Flyers Bounce Back Against Sabres but Lineup Questions Remain

Coming out of Monday night’s 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the season looked bleak for the Philadelphia Flyers. After allowing six goals and seeing starting goaltender Carter Hart chased from the net, the Flyers had defensive issues to work through and an offensive touch that needed to be found.

Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux
Philadelphia Flyers’ Claude Giroux and teammates skate off the ice after their final game of the season (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Unfortunately, they were on the clock to sift through the tape from Monday night’s game, with a rematch less than 24 hours later.

Head coach Alain Vigneault showed confidence in his squad to bounce back shortly after the embarrassing loss. Still, without star forward Sean Couturier and with veteran netminder Brian Elliott between the pipes, the Flyers were able to do just that on Tuesday.

First Back-to-Back of the Season

Like every other team in the league, the Flyers must get used to playing back-to-back games. They have seven more on the schedule with plenty of opportunity to capture consecutive wins. Or, as we saw against the Sabres, they’ll have a chance to rebound after a disappointing performance. The feeling in the locker room couldn’t have been great after a 6-1 loss on home ice.

Tuesday’s rematch, however, gave them the chance to quickly get back in the win column and improve on the previous night’s mistakes.

The goal may be to get two wins out of these two-game series, but Flyers fans should have some confidence that their team is capable of working through and overcoming adversity, even this early in the season.

Injury Impact

It didn’t take long for the Flyers to get hit by the injury bug. Coming out of their opening series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, they lost Couturier. The loss of his 200-foot game was evident in the Flyers’ first game against the Sabres, and the team struggled to effectively replace his puck-control, face-offs, and special teams skills.

Unfortunately, the injuries didn’t stop there. Without last year’s Selke Trophy-winner for at least another week and a half, the Flyers may have to deal with injuries to two of their brightest young stars.

On what seemed like two fairly innocent hits from Sabres blueliner Jake McCabe, defenseman Phil Myers and forward Morgan Frost left Tuesday’s win early.

Both will have MRIs on Wednesday, and little is known about their injuries so far. With the Flyers’ series with the Boston Bruins right around the corner, they will be seriously shorthanded without Myers on the back end and Frost in Couturier’s spot in the top-six.

On to the Next

Injury struggles will be a brutal aspect of this season with such a quick turnaround between games. The Flyers will have no more than a two-day break between games all season, so they, along with every other team, will be forced to insert new players into the lineup and try to maintain a solid, consistent game despite injuries.

Their ability to bounce back against the Sabres was impressive, but now they’ll have to carry the momentum of Elliott’s shutout win into a series against a loaded Bruins team.

It’s unclear if Vigneault will stick with the altered line combinations he sent out on Tuesday or if he will return to the standard pairings we saw against the Penguins and in the first game against the Sabres. Those line combinations could become even trickier with if Frost and Myers are unable to play. Vigneault and his staff may have to pluck two more skaters from their taxi squad to make their debut on Thursday night.

To make a short story longer, the Flyers have a lot of questions to answer in just a two-day turnaround. Hopefully, the injury woes stop with Couturier and the focus can remain on improving on the mistakes that earned them their first loss of the season.

Philadelphia Flyers Kevin Hayes and Brian Elliott
Philadelphia Flyers Kevin Hayes and Brian Elliott (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Despite all the uncertainty around the Flyers right now, specifically how they’ll deal with more injuries and whether or not Vigneault continues to shake up his lineup, there are plenty of positives to take out of their series split with the Sabres and their bounce-back win.

If they can quickly work through that uncertainty, fix the kinks in their lineup, and regroup the way they did in their series against Buffalo, the Flyers should have no problem living up to their expectations as one of the league’s elite.

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