Game 31 Preview: Flyers @ Canucks
Concluding a five-game road trip Dave Hakstol's Philadelphia Flyers (12-14-4) are in British Columbia on Saturday to take on Travis Green's Vancouver Canucks (14-16-4). Game time at Rogers Place is 10:00 p.m. ET.
The game will be televised locally on NBCSP. The radio broadcast can be found on 97.5 FM The Fanatic with an online simulcast at FlyersRadio247.com
This is the first of two meetings this season between the inter-conference clubs, and the lone game in Vancouver. The teams will rematch in Philadelphia on Feb. 4, 2019. Last season, the clubs split their two games with the visiting team winning in each game.
The Flyers suffered an ugly 5-2 home loss to the Canucks on Nov. 21, 2017 as an early lead on an Ivan Provorov goal was erased by goals spaced 19 seconds apart by Daniel Sedin (now retired) and then-rookie Brock Boeser. Boeser scored again early in the second period -- the first of two Vancouver power play goals in the middle frame -- and the Canucks pulled away. Jakub Voracek scored an otherwise meaningless goal in the third period that got the Flyers back within two goals before Loui Eriksson tacked on an empty-netter for Vancouver.
On Dec. 7 in Vancouver, the Flyers built a 3-0 lead on goals by Shayne Gostisbehere (power play), Michael Raffl and Claude Giroux (power play) by the mid-point of regulation. The team needed a 36-save performance from Brian Elliott to stave off Vancouver's efforts to climb back into the game. Finally, Wayne Simmonds scored an empty-net goal to seal a 4-1 victory.
Saturday's game is the end of what has been a draining and disappointing road trip overall after a good start in Buffalo. A win in Vancouver would salvage a 2-2-1 trip, but not instantly cure various issues that have popped up throughout the season. From a practical standpoint, it would simply get the team back to Philadelphia one game under statistical .500 for the season with all remaining road travel either in the eastern or central time zones.
Even under better season-to-date conditions, Saturday's game would be gut-check time for a team at the end of a road trip. The Flyers are playing the second half of a back-to-back, and for the third time in four nights, while the Canucks are a little more rested.
Then add in the Flyers' late-game penalty parade and subsequent collapse in Calgary on Wednesday, desultory performance for 30 of the first 40 minutes in Edmonton, power play woes that seem to be worsening instead of improving, constant line juggling in search of something that will click and a growing sense that the evaluation period by new general manager Chuck Fletcher is just about over before changes are made, and this game is tough sledding regardless of the opponent.
Entering this game, the Flyers have won just four of their last 14 games overall (4-7-3). Too many nights, some combination of errors of commission (physical mistakes) and errors of omission (mental mistakes/ lack of attention to detail), have been killers. The power play is in as deep and prolonged of a funk as it is has been in many years. The penalty kill looks better overall apart from a rough afternoon in Winnipeg but the overall season numbers are still at the bottom of the NHL. Goaltending in this stretch has generally ranged from poor under any circumstances to adequate to compete if other things were being executed well.
For a recap of Friday night's game in Edmonton, click here
On Thursday, the Flyers announced that veteran goaltender Brian Elliott was leaving the road trip and returning to Philadelphia for a "scheduled medical appointment" while fellow veteran Michal Neuvirth was granted family leave in order to return to the Philadelphia area to be there for the birth of his second child. The Flyers have recalled Alex Lyon from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to sub for Neuvirth on the roster for the remainder of the road trip. With Stolarz being used heavily on the trip to date, Lyon might get the start in Vancouver.
Claude Giroux leads the Flyers in scoring this season with 39 points (11 goals, 28 assists) in 30 games. He is followed by Jakub Voracek with 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists, active seven-game point streak), Couturier with 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) and Travis Konecny with 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists). Shayne Gostisbehere (three goals, 10 assists) leads the Flyers' defense corps with 13 points but is struggling in most aspects of his game, as is Provorov.
Entering this game, the Flyers have scored an average 3.03 goals per game (ranked 16th) and have a team 3.70 GAA (29th).
Offensively, the Flyers have been feast-or-famine all season. They have scored four or more goals in 13 of 30 games. However, they've also been shut out four times and held to a single goal in five other games, including Friday's loss in Edmonton.
The Flyers power play comes in at 13.5 percent (12-for-89, 29th) with six shorthanded goals yielded. Philly has had the 4th-fewest power play opportunities across the NHL this season; a general indicator of a team that is failing to generate the type of pace and pressure that creates frequent power play chances. When they have had a man advantage, they've had trouble setting up and getting quality shots on net. Of late, the looks haven't been there, and most shots that have gotten on net have been of the unscreened perimeter variety.
