There is no such thing as a sure two points in hockey, which the Flyers seemed determined to prove Thursday against the worst-in-the-NHL Buffalo Sabres.
You think things were bad around here for the franchise that sent its coach, Peter Laviolette, packing after just three games and was still slogging along at 4-10-1 just two weeks back? Well, it’s been even worse in upstate New York, where the Sabres have rarely been sharp, coming in 5-17-1 which also led to their coach, Ron Rolston, getting canned last week.
Yet for over a period, it was hard to tell which of these clubs was the bottom-feeder and which was riding a five-game unbeaten streak. The Sabres muscled home a late Tyler Myers first period power-play goal and seemed intent on springing the upset when they killed off a pair of 5-on-3 Flyers power plays.
A few weeks ago the Flyers might’ve meekly succumbed. But not these days, as Matt Read scored goals 1:40 apart late in the second, then Vinny Lecavalier added a third period power-play goal, before Scott Hartnell’s goal into an open net enabled them to escape with a deceiving 4-1 victory.
Ray Emery turned aside 29 shots as Philadelphia made it 5-0-1 since falling to the Devils on home ice exactly two weeks ago. Since then they’ve made it hell for everybody else and in the process have moved into the thick of the scramble for playoff positioning.
“We’re playing good hockey,” said Craig Berube, now 9-7-2 since replacing Laviolette. “There are obviously some things you can improve, like we weren¹t real happy in the first period. You have to stay on it all of the time. You can¹t take a break and there are no easy games in this league.
“There are going to be nights where you might not have the jump and the legs, and that’s where you have to be real smart out there and not turn pucks over.”
For the most part that formula paid off Thursday, as the Flyers continue to cut down on the turnovers that plagued them the first 15 games. The few times they did cough it up in this one, Emery was there to bail them out.
“He was solid again,” said Berube, who’s been giving Emery more of a workload lately, though Steve Mason remains No. 1 man in net. “He is a very good goalie and wins a lot of games.”
These days, though, it doesn’t seem to matter who’s in goal or who’s shooting the puck. The Flyers are getting the job done, with the third line of Read, Steve Downie and center Sean Couturier providing the latest spark, as they blasted a season-high 46 shots at Ryan Miller.
According to Emery it simply took awhile for the shock of a coaching change to kick in.
“It takes time to get used to some of changes that happened,” said Emery, who was also here when Laviolette replaced John Stevens and they struggled for awhile before eventually reaching the Stanley Cup Final. “It takes time to get your confidence back as a group as well.
“Most of the time guys feel kind of responsible for the coach that’s leaving the team. You want to do well for the new guy, but sometimes it takes awhile. But we have a positive feeling in the room now. That’s all that counts.”