Game 39: Out of gas and juggling
The emotional toll of a blizzard and Damar Hamlin mixed with young guys going through it calls for deft decisions
BUFFALO — With the schedule being eerily copycat the next few weeks, summing things up after a Monday/Tuesday back-to-back felt like the right move.
So, let’s sum up Monday’s game first because we love sequential order around here.
Crumple it up, throw it in the bin, forget it ever happened. Don’t just burn the tape, burn the camera, burn the game notes, burn it all down.
Following the 4-0 loss to Philadelphia, Don Granato chalked it up to the players being absolutely spent after everything that’s been going on in Buffalo recently.
“When you look at the game in its entirety and you’re sitting behind the bench every day with these guys and you’re with these guys every day, I can lump in two days ago, I thought we were riding a very emotional week and had lots and lots of emotional energy—and there was in the building with the atmosphere,” Granato said. “I thought tonight our guys looked and felt emotionally drained.”
And he’s right. He highlighted the total lack of execution, be it passes, structure, whatever. The Sabres didn’t have any of it and a Flyers team that got punted around by Toronto 6-2 the night before came in making it a point to not play like crap two nights in a row. After all, dealing with John Tortorella after one bad game is enough to make any player to never want to have another bad game ever again. And they didn’t.
The Flyers swarmed Sabres puck carriers all over the ice. Their forecheck smothered carriers, poached outlets for passes, and created a lot of general disruption Buffalo hasn’t seen turned up to that degree. Teams like Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Vegas all ran variations of a neutral zone trap type of scheme (get the Devils 1990s idea of it out of your mind, I know, we’re all scarred from the phrase) to make the Sabres either dump into the corner or dared them to carry it through and possibly turn it over for a counterattack.
What the Flyers did, instead, was make it impossible to go anywhere on the ice without at least two players right on top of the puck at all times. It felt like they would send three after it, but more often than not the third man was there to snuff out a pass and create a chance the other way. It was impressive to see work and the state the Sabres were in made it look extremely good. Philly getting up 3-0 in the first period also made it a lot easier to be aggressive attacking further up the ice.
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