For the second time in 2020-2021, the Philadelphia Flyers shutout the Buffalo Sabres with Brian Elliott starting in goal.
Heading into today’s game, the Philadelphia Flyers were hanging on to a playoff spot. Each game takes on elevated meaning during an abbreviated season. Two crucial points were on the line versus the Buffalo Sabres. With a win today, the Flyers could separate themselves from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Philadelphia needed to construct a winning streak to begin their road trip.
During pandemic hockey, teams are taking advantage when rosters are shorthanded. The Flyers dropped two games to the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins with most of their top-six forwards. Nearing full health, Philadelphia has an opportunity to take advantage of the Sabres. Buffalo is without their star, Jack Eichel.
Over the last four games, the Flyers consistently begin the first period with energy. They’ve either taken an early lead or kept up with their opponent. That trend continued today.
Both teams had early opportunities on the powerplay. Neither powerplay unit scored, meaning Philadelphia did their job on the penalty kill. Justin Braun, who returned to action today, helped fend off the Sabres. Brian Elliott didn’t give Buffalo a second chance, securing each puck.
A successful penalty kill allowed the Flyers to strike first. Travis Sanheim had an aggressive shift, locating Sean Couturier in the slot on a scoring play. A defenseman with the offensive vision to create a better scoring chance is invaluable. Couturier quickly shot the puck by Carter Hutton, deflecting off Brandon Montour.
Montour had a physical period in front of Hutton. James van Riemsdyk nearly scored a second goal later in the first period on the powerplay, but Montour disrupted. As he fell to the ice, he took van Riemsdyk down with him. Philadelphia set the pace in the first period while playing a more disciplined game. Without Philippe Myers in the lineup, the Sabres tallied more hits than the Flyers.
Their performance against the Rangers on Wednesday seemed like the best of the season for Philadelphia. In the second period versus Buffalo, the Flyers look even better. Physically, they took over in the second period. Offensively, Philadelphia continued to dictate the pace. They continue performing at optimum against the Sabres in 2020-2021.
Alain Vigneault dialed the right formula with his current second-line combination. They’re winning forechecking battles and extending offensive possessions. Nolan Patrick has been more noticeable at right-wing, centering Kevin Hayes with Claude Giroux. As long as Hutton is uncomfortable, the Flyers are doing their job.
Philadelphia outshot Buffalo, 15-8 in the second period. Shayne Gostisbehere scored his second goal in as many games. Entering the offensive zone, Gostisbehere took a pass from van Riemsdyk and beat Hutton. For a moment, it felt like we got into a time machine to the 2017-2018 season.
Returning from COVID protocol, Scott Laughton made his impression. With speed, he contributed on a breakaway, scoring on Hutton along the way. A quick shift from forehand to backhand or vise versa has become a signature move from Laughton. He’s one of the best bottom-six scorers in the league. To finish the second period, the Flyers led 3-0.
The Sabres forced Philadelphia to have an extended stay in the defensive zone at the beginning of the third period. Buffalo experienced little offensive success in the game to this point. The Flyers seemingly were able to possess the puck at will.
Breaking the late surge from the Sabres, Philadelphia controlled the puck on another powerplay. To Buffalo’s credit, they did not allow a goal on the penalty kill. The Flyers could say the same. Both teams played with equal discipline, meaning Philadelphia found their game in even-strength hockey.
Elliott, for the second time this season, secured a shutout victory versus the Sabres. He improved to 15-2-2 in his career against Buffalo. The Flyers won, 3-0, and Elliott continued to display why he is the league’s best backup goaltender.
Philadelphia Flyers Are All Three Stars
Coming Soon for the Philadelphia Flyers
Next, the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. The puck drop is slated for 3pm. All the action will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia and ESPN+.