Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers at Buffalo Sabres; Part Four

The Philadelphia Flyers blanked the Buffalo Sabres, 3-0, yesterday. Could the Flyers continue to climb the standings with another win today?

Game number two of a back-to-back in Buffalo takes place today at 3pm. Yesterday, Brian Elliott secured his second shutout of the season over the Buffalo Sabres. The Philadelphia Flyers can say they are on a winning streak. Holding onto fourth place in the Mass Mutual Eastern Division, they could jump to second place with a little help. First, they need to sweep the Sabres on the road.

Elliott added to his stellar 2020-2021 campaign. Securing his 42nd career shutout, he remains the best backup goaltender in the NHL. Today, Carter Hart will start for the Flyers. In his last start, the Boston Bruins dominated at Lake Tahoe. Now, Hart will play with a near completely healthy team in front of him.

During the shutout loss, Buffalo was without Jack Eichel. His absence hurt the top powerplay unit in the NHL. Philadelphia, who has the fourth-worst penalty kill unit in the NHL, did not allow a powerplay goal for the second straight game versus the Sabres. Will the Flyers remain stubborn on the penalty kill in Buffalo?

Buffalo Sabres – Forward Spotlight

Kyle Okposo helps with the finer details on the bottom-six. He hasn’t contributed much on offense, only tallying one assist this season. His game includes defensive skills. On the third line, Okposo contributes to a physical game while forcing turnovers.

Okposo is a veteran who needs to contribute more on offense. Without Eichel, Buffalo needs points from anyone. During his time with the Sabres, Okposo has been on the decline. He has a few talented players available to sync within the transition. If Okposo is leaving on a line change, he’ll look for Jeff Skinner on the left-wing.

Buffalo Sabres – Defenseman Spotlight

Rasmus Dahlin, like most of Buffalo, finished with at least a minus-one. When you are on the receiving end of a shutout, it’s tough to point out a defenseman who had a good performance. Dahlin tried his hand in slowing down Philadelphia on the left side. Unfortunately, even with Rasmus Ristolainen making his return, the defense wasn’t up to the task.

Dahlin did leave Colin Miller out to dry when Shayne Gostisbehere scored to put the Flyers up, 2-0. Gostisbehere was wide open entering the offensive zone after Miller made the defensive slide. An early pursuit on Sean Couturier removed all defensive responsibility from the left side of the ice. Had Dahlin stayed home defensively, Gostisbehere may not have scored the insurance goal.

Buffalo Sabres – Goaltender Spotlight

Carter Hutton logged his only victory against Philadelphia. His head-to-head opponent in his lone win was Hart. Today, both of those goaltenders could do battle. Ralph Krueger has to decide if he will start Hutton following the shutout loss. Jonas Johansson would be the other goaltending option without Linus Ullmark.

Krueger will play with the lineup today to discover new energy. That could include recalls from the AHL. For either goaltender available to start, the Sabres defense needs to tighten. Hutton didn’t receive any help in the shutout loss. If Buffalo starts Johansson in their current lineup, they’ll be throwing him to the wolves.

Prediction

Flyers Win

My prediction today leads with an outright victory for the Flyers. The Sabres are experiencing a lot of what Philadelphia did in games against the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins recently. Yes, Buffalo ranks at the bottom of the Mass Mutual Eastern Division. The Flyers have every opportunity to extend their winning streak and get Hart back on the right track. They’ll do so today, winning 4-1.

Flyers 4, Sabres 1

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre

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