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Flyers Gameday: 11/3/15 @ EDM, Flyers-Canucks Wrapup

November 3, 2015, 4:52 AM ET [786 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
WRAUP: FLYERS DROPPED BY CANUCKS, 4-1

Almost anything would have been an improvement over the Philadelphia Flyers' performance in three games last week. The good news for the Flyers was that they played a better overall game on Monday against the host Vancouver Canucks. Philadelphia skated better than they had in the previous three games, comparatively won more 50-50 battles and mostly stayed out of the penalty box. The Flyers had their best faceoff game of the season, winning 65 percent (47-for-72) of the draws.

The bad news was Philadelphia was still prone to fatal breakdowns, still couldn't score and could not get critically needed saves hold the score where it was. As a result, the Flyers went down by a 4-1 count.

“We got caught on a couple transition plays early in the first five minutes. I liked the last 15 minutes of our period," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol told the attending media in Vancouver.

"Everybody stayed pretty settled on the bench and turned it around. We played hard, we pushed and after the third goal we got a little loose and gave up too much, but you’re pushing.”

The Flyers fell in a quick hole early in the first period but then settled in to play evenly with Vancouver for much of that game. Nevertheless, a 1-1 tie early in the second was short-lived and the Flyers could never pull even again on the scoreboard despite chances to do so. The Canucks' lead extended to two goals as the game neared the midway mark of the third period and then Vancouver tacked on a late empty net goal.

Jannik Hansen, Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen and Matt Bartkowski (empty net) tallied for the Canucks, while Ryan Miller turned back 27 of 28 Flyers shots. Claude Giroux notched the lone Flyers goal with a nice individual effor and pretty finish early in the second period. Steve Mason stopped 30 of 33 shots in a losing cause.

Philadelphia narrowly outshot Vancouver (11-10) in the first period and then the Canucks held 13-10 and 11-7 shot advantages over the final 40 minutes. The Flyers attempted 49 shots overall, having 15 blocked and missing the net on six others. The Canucks tried 47 shots, getting six blocked and missing the net seven times.

“I think there was a lot of improvement from the last few games and I think we generated a lot of offense. We played the way we wanted to play, obviously we have a lot of things we want to work on, but the score doesn’t show how [much] better we played," Giroux told the media in the postgame scrum.

None of the three goals Mason allowed were outright soft. The first and third were scored on Vancouver counterattacks where the Flyers more or less ended up outnumbered or at least at positional disadvantage on the wrong side of the puck. The middle one was a play where the Flyers' goalie was directly screened by his own defenseman. All three started with bad puck management and loose coverage. That said, none of the three goals were unstoppable and each were needed momentum-save opportunities.

In combination, Vancouver ended playing from ahead most of the night. However, the bigger issue once again was the Flyers could not score goals even when they generated opportunities. At one juncture, for example, Wayne Simmonds seemed to be staring at a point blank rebound chance but was then taken out by Bartkowski. Other times, the Flyers would end up with momentarily open shots getting blocked, going wide or turn into fairly routine saves for Miller.

Hansen opened the scoring just 1:08 in the first period. Luke Schenn passed the puck up the wall Simmonds at the defensive blueline, but the pass was not on the tape. Simmonds was quickly pressured and turned the puck over as he sent it weakly to the red line. This is often a dangerous scenario for a counterttack, and that is exactly what happened.

The Canucks countered quickly, and the Flyers ended up with Nick Schultz as the lone defender against Horvat and Hansen after Sven Baertschi gained the offensive zone and passed to Horvat. Schultz gambled by sliding but could not prevent Horvat's pass from getting to Hansen. Cutting in from the right side, Hansen deftly cut in around Mason and deposisted the puck home on the backhanded for his second goal of the season. Horvat and Baertschi got the assists.

To their credit, the Flyers settled in after the early Vancouver strike. However, they could not buy a goal until 2:54 of the second period when they got a line rush goal courtesy of team captain Giroux.

On the sequence, Schultz stripped Hansen of the puck on a Vancouver rush attempt and chipped the puck to Voracek. From the defensive blueline, Voracek made a nice lead pass to catch Giroux in stride at the attacking blueline. Giroux took care of the rest. First, he beat Bartkowski wide in a one-on-one battle, shaking himself loose from the defender to open a clear path to the net. With Miller expecting Giroux to keep moving right on his forehand, the Flyers' captain instead quickly pulled the puck to the backhand and flipped it into the upper part of the net.

The goal was Giroux's fourth of the season. Voracek received his fourth assist and Schultz got his first of the year.

The 1-1 tie lasted only until 10:10 of the second period with the teams playing at 4-on-4 with Giroux and Daniel Sedin in the penalty box. This play started with the Flyers' Scott Laughton cleanly losing a draw in the defensive zone, and the Flyers never really getting straightened out as defenseman Chris Tanev sent the puck back to Horvat.

Horvat swung out wide from behind the Flyers' net, covered rather loosely by Mark Streit. Moving across the slot, Horvat wristed a low shot at the net using the defense as a screen. At the worst possible moment, Schultz moved directly in Mason's line of view, hampering his own goaltender from reacting in time to the 15-foot shot.

