The Flyers defeated the last place Sabres 2-1 last night in what seemed like one of the most lackluster games they have played recently. However, two points is two points, and they will take them any way they can get them.
Over the last few games, which included disappointing, post-regulation losses at the hands of Montreal and Columbus, the inconsistency in which the Flyers have shown all season reared its ugly head once again. Ray Emery has looked very sharp in the wake of Steve Mason’s absence, and is the main reason the Flyers have managed to record at least a point in each of their last nine games. He has made some tough saves in games where the Flyers are heavily outshot. He is just not getting the defensive help he needs. Too often are missed assignments left uncovered in front of the net, awaiting the easy rebound untouched.Their shot blocking has provided some relief for Emery, but they often lack the ability to gain possession of the puck and slow the play of the game down, setting up a breakout.
Braydon Coburn, who returned from injury and made his first start since Jan. 14, took one of the two penalties that put the Flyers at a 5-on-3 disadvantage, in which the Sabres cashed in. Giroux took the other, capping off a rough night for the captain. Penalties have been a problem all year, and it is in part due to either being caught flat-footed on the backcheck or bad body positioning when finishing checks.
Most importantly, what has happened to the scoring duo of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek of late? The first line has struggled to produce even-strength. Craig Berube opted to leave Brayden Schenn on the first line, despite Michael Raffl returning from injury. Raffl eventually scored the game-winner. There is one statistic that is very telling when looking at the first line’s up-and-down play. According to Rotoworld.com, the six goals Giroux has scored at home were all power play goals. He has yet to score at home even-strength, despite scoring an NHL 6th best 16 goals. That is alarming, considering that the Flyer’s first line consists of two of their most consistent scorers. Even Matt Read, who has had his fair share of hard times lately, has found the back of the net in two of the last three games. It is definitely time for Berube to consider a change, maybe swapping Schenn for Raffl.
While the Flyers have been gaining some ground in the points race, they have left some crucial points on the table, losing games in which they had the lead. They need to find ways to spread the scoring wealth and shut down teams late in the game. In the end, if they do miss the playoffs, these games will be looked upon as lost opportunities.