Flyers First Round-table
As the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres gear up to meet in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s time to look at a few issues. Our fantastic Flyers coverage team has some answers about the team and their performance in the first round. We hope you enjoy the perspective, and be sure to stay tuned for another edition!
I think it was a mix of things. There was a lack of motivation for sure, but also the fact that none of those guys wanted to get hurt before the playoffs. Not much to gain, lots to lose.
The Flyers said all the right things after losses and seemed to grasp the seriousness of their issues down the stretch, but their performances failed to reflect that. In my opinion, the team just wanted the playoffs begin. They had no urgency or determination, and you could even see less dedication in blocking shots among other things. I don't think it has a deeper cause.
I think the Flyers’ struggles were mostly due to complacency. I’ve wondered from time to time if there were more issues in the locker room than the public heard about, because it seemed like the team lost a lot of its chemistry toward the end of the season…but who knows. I’m sure everyone in the locker room was frustrated, so it wouldn’t be surprising if there was some tension. Like I said, though, for the most part, I’m sure they just got comfortable once they were doing so well and the other teams were far behind them, and then couldn’t recover once their position in the standings was challenged.
This team has been stating that once the playoffs come they will be ready to play. This is the same team who lost 14 of 21 games down the stretch with a few of them being playoff type games with the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division titles up for grabs. Those are games you need to use to get ready for the playoffs and the way they lost a majority of those 21 games is disturbing. They have deeper problems than just being bored with the regular season.
I don’t think there is one definite answer as to why this team struggled in the last two months. There were so many things going wrong that I’d be hard pressed to say that complacency was their only problem. Complacency was definitely in full effect, but I also feel that lapses in judgment, poor puck movement, and the lack of Chris Pronger all played a huge role in the struggles of this team.
Although there were problems across the board with the team’s performance, I think those were manifestations of their complacency. The only exception to that would be Pronger’s injury, but even that could be considered a result of complacency because the team played well without him earlier in the season. There were deeper issues than complacency, but the complacency created them. That leads me to believe that they shouldn’t be worries moving forward.
Sergei Bobrovsky. He's capable of stealing games for the Flyers, and he might have to do that once or twice in this series. Hope that new mask helps.
A guy like Jeff Carter is going to have to step up the most in round one. He has not been bad down the stretch by any means, but he is going to have to bury his scoring chances. Ryan Miller is going to be the story for the Sabres. They are not an offensively deep team, so the offense of the Flyers will be a huge difference maker.
Ville Leino, hands down. Where has he been these last few games? I know he’s been benched more recently, but even when he’s on the ice, he’s not contributing much. Maybe his contract situation is getting to him, but it seems he should be playing harder. Maybe he’s still dealing with his lower-body injury and it’s worse than we know, but he really needs to play better. He was such a force last season, and helped the team out a ridiculous amount; if he recreates that energy and produces similar results, I think the team will feed off of it. That HBL line is one of the best I’ve seen on the Flyers in a long time, and Hartnell and Briere have been contributing a lot lately, so Leino just needs to jump back into the mix.
Braydon Coburn. Coburn is a big body with speed and those attributes make him a valuable member of the team. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that the Flyers could use more physical play and I think it will be very beneficial if Coburn can establish a physical presence early.
Because I think the Flyers will be able to score regardless of which forwards perform well, I will go with a defenseman and say Sean O’Donnell. If Pronger can’t play in the series, O’Donnell will have to be the top defenseman on the third pairing, and even if #20 does return, O’Donnell must avoid being the team’s sore thumb. The defense as a whole must be strong for Bobrovsky and the team to succeed, but the only player on defense that I see as a weakness is O’Donnell.
BOB will hold down the fort and help the Flyers beat the Sabres in six games.
It's going to be a hard fought series, but the offensive depth of the Flyers will help them to prevail. Ryan Miller is an elite goaltender, but he may be one of the only edges the Sabres have over the Flyers. While Derek Roy has been out since late December, I think that his absence will be a difference maker in this series as well. Flyers in six games
I was originally thinking Flyers in five, but I think they’re going to win one (or both) in Philly, drop one (or both) in Buffalo, and then win the last two. They’ll come back to Philly for Game 5 up 3-1 at the max. If the Flyers play like we know they can play, they shouldn’t have too much trouble handling the Sabres. Buffalo has shown that they’re a good team, and Miller’s a great goaltender, but his numbers against the Flyers this year haven’t been great, and he’s struggling with an injury. The Flyers scored three goals on the Sabres’ backup on Friday before Miller came in. If he aggravates his injury any more, the Flyers may be facing Enroth, which is a huge advantage for them. It’ll be a good series for sure, and it won’t be easy, but I’m picking the Flyers to win this one in six games.
I’m not a big fan of giving predictions, especially when it involves the team I root for as I need to separate hope from reality. I can’t see this Flyers team winning this series with the way they have played down the stretch and with many issues still needing to be resolved, such as:
-The team’s struggling power play
- Playing with an injured Chris Pronger or Pronger out of the lineup entirely
- The high amount of turnovers
- Inability to protect leads and play disciplined hockey
- Inconsistency in regards to strong fore-checking and back-checking
I don’t think a team or can turn the switch on and off at will. Until I see something to convince me otherwise, I say Buffalo in six games. But, I hope the Flyers prove me wrong.
As I wrote in my latest piece, the second seed has advanced to the second round 80% of the time in the last five years. The only time a seventh seed beat a two was when the Flyers beat the Devils last year. In addition, when teams tie the season series and meet in the playoffs, the higher seeded team wins the series 67% of the time (since 2006). I don’t like how the Flyers have been playing, but I do think they can advance to the second round. I like the Flyers in six games.
This will be a close-fought series from game to game, but the end result won’t be indicative of that. The Flyers simply have too much talent and depth at the forward position compared to the Sabres. I honestly think the only way that Buffalo will win is if Miller steals the series. With a .890 save percentage against the Flyers this year, I don’t see that happening. Flyers in five games.