"It's a tough play from a goaltender's point of view," Mason said to the attending media. "You don't want to get up out of your down position because it could go through your legs. Schultz is just trying to do his job and I've got to get off my post more and get more centered in the net and cover a little more ground."

Horvat's goal was his second of the season. Tanev (third assist) picked up the lone apple. Laughton won 76 percent of his faceoffs on the night (13-for-17), but this loss ended up being the most pivotal draw he took because the Canucks ultimately parlayed their possession in the game-winning goal. Girox (19-for-27, 70.3 pct) and fourth line center Ryan White (8-for-11, 73 percent) also wound up having strong statistical nights on faceoffs.

The Flyers had opportunities to pull even again, but it wasn't to be. They had a 1:50 of carryover power play time at the start of the third period after Radim Vrbata tripped Streit. Two seconds before the second period ended, Miller came up with a critical save on a shot deflected on net by Brayden Schenn from 18 feet away.

For the game, the Flyers went 0-for-2 on the man advantage. Philadelphia killed off the lone Canucks' power play. Vancouver maintained its one-goal advantage until 8:28 of the third period when the team scored on a counterattack that started in the defensive zone.

Shortly after Mason kept the game at 3-2 with a stop on a Horvat wraparound attempt, Miller stopped a side-angle shot attempt by Matt Read in the Vancouver end. Defenseman Ben Hutton cleared the loose puck around the boards to Virtanen high in the Vancouver end. Nothing looked dangerous until Virtanen then poked the puck past a weakly lunging Brandon Manning near the blueline, stepped around him to regain the puck and skated off up the ice.

The Canucks now had a partial 2-on-1, with a backchecking Laughton closing to within perhaps a half-stride behind puck carrier Virtanen in the right circle. Radko Gudas was the lone defender between Virtanen, Alexandre Burrows and the net. Burrows took Gudas to the net with him. Rather than forcing a pass to the well-marked Burrows, Virtanen elected to take the puck to the net himself as he cut in from the right circle. The rookie then put a backhanded shot somewhere between Mason's left pad and his blocker or stick to score his first goal in the NHL.

Virtanen's tally, like the previous two by his team, was by no means a soft goal. Nevertheless, it was still a play where Mason had a chance to make a save to bail out his team, and the Flyers desperately needed him to do so in that instance in order to keep the deficit manageable. No one ever said it's easy to be a goaltender, but momentum saves or the lack thereof on non-routine but stoppable opportunities often loom large at the end of the night. Sometimes a team needs multiple timely saves. Mason made some, but not quite enough.

Bottom line: goaltending didn't cost the Flyers this game -- errors of commision and omission did, along with the ongoing lack of offense --but it also didn't left the team.

In the final minute of play, with Mason pulled for an extra attacker, Voracek was checked off a puck on the right half boards in the offensive zone. Vancouver gained possession and countered the other way.

With 54 seconds left on the clock, Vancouver defenseman Bartkowski ended up with a virtual tap-in from about 15 feet away from the net for his second goal of the year. Vrbata (third assist) and Henrik Sedin (fifth assist) got the assists.

***************

PREVIEW: FLYERS @ OILERS

Looking to snap a four-game losing spell, Dave Hakstol's Philadelphia Flyers (4-5-2) return to action on Tuesday night against Todd McLellan's Edmonton Oilers (4-8-0). Game time at Rexall Place is 9:00 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on CSN Philadelphia.

This is the first of two meetings between the inter-conference clubs and the Flyers' lone visit to Edmonton. The season series will wrap up with a game at the Wells Fargo Center on March 3. Last season, the Flyes went 1-0-1 against the Oilers, winning a 4-1 home decision in early November and dropping a 5-4 overtime road game in late March. The Oilers enjoy a 4-0-1 record in their last five home games against the Flyers.

Tuesday's game is the second half of back-to-back games for the Flyers and the second portion of a three-in-four, four-in-six stretch. The Oilers, who last played on Saturday night, will have two nights off after playing the Flyers. The Pittsburgh Penguins pay a visit to Rexall Place on Friday.

Flyers Outlook

Michal Neuvirth is likely to get the start in net against the Oilers. When healthy, the Czech netminder has been an early-season bright spot. Overall, in four starts and one early-game relief appearance, he has posted a 2-1-0 record, 1.91 goals against average, two shutouts, and a .939 save percentage.

If one was to discount Mason's disastrous second start of the season, which turned out to have been played under very difficult personal circumstances, his overall numbers (currently a 2-4-2 record, 3.34 GAA and .902 save percentage) would look less unsightly statistically (2.79 GAA, .916 SV%). Nevertheless, Neuvirth has been the better of the two Flyers' goalies thus far in the regular season after the opposite was the case in the preseason.

Jakub Voracek has 48 shots on goal through the season's first 11 games, ranking fourth in the league. However, he has yet to find the net to date. As a team, the Flyers enter play on Tuesday ranking 29th of the NHL's 30 teams with a meager 1.91 goals scored per game. Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn share the team goal-scoring lead with four apiece. Defenseman Mark Streit (three goals, four assists) has the overall point lead.

