The Philadelphia Flyers lost to the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday to the tune of 6-1. The lineup didn’t do the team any favors.
All the Philadelphia Flyers can hope for is a better April.
Securing a 6-10-1 record in March, the Flyers remain fifth in the Mass Mutual Eastern Division standings. Currently, Philadelphia is three points behind the Boston Bruins and tied with the New York Rangers.
Following a comeback victory on Monday, Alain Vigneault needed to construct a lineup to stay ahead of the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday. Between the two games, a bevy of lineup changes took place. Shayne Gostisbehere cleared waivers while Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick were healthy scratches.
Replacing Gostisbehere was Erik Gustafsson. Samuel Morin, paired with Gustafsson, displayed his worst defensive performance. Without a doubt, Gostisbehere and Morin are the correct third-pair. Waiving Gostisbehere instead of Gustafsson created more cap space.
What about those other roster moves? Sending Gostisbehere to the taxi squad allowed Connor Bunnaman and Carsen Twarynski to appear on the starting roster. Vigneault felt Lindblom and Patrick needed a break. With Joel Farabee on the fourth line, Bunnaman and Twarynski were the worst skaters for either team. The Flyers shouldn’t have and didn’t defeat the Sabres on Wednesday.
Gustafsson Must Go
Fifteen days ago, Robert Hagg suffered a shoulder injury in the 9-0 loss to the Rangers. He’s on injured reserve, expected to miss two-to-four weeks. Hagg may return relatively soon.
Unfortunately, Hagg plays defense on the left side. Gustafsson provides more positional flexibility. Philadelphia, on the left side, would rely on Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, and Morin. If Vigneault builds his best defensive lineup, he shouldn’t involve Gustafsson on the right side. Gostisbehere offers the same flexibility Gustafsson does but with defensive engagement.
Sandin and Laczynski Incoming
When Linus Sandin and Tanner Laczynski signed an entry-level contract, the Flyers indicated they were ready to test and develop new prospects. Bunnaman and Twarynski were sent down to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms while Laczynski and Sandin landed on the taxi squad. Before playing a minute at the NHL level, both Laczynski and Sandin signed higher paying contracts than Bunnaman and Twarynski.
Of the two latest players to sign an entry-level contract, expect Laczynski to make his appearance first. If recalled from the taxi squad to the lineup in Philadelphia, it shouldn’t be in a one-off role. Development for these prospects should go uninterrupted. Many players on the taxi squad could receive more playing time if the Flyers are mathematically ineligible for playoff contention.
Laczynski is under contract through the 2021-2022 season. Sandin, on the other hand, would be a restricted free agent after this season.
Lyon Replaced Moose
It doesn’t matter who the goaltender is for Philadelphia; they’re not going to look good behind this defense.
Alex Lyon occupying the crease was exciting. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of Brian Elliott getting pulled after the second period. Already down, 4-1, Lyon saved 90% of the shots he faced after falling back into his net when Tobias Rieder skated, back-first, into him. Former Sabres head coach, Ralph Krueger, would have said Rieder meant to hit Lyon.
The Flyers need a plan after Elliott. Putting in the extra time to recalibrate Carter Hart is smart for the long run. Allowing Lyon to play at the NHL level, even behind a horrid defense, is necessary.
In 2021-2022, Hart will be the starting goaltender. Are Chuck Fletcher and Vigneault considering Lyon as their backup? No matter the plan, the front office in Philadelphia needs to build a competent defense. The retooling strategy includes rediscovering Morin, a handful of entry-level deals, and financial decisions, so a defensive free agent arrives. The keyword is defense… as in a defensive defenseman.