Rink Notes: Flyers Embarrassed
RotoRob was forced to suffer through another unacceptable effort by the Flyers last night, as they were absolutely humiliated in Buffalo, 9-1. Games like this will drive me to drink — unwillingly, I mean.
Some observations from the ugliness:
- Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have been nowhere to be found during the early-season Flyers’ swoon. Richards is pointless through six games, and his -2 showing last night dropped him to -1 for the year. He was awarded his first career penalty shot in the first period, and it showed, as the puck rolled off his stick and he was unable to even get a shot on net. Ugly. At least Carter finally got his first goal of the year. It took him nine shots in this game to score, but given that it was the only Flyer goal, we’ll let his poor shooting percentage slide for now. Philly is counting on this guy to supply some secondary offense, and with just one goal and one assist through six, he’s not delivering.
- Robert Esche, who unwisely made a crack about coach Ken Hitchcock’s intelligence on Monday, finally got his second start of the season. He actually was brilliant in the first period, and was the only reason the game was scoreless after one. His positioning looked superb and it really appeared as if he was making a statement for more playing time. But the nightmare from his crappy Opening Day performance soon reoccured, as in the second period alone the Sabres poured six goals in against a helpless Esche. It’s really hard to blame him given the Flyers’ woeful defensive play. Anyways, this effort does nothing to dispel the notion that Antero Niittymaki is the number one man in Philly. Oh, by the way Versus: we didn’t need constant cutaways to Niittymaki’s face each time the Sabres scored.
- Carter looks like he’s trying to do too much himself. He’s just not using his teammates. Remember how well he clicked with R.J. Umberger towards the end of 2005-06? Where is that chemistry now?
- The Sabres outshot Philly in the first period 12-9 as Esche, as mentioned above, kept the Flyers in the game. Flyers were 0-for-2 on the power play as they continue to struggle with the man advantage. Only three teams have a worse PP right now. Needless to say, if you can’t excel on special teams in the new NHL, you’re toast.
- Of course, if you can’t get the puck out of your own zone, you’ll also be in a world of hurt. The Flyers continually coughed the puck up last night — especially in their own zone. How about 11 giveaways in all? Philly really needs Lars Jonsson, expected back shortly. His return will probably mean the end of Randy Jones’ playing time, although it’s also possible Freddy Meyer could sit. Both have looked awful. Denis Gauthier also has to be on thin ice.
- The Sabres, meanwhile, are really building a great system and have a lot of maturing talent on their team. It shows. Buffalo has gotten out of the gates with a 6-0 start, two wins shy of matching its best start ever, set in 1975. That same team 31 years ago won 11 straight games, which the current incarnation matched last night, counting their five straight wins to cap the regular season last year.
- Ryan Miller has arrived as a top NHL goalie. He turned aside 37 shots last night, although he never really seemed overly taxed.
- Geoff Sanderson adds a new dimension of speed to the Flyers, and he can still burn after all these years. He will help create offense on this team, and he’s a good fantasy bet as he gets time on the point on the power play.
- Buffalo held a 21-20 edge in shots with just under seven minutes to play in the second, but the margin of play was nowhere near that close. SOG can be a hugely misleading stat.
- The word from NHL.com is that jerseys with the new Sabres’ logo are outselling all others. Have too many spicy chicken wings destroyed these people’s tastes? For more on the logo, see what RotoRob hockey expert Mike Chen has to say.
- On a few of the goals last night, the Sabres were simply toying with the Flyers. Derian Hatcher — who apparenly lost a lot of weight in the offseason so he’d be more mobile this year — was completed turned inside out by Maxim Afinogenov on goal number six. Big Derian still looks sluggish and immobile to me.
- Of course, he wasn’t alone. The Flyers have serious problems with their positional play and ability to handle defensive assignment and the speedy and skilled Sabres completely exploited these weaknesses.
- The team didn’t even have enough pride to start hitting the Sabres once things got real embarrasing. Peter Forsberg was knocked on his ass and Mike Knuble finally reacted, although it was pretty half-hearted. It almost made me long for Donald Brashear or, preferrably, Bob Kelly.
- The big line (Forsberg, Knuble, Simon Gagne) is being split up and reassembled as Hitchcock desperately tries to find a way to generate some offense. Heading into the game, this line has accounted for eight of Philly’s 11 goals. Richards and Carter are the keys here; they have to step up for Philly’s attack to show more balance.
- Midway through the third, Philadelphia was leading in faceoffs won. Hey, gotta take something positive from this game.
- So much for the Flyers getting revenge against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year. This club looks spineless and lacks any confidence or heart right now.
- Buffalo, meanwhile, looks like a serious powerhouse, and Afinogenov is a stud, scoring one goal and adding four assists. The acceleration this guy has is unbelievable. He left many a Philly defenseman eating his dust.
Other hockey tidbits:
- This Evgeni Malkin situation could get ugly and there’s a very good chance we’ll see a lawsuit by Russian team Yaroslavl similar to the ones filed against Calgary and Edmonton that claim they each have players under contract to Yaroslavl. On the ice, however, Malkin will make his long-awaited Penguin debut tonight and Mark Recchi is already comparing him to Mario Lemieux. Nothing like a bit of pressure, eh?
- Jussi Jokinen is now 11-for-14 in shootouts, but when is he going to start turning that talent into numbers that count? He’s got just one goal in the first six games and he’s getting 90 seconds less ice time per game so far.