The Philadelphia Flyers came from behind to beat the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout on Tuesday night. But they shouldn’t have needed a shootout or even a comeback to beat a team like Buffalo. The Flyers defense dug themselves into a hole after a few lapses and laziness in front of the net.
Those defensive breakdowns should not be forgotten about. The Flyers have been plagued by poor defensive play so far this season and it’s getting to be increasingly worrisome.
Carter Hart was replaced by Brian Elliott to start the second period after allowing three goals on eight shots. He didn’t play extremely well, but the team in front of him didn’t help him out, either.
Reinhart alone down low (1-1 tie)
On the Sabres’ first goal, the Flyers actually did a good job defensively on their first entry attempt. They created a battle in front of the blue line, but the puck squirted free to Taylor Hall.
Hall got the puck across to Henri Jokiharju, who sent the puck in deep around the boards. Philippe Myers was in position to get to the puck first, but he flubbed his backhand try and was tied up by Hall.
The Flyers heavily outnumbered the Sabres down low and in the screenshot, but it didn’t matter. No one had picked up Reinhart and he made the Flyers pay.
In hindsight – this is not a critique –, the Flyers would’ve benefited from having an aggressive goalie here. We’ve seen goalies put an abrupt stop to the Flyers’ forechecking efforts by stopping a dump-in behind the net. If Hart had done that, the Flyers likely just move back up the ice.
This sequence also wouldn’t have ended with a goal if a few skaters in front of Hart did things differently. Myers went in weak to the wall, Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov both went to support and couldn’t cut off the pass, and Joel Farabee didn’t keep up with Reinhart.
If Farabee had moved down low with Reinhart, that shot likely doesn’t happen. Maybe the puck gets passed back to an open point instead, but it would be less dangerous than an open shot from below the dot.
The Flyers defensemen catch a lot of flack for their breakdowns. However, the forwards should be included just as much in that. All five players on the ice need to play defense and when they don’t, bad things happen in Philadelphia.
Sheahan unmarked in the slot (2-1 Sabres)
The Sabres’ second goal was also the result of some defensive incompetence.
It starts with Travis Sanheim getting the puck up the ice to Travis Konecny, who taps it back to a driving Kevin Hayes. Rather than getting the puck in deep at the end of a shift, Hayes sends it back to Konecny in the middle of the ice.
It would’ve been hard to get the red line with Riley Sheahan bearing down on him, but Hayes could’ve done it.
Konecny looks to enter the zone with possession – and speed – but mishandles the puck against Victor Olofsson and plays the body instead of getting it in deep.
Hayes, at the end of a minute-long shift, tries to bat the puck out of midair.
Brandon Montour speeds by him, and while he doesn’t get the puck, he disrupts – possibly illegally – Sanheim along the wall. Hayes then misses the puck in midair again and Eric Staal powers his way to the net.
The Flyers have all five skaters at or below the dots, but no one marks Sheahan in the slot.
Sheahan was all alone in the slot just waiting for the rebound.
It wasn’t a good shift for Hayes and the positioning in front of the net could’ve been a lot better. Lindblom or one of the defensemen needed to tie up Sheahan instead of allowing him to have an easy rebound goal.
Konecny watches Reinhart’s second (3-1 Sabres)
The Sabres’ third goal was quite possibly the most frustrating.
Taylor Hall easily got around Scott Laughton in the neutral zone and then sped around the corner past Braun. Braun kept him to the outside enough, which is fine, and Sanheim took care of his man in front.
However, Travis Konecny did not.
Konecny took a look back as the Sabres entered the zone.
Reinhart either must’ve been in his blind spot or Konecny just forgot about him.
The winger – who has already been benched this season for poor play away from the puck – had a great view of Hall’s pass to Reinhart.
Konecny messed up and he knew it.
The behind-the-net view gives a good look at Konecny’s reaction.
The Flyers were already down a goal to the worst team in the league and going down by two before the end of the first period was infuriating.
Of course, the Flyers came back and won the game in a shootout, but that shouldn’t have been necessary. The team should’ve come out of the gates ready to play in a must-win game against a bad team.
The Flyers are going to need to clean things up defensively moving forward. They’ll return to action on Thursday night against the Washington Capitals.