Yesterday afternoon, the Flyers found themselves in a must-win situation. Prior to the game, they sat six points back of the Boston Bruins. The Bruins, who have two games in hand, could have stretched their lead for that last playoff spot to eight with a win. The Flyers, however, live to see another day. With a strong game from Travis Konecny and Brian Elliott, Philadelphia sprung themselves to a 3-2 victory. This puts them only four points back of Boston going into Sunday afternoon’s games.
Boston plays the Washington Capitals, who are battling for the top of the division lead. If the pieces all fall correctly, the Flyers could (somehow) find themselves within a game of that coveted playoff-bound fourth seed. The most important step to get to that point is to beat who’s on their own schedule.
First up for that task is the Buffalo Sabres. Philadelphia will take on Buffalo, who sits at the bottom of the Eastern Division. Puck drop is slated for 2PM with coverage beginning at 1:30PM on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Flyers are -220 puckline favorites with the over/under sitting at 5.5 goals.
If Alain Vigneault is seeing what we’ve been seeing, then I imagine that the Bobby Hagg Hive will live to see another day. Robert Hagg’s strong play recently will likely keep him in the lineup over Erik Gustafsson, who has been a healthy scratch. Gustafsson could be dealt before Monday’s trade deadline. Phil Myers has been one of the worst Flyers’ defenseman this season specifically, and Shayne Gostisbehere has produced decently since being put on waivers on March 30 (2g in his last 4 games).
Carter Hart is the expected starting goaltender for this afternoon’s game. After getting the game off on Saturday, Hart will look to have success against the weak Sabres’ offense. For his career, he’s 3-1-0 with a 2.37 GAA and .937 save percentage against Buffalo.
Most notably, the Sabres will still not have their young captain on the ice. Jack Eichel remains out for the foreseeable future with a somewhat unknown injury. Also, the team is electing to hold Taylor Hall out until after the trade deadline. Speaking of the trade deadline, they also just traded Brandon Montour to the Florida Panthers.
It’s likely that Dylan Cozens does make his return for this game. Between the pipes, expect Linus Ullmark to get the nod. He was given the night off in a Friday night loss to the Capitals, then had Saturday off. He’s 8-6-3 on the season with a solid 2.62 goals-against average. Against the Flyers for his career, he’s 2-1-1 with a 2.99 GAA.
Flyers have controlled play
In three straight games against Buffalo, the Flyers conquered them 3-0. Back on March 9th, Philadelphia beat Buffalo 5-4 in a shootout at the beginning of their elongated losing streak. To follow that up, they then beat Buffalo 4-3 in overtime. However, most recently, the Flyers were embarrassed once again by Buffalo in a 6-1 loss on March 31.
Players to Watch
In their win over Boston on Saturday afternoon, Travis Konecny played what arguably was his best game since last March. He scored the tying goal in the first period, set up the go-ahead goal later in the period, and drew two penalties on his own. If this version of TK is back for the Flyers, then they may actually have a chance to sneak into the playoffs. On the season, he has 26 points in 33 games, all while improving his overall 200-foot game. Against the Sabres for his career, he has 11 points in 16 games. TK has a great chance to continue his momentum Sunday afternoon.
There isn’t anything or anyone that currently screams “must watch” for the Sabres. However, for Buffalo, Sam Reinhart is the player to watch when he plays against Philly. The 25-year-old forward always makes his presence known when playing Philadelphia. For his career, he has 11 points (7 goals, 4 assists) in 21 games. On the season, he has accumulated 25 points in 38 games as well. Recently, he has had to carry the load with Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall still out for the foreseeable future.
Flyers can’t lose this one… right?
It’s a must-win situation for Philadelphia. Some of Buffalo’s top producers are missing the game. Buffalo is also in pure sell, sell, sell mode for the trade deadline and they want a better chance for the top pick in the 2021 NHL draft. There’s no way that the Flyers can lose this, right?
Well, I hope not. In Buffalo’s defense, they have scored at least two goals in eight straight games, with at least three goals in six of those games. I do think that the Flyers do their part in closing the division standings gap Sunday afternoon, though. I’m not sure if Washington can topple Boston, but I do think the Flyers can win this game pretty handily and hopefully spark a run. Optimism is the name of the game, and the Flyers have a great chance to make some positive strides into the home stretch of the season.
Flyers win, 5-2.
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Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre