Flyers 5, Sabres 2: Life without Wayne Simmonds starts with big win in wild-card push



The Flyers passed another team as they continued their climb up the Eastern Conference standings.

Wearing their Stadium Series sweaters one more time Tuesday, the Flyers buried the Sabres, 5-2, to leap over them for 10th place in the East, while Ryan Hartman made quite the first impression.

Here are my observations from the Wells Fargo Center:

 Sometimes it’s just a matter of inches that determine the outcome. Jack Eichel’s cross-ice pass appeared to have hopped over the stick of Brandon Montour, who had a wide-open net to shoot at. The Flyers quickly capitalized, coming back the other way as Travis Sanheim filled the slot as the trailer. What could have been a tied game turned into a 4-2 Flyers lead.

• There had to be some concern of a letdown coming off that huge overtime thriller at Lincoln Financial Field combined with the departure of Wayne Simmonds, but that wasn’t the case at all. Aside from a couple careless penalties, the Flyers dominated the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the Sabres 19-6 to start the game.

• It also helps that they received an emotional spark from the newcomer Hartman. On his first shift of the game, Hartman gave Flyers fans a nice introduction of what he’s all about, as he leveled rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with a legal open-ice check (see story). Former general manager Ron Hextall said during his exit press conference that he thought this team needed more sandpaper, and it’s clear that Hartman has that element in his game.

• It was interesting to see how interim head coach Scott Gordon was going to divide up the minutes, electing to play 11 forwards and seven defensemen, like he did during Philippe Myers' NHL debut in Detroit. In that game, Myers played just 9:53, but you can see how much trust he built with his coach and how much trust he has earned. After two periods, Myers had logged nearly nine minutes and two-and-a-half minutes more than Andrew MacDonald.  

• There were a lot of rumors swirling around defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere at the trade deadline and I still think his name could be in play during the offseason. What I’ve noticed from "Ghost" recently is how he’s stepped up his physical play. At one point in the Stadium Series game, he was actually leading the Flyers in hits and he had another big one against the Sabres.

However, his positional play is what frustrates coaches. Gostisbehere stepped up and made a very poor decision that led to Casey Mittelstadt’s 3-2 goal.

• Oskar Lindblom has truly turned into a complete forward with his commitment to doing all the little things, constantly pressuring the puck. Rarely does he cheat himself on any shift. Not only did he score with a nice touch around the net, but he should have drawn a cross-checking penalty in the process. He had a couple of whacks from close range in the third period. Lindblom is coming on strong down the backstretch wth 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in his last 17 games.

• The Flyers were looking to match a franchise record by going three straight games without giving their opponent a power-play opportunity. However, that dissipated quickly with Scott Laughton’s tripping penalty that gave Buffalo a power play. Eichel capitalized with his 22nd goal of the season.

• The Flyers topped 40 shots for the ninth time this season. While they’re just 8-19-2 in games in which they outshoot an opponent, they’re now 6-2-1 when putting up 40 or more shots.

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