Sean Couturier (concussion), has missed the last five games. He is still considered day-to-day after getting injured on Oct. 21 and may or may not be ready to play in Edmonton.

Fourth line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is out approximately two weeks with a lower-body injury sustained on Oct. 27. Bellemare is not expected to be available at all on the current road trip. The team filled the roster space by placing Bellemare on injured reserve and recalling veteran forward Chris Conner on Sunday from the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Conner did not play in Vancouver. Vincent Lecavalier skated on the third line right wing, and R.J. Umberger was moved to fourth-line right wing.

Russian defenseman Evgeny Medvedev sat out Monday's game as a somewhat surprising healthy scratch. He could return to Tuesday. The most likely candidates to sit out are Brandon Manning (three healthy scratches to date), Luke Schenn (who has been scratched four times) or Radko Gudas (the odd man out three times).

Oilers Outlook

The Oilers had a dramatic comeback win against the visiting Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, recovering from an early 3-0 deficit to skate off with a 4-3 regulation win keyed by a three-goal outburst in the third period.

The emotional win was followed by a 5-4 regulation home loss to the Calgary Flames. Once again, the Oilers fell in early multi-goal hole and battled back to eventually tie the game. This time around, however, it was the opponent who came up with a late goal to seal the match. Michal Frolik finished off a hat trick with the game-deciding goal in the final 10 seconds of the third period on a seemingly harmless shot out of the corner.

Tuesday's game is the third match of a four-game homestand for the Oilers. The team enters the game having lost four of its last five games overall. On home ice, Edmonton is 2-4-0 on the season to date.

This game will mark the first time the Flyers will get a first-hand chance to play against massively hyped 2015 first overall pick Connor McDavid. The teenager, who took NHL Rookie of the Month honors for October, has delivered five goals and 12 points in his first dozen NHL games. McDavid is second on the team in scoring, behind fellow first overall (2010) draftee Taylor Hall, who has five goals and 13 points to date.

Nail Yakupov, another top overall selection in his draft year (2012), is third on the team with two goals and eight assists for 10 points. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, yet another first overall pick (2011), is fourth on the team with three goals and six assists for nine points.

For all the skill the Oilers boast atop their forward lineup, the team's main problems haven't changed in years. The club remains pourous defensively and, meanwhile, has received so-so goaltending overall to date.

Cam Talbot has started nine games and made one relief appearance, posting a 3-6-0 record, 2.88 goals against average and .897 save percentage. Anders Nilsson has made three starts, going 1-2-0 with a 3.92 GAA and .902 save percentage.

Matt Hendricks (foot injury) has returned to practice and may be ready to be activated from the injured reserve list to play on Tuesday night. Lauri Korpikoski (upper-body) is considered day-to-day. In the meantime, talented forward Jordan Eberle (shoulder), offensive defenseman Justin Schultz and left winger Rob Klinkhammer are all on IR.


Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)

Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 1.91 (29th), Oilers 2.67 (16th)
Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 3.00 (T-23rd), Oilers 3.25 (28th)
Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 17/22, Oilers 23/31
Power play efficiency: Flyers 11.8% (25th), Oilers 22.5% (10th)
Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 76.7% (23rd), Oilers 78.9% (17th)
Faceoff percentage: Flyers 50.4% (15th), Oilers 49.0% (20th)


Projected lineups (speculative and subject to change, will be updated)

FLYERS

12 Michael Raffl - 28 - Claude Giroux - 93 Jakub Voracek
24 Matt Read - 14 Sean Couturier - 17 Wayne Simmonds
89 Sam Gagner - 21 Scott Laughton - 10 Brayden Schenn
76 Chris VandeVelde - 25 Ryan White - 20 R.J. Umberger

15 Michael Del Zotto - 32 Mark Streit
55 Nick Schultz - 22 Luke Schenn
82 Evgeny Medvedev - 3 Radko Gudas

30 Michal Neuvirth
[35 Steve Mason]

Scratches: one among Brandon Manning or Luke Schenn or Radko Gudas (healthy), Chris Conner (healthy), Sean Couturier (questionable, concussion), Vincent Lecavalier (healthy, likely to be scratched if Couturier can play), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (IR, lower body).


OILERS

4 Taylor Hall - 93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - 29 Leon Draisaitl
67 Benoit Pouliot - 97 Connor McDavid - 10 Nal Yakupov
23 Matt Hendricks - 55 Mark Letestu - 16 Teddy Purcell
20 Luke Gazdic - 51 Anton Lander - 26 Iiro Pakarinen

2 Andrej Sekera - 5 Mark Fayne
77 Oskar Klefbom - 88 Brandon Davidson
25 Darnell Nurse - 21 Andrew Ference

33 Cam Talbot
[39 Anders Nilsson]


Scratches: Griffin Reinhart (healthy), Eric Gryba (healthy), Anton Slepyshev (healthy), Lauri Korpikoski (day-to-day, upper body), Jordan Eberle (IR, shoulder), Justin Schultz (IR, undisclosed), Rob Klinkhammer (IR, undisclosed).
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