Joy isn’t typically a word that gets associated with the Flyers very often, and certainly not during the 2021 season. The Flyers played some of their worst hockey in franchise history from March to the end of the season in May, but that didn’t even feel like a possibility bat the time.
They started the season with a 7-2-1 record, albeit not looking very good doing so, and followed that up with a 4-2-2 record in February highlighted by back-to-back shutout victories over the Buffalo Sabres. Fans cheered in the streets after those victories, where they admittedly played the two most complete games of the season, and the moment was being cherished as a potential jumping off point for the rest of the season, refueling the energy tanks and getting the team back on track after returning from their bout with covid that decimated the roster.
Those games took place on February 27 and 28, just a week after their national embarrassment during the Lake Tahoe outdoor game. The Flyers beat the Sabres twice by a score of 3-0 both games, with each of Elliott and Hart earning a shutout. The pair of wins elevated the Flyers to a 11-4-3 record and seemingly was the exclamation point on their battle with covid, which they finally had a full lineup for the first time in almost a month.
While some fans started planning their parade routes, like beating the Sabres in 2021 was some kind of crowning achievement, the Flyers fell from grace after those victories and never found a way to get back on track.
First and foremost, they lost their very next game against the Penguins. Pittsburgh killed all the momentum they may have carried away from those victories dead in its tracks. In fact, losing became a nightly occurrence during the month of March as they only recorded a 6-10-1 record and featured memorable games such as the 9-0 loss to the Rangers, the 8-3 loss to the Rangers a week later, and a pair of 6-1 losses to the Islanders and Sabres, marking the second time they lost by five tallies to Buffalo during the season.
Their fortunes didn’t change much in April either. They walked away with a 5-7-3 record but scoring goals was almost impossible and Carter Hart was shut down toward the end of the month with a knee injury. In the span of two months since those Sabres wins, they went from a 11-4-3 record to a 22-21-7 record.
The Flyers did manage to break even in May, going 3-2-1, yet still found a way to get shelled by the Devils 4-1 and later the Penguins by a score of 7-3. Their three game series against the Devils from April 27 to May 1 produced three straight losses by a combined score of 15-8.
For those keeping score at home, the Flyers were 9-4-3 before the Sabres’ series (9-1-2 against teams not named the Bruins, though) and went 14-19-5 after. They ended the season with a -38 goal differential, all of which was accrued after that pair of games as they were +5 in their first 16 games.
So, the lesson of the day is take every victory against the Sabres with a grain of salt. It’s pretty easy to look good against a team that bad.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com