It may seem obvious that a team can’t win if they don’t score, but in Game One of the Flyers and Sabres series, a truer thing couldn’t be said. At the Wells Fargo Center, the Eastern Conference’s seventh ranked Sabres shutout the second ranked Flyers, 1-0.
It wasn’t for lack of effort that the Flyers lost. They had their chances, outshooting their opponents, 35-25. But they lacked the ability to execute on their best chances.
“Well I was going to say that I thought we played pretty well tonight,” said Kimmo Timonen. “Obviously [Ryan] Miller was pretty good tonight. You never want to lose a game, but if you want to take anything out of it I thought we played pretty well. But, somehow we obviously have to score goals.”
Sabres goaltender Miller doesn’t make many mistakes, but the number of chances the Flyers had, they should have been able to put one by him. Pucks dribbled through the blue paint, posts were hit, one-timers missed the wheel houses, and shots that should have been taken were passed away.
It’s time for the orange and black to dig in. The dainty plays and perfect passing aren’t the way to beat a world class netminder, like Miller. He’s strong and he won’t get rattled easily. If the Flyers want to get to him, they’ll need to apply more pressure in front.
The problem for the Flyers didn’t come from a lack of chances, it came from a lack of net presence. All six of the Sabres’ defenseman are over 6’0” and 200 lbs, capped by Tyler Myers at 6’7” and 207 lbs. The Flyers need big bodies in front and an ability to get sticks on shots from the point. They need stronger play from forwards like Scott Hartnell, Jeff Carter, and James van Riemsdyk.
The perfect goals don’t happen in the playoffs. The only goal on the night came off of a bad rebound that found the stick of big Patrick Kaleta, a player known more for body checks than a scoring touch. If the Flyers want to get back on the horse and win game two, they’ll need to win the battles in front and cause some chaos for Miller and his defense.
On a positive note, the Flyers rookie goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, had a strong game. He stopped 24 of 25 shots face, and only showed one flaw in his rebound control. It proved to be the game winner.
The power-play also looked quicker. They moved the puck around, got shots through from the points, and recovered the loose pucks. But their down low play was lacking. They never had control of rebounds in close. The Flyers always had one forward in front, a second off the post, and another at the half-boards. But with shots coming from the point, they’d get better results firing it through two orange sweaters.
“Obviously I didn’t like the score,” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “Ya know we need to win hockey games, that’s what it comes down to when you’re in the playoffs, it’s not like the regular season where you can be happy with the process. The process was good, the score board wasn’t, so we just need to continue to push.”
During the regular season, the Flyers were shutout seven times, five of which saw them outshoot their opponents. They boast three talent rich lines of offense with the ability to score, but recently the need for perfect plays and passing have hurt their chances. Claude Giroux and Ville Leino have become the biggest offenders. Some of their play recently have turned over pucks and kept the team from getting pucks in deep.
If the Flyers want to take this series, they’ll need to get pucks in deep, establish the forecheck, and muscle their way to the front of the net. Otherwise, the series favored Flyers could be in for an early exit from the playoffs.