Only the Florida Panthers (7) and Pittsburgh Penguins (8) have allowed more opposing shorthanded goals than the Flyers have to date. The three shorthanded goals the Flyers have scored this month have moved the team to the middle of the NHL pack overall for the season.
The penalty kill enters at 71.7 percent (opponents are 27-for-98, 31st) with three shorthanded goals scored (Dale Weise at Pittsburgh on Dec. 1, Claude Giroux in Buffalo on Dec. 8, Couturier in Calgary on Dec. 12). Apart from the Winnipeg game, getting burned on the PK hasn't been a problem specific to the current road trip. Rather, ill-timed and undisciplined penalties that stall momentum have been the bigger recent issue.
To date this season, Flyers have trailed first in exactly two-thirds of the games, which is rarely a recipe for success. They have scored first in 10 games and are 6-2-2 in those games. They have trailed first 20 times. When yielding the game's first goal, the Flyers are 6-12-2.
The Canucks are largely a young and inconsistent team with some exciting pieces in place but more growing and tweaking to do. They got off to a surprisingly good start this season before reality set in more recently until a current stretch of going 3-0-1 in the last four games.
In the bigger picture, Vancouver has been a roller coaster team that is below .500 even on home ice. Right now, though, any opponent is a dangerous one for Philly.
Most likely, the Canucks see the Flyers as a vulnerable and fragile team. Green's squad, from its pre-scout meeting, can see diverse paths to a win if they execute reasonably well themselves. Don't gift anything that could generate one of the Flyers' sporadic multi-goal offensive outbursts, don't let the Giroux line run wild, pressure the puck on the forecheck and put shots on net from a variety of angles and there is potential for a victory.
The Canucks returned to Vancouver on Friday after going 2-0-1 on a three-game road trip.
Entering Saturday's game, the Canucks are 6-7-1 on home ice. Overall, an optimistic viewpoint would be that the team has points from six of its last 10 games. A more truthful standpoint is that only four have been wins (4-4-2). Vancouver earned a 3-2 road win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday and followed it up by stealing a point on the road in Nashville with a shorthanded goal by Bo Horvat (15th) in the final minute of regulation after a Boeser power play goal (10th) with 4:05 left to play. In overtime, however, Nashville prevailed in a 4-3 final.
Vancouver has some offensive talent although production has been erratic at times. Keeping the puck out of their own net has been a bigger issue. The club enters this game averaging 2.94 goals per game (19th) with a team 3.32 GAA (26th). The power play ranks 21st at 17.6 percent. The penalty kill checks in at 76.5 percent (24th).
Erik Gudbranson is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. If he is able to play, he will start. If unable to play, Troy Stecher or Alex Biega could play in his spot.
(Subject to change)
28 Claude Giroux - 19 Nolan Patrick - 12 Michael Raffl
17 Wayne Simmonds - 14 Sean Couturier- 93 Jakub Voracek
25 James van Riemsdyk - 40 Jordan Weal - 11 Travis Konecny
21 Scott Laugton - 15 Jori Lehterä - 22 Dale Weise
9 Ivan Provorov - 47 Andrew MacDonald
6 Travis Sanheim - 3 Radko Gudas
8 Robert Hägg - 53 Shayne Gostisbehere
41 Anthony Stolarz
[34 Alex Lyon]
Scratches: 23 Oskar Lindblom (healthy), 44 Phil Varone (healthy), 26 Christian Folin (healthy), 30 Michal Neuvirth (family leave of absence), 37 Brian Elliott (IR, lower body), 10 Corban Knight (IR, collarbone), 5 Sam Morin (ACL surgery).
17 Josh Leivo - 40 Elias Pettersson - 6 Brock Boeser
77 Nikolay Goldobin - 53 Bo Horvat - 18 Jake Virtanen
26 Antoine Roussel - 60 Markus Granlund - 21 Loui Eriksson
59 Tim Schaller - 83 - Jay Beagle - 64 Tyler Motte
23 Alexander Edler - 8 Chris Tanev
27 Ben Hutton - 44 Erik Gudbranson or 51 Troy Stecher
5 Derrick Pouliot -55 Alex Biega or 51 Troy Stecher
25 Jacob Markström
[31 Anders Nilsson]
Scratches: One of 44 Erik Gudranson (day to day) or 55 Alex Biega (healthy), 4 Michael Del Zotto (healthy),88 Adam Gaudette (illness), 47 Sven Baertschi (IR, upper body), 20 Brandon Dutter (IR, upper body).