clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Canucks 4, Flyers 1: 10 things we learned from the Flyers' fourth straight loss

New, comments

Different coast, same result. The Flyers' losing streak continued last night as they fell to the Vancouver Canucks by a score of 4-1. Was Philadelphia outplayed yet again, or were there positives in the loss?

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Morning Observations is a new feature, where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.

  • It's tough to discuss positives when the Flyers lose by three goals and have now dropped four straight games, but their performance against the Canucks was a measurable step up from their play last week. The start of the game was a disaster, and so was the conclusion of the second period. But the Flyers dominated for stretches, and ultimately deserved a better fate tonight. From the 13:18 mark of the first period through the 6:19 mark of the second period, Vancouver generated three shot attempts at even strength. That's 26 minutes of total control by the Flyers - almost half the contest. Unfortunately, they were only able to beat Ryan Miller once during that stretch, and their inability to capitalize would be the cause of their demise later.
  • Evgeny Medvedev was a surprise scratch last night, a move that I believed was questionable at best. But it's tough to imagine he'll spend a second night in the press box after the performance of Brandon Manning yesterday. Manning was a sieve, directly causing three high quality Vancouver scoring chances due to poor reads, physical limitations, or a combination of the two. He was blasted on a controlled zone entry by Bo Horvat, fell down on an odd-man rush later in the second period, and finally whiffed on a keep-in at the blue line which eventually led to a Jake Virtanen goal. Manning actually finished with positive possession statistics in the end, but his numerous mistakes combined with an already-tenuous foothold on a lineup spot should have him taking a seat for tonight's contest against the Edmonton Oilers.
  • In the best news of the night, Claude Giroux was absolutely on his game throughout the contest. He scored the team's only goal with a gorgeous deke in close on Miller, and was generally dominant throughout. Giroux did it all - throttled the Canucks in puck possession (67.86% Corsi For), killed it at the faceoff circle (19/27, 70% on draws), and generated controlled offensive zone entry after entry. I've yet to personally track last night's game, but J. Dylan Burke of Canucks Army does track zone entries in real time, and he recorded Giroux posting a 78% controlled percentage on nine total entries. Not bad for the captain, who deserves no blame for this loss.
  • Yesterday, I posted an article evaluating the Flyers' recent slump, and pointed to poor play in the defensive zone at 5v5 as a major cause of the losing streak. It took until late in the third period for the problem to rear its ugly head once more. After Philadelphia fell behind 3-1, their defensive zone play regressed and killed any chance of a miraculous comeback. I suspect the cause was frustration more than anything, as the team had largely carried the play in the preceding forty minutes of hockey yet were staring down a likely loss. But it showed how the offense can be stopped in its tracks without clean passes in the defensive zone. After Virtanen's goal, the Flyers generated only four more shot attempts the rest of the game - a direct result of an inability to cleanly exit their own end.
  • The other major cause for the losing streak has been poor special teams play, and the Flyers cleaned up those issues a bit last night. For the first time since October 20th, they did not allow a power play goal. Of course, it helped that they only gave the Canucks one power play opportunity, but Vancouver was unable to generate a high-quality scoring chance against the Philadelