Flyers

Troubling and telling trends somehow worsen as Flyers' ugly March ends with bad loss

Flyers

The Flyers' slog through March had a fitting finish Wednesday night: a face-in-palm, 6-1 loss to the NHL-worst Sabres at KeyBank Center.

In a twisted way, it didn't feel surprising. That's how Jekyll and Hyde the Flyers were this month. Alain Vigneault's club went 6-10-1 in March and surrendered an alarming 75 goals. That's an NHL-most 4.41 per game this month. Prior to March, the Flyers started 11-4-3 and allowed 52 goals (2.89 per game).

The Flyers (17-14-4) have six games left before the April 12 trade deadline. General manager Chuck Fletcher said the club is not selling, but you can't imagine it will bring a juicy shopping list to the trade market.

This time against lowly Buffalo, there was no epic third-period rally from three goals down to save face. The Flyers were behind 4-1 at second intermission and then allowed a game-sealing empty-net goal with 5:07 left in regulation before the Sabres tacked on one more for good measure.

The cellar-dwelling Sabres (7-23-5) had gone winless in their previous 18 games before beating the Flyers.

• The Flyers allowed six or more goals four times in March. They allowed six or more goals five times all of last season through 69 games.

It's simply a different team from last season. The Flyers are in dire need of defensive help and they haven't gotten the goaltending like they did in 2019-20. Those issues have compounded. The perfect storm, really.

 

"We each have our own responsibilities in this struggle," Sean Couturier said postgame. "Everyone just needs to find a way to bring their A-game and contribute to the team success right now. Every night we seem to have some guys on and off; it's tough to win in this league when you have too many guys off on some nights."

Fletcher will have to balance if an addition or two can push the Flyers into the postseason. He needs to be judicious in what he gives up. The East Division is loaded, the club's young goalie hasn't been himself and the Flyers are allowing the NHL's second-most goals per game (3.63).

A truly perplexing season and step back for this team.

"I said this a little while back, we haven't been the same since our COVID stoppage. I'm aware of that," Vigneault said postgame. "We get a couple of days here to regroup, there's still a lot of hockey to be played. We need to take it a game at a time. I really feel for our group tonight, I know our guys were ready, they were focused. Unfortunately it wasn't a good night for our group."

• Some seriously troubling (and telling?) numbers against Buffalo this season for the Flyers.

In their last 19 games (1-15-3), the Sabres have put up four or more goals only twice. Both times were against the Flyers.

Buffalo's season high in goals is six. It has done it twice. Both times came against the Flyers.

In the seven matchups with the Sabres, the Flyers have held a first-intermission lead only once.

• Brian Elliott, who entered 17-2-2 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in his career against Buffalo, did not finish this one.

Sam Reinhart's game-opening goal about midway through the first period took an unlucky bounce off of Justin Braun. Curtis Lazar scored just over two minutes later and suddenly the Flyers were in another first-period hole. Maybe the Flyers couldn't help but think here we go again, need another comeback.

In March, the Flyers were outscored 27-9 in the first period. Playing behind so often like that has to be taxing both mentally and physically.

Elliott was pulled in the second period after the Sabres took a 4-1 lead on a Casey Mittelstadt goal. Elliott made 12 saves on 16 shots.

Alex Lyon saw his first NHL action in over a year and converted nine stops on 10 shots.

Who will be in net for the Flyers on Saturday? It's uncertain if the Flyers want to turn to Carter Hart yet.

Buffalo netminder Linus Ullmark couldn't hold off the Flyers on Monday night when his team held a 3-0 third-period lead. He quieted the Flyers on Wednesday night with 31 saves.

• Stretches like these oftentimes call for fresh blood. Just something to shake it up a bit. The easiest way to do that is to call up a kid. It would obviously take juggling, but here are a couple of call-up options from the Phantoms:

 

Tanner Laczynski, a 23-year-old center who played four years at Ohio State, has six goals in his last five games. He does a lot of things right and offers positional versatility.

Wade Allison is a 23-year-old winger that can inject life into a lineup and he has seven points (three goals, four assists) over his first six games at the pro level.

Defenseman Cam York, the club's 2019 first-round pick, signed his entry-level contract Wednesday night. Vigneault said postgame that the 20-year-old will start with Lehigh Valley.

• Ivan Provorov trimmed the Flyers' deficit to 2-1 only 3:50 into the second period. The Flyers failed to build off of the goal.

• Shayne Gostisbehere cleared waivers at noon ET Wednesday. The defenseman then sat out and watched the Flyers' goal-prevention problems only grow.

Vigneault took Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick out of the lineup because he felt the young forwards needed to recharge both physically and mentally. The head coach explained before the game how that decision coincided with Gostisbehere being placed on waivers.

• The Flyers finally have two days in between games. They're scheduled to be off Thursday and practice Friday before heading to New York to face the Islanders on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP). 

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