure. However, being more aggressive has helped out as well. Against the Sabres, credit the Flyers' discipline for giving up just one power-play opportunity without their top penalty-killer Couturier.
The Flyers have not allowed a power-play goal in their last six games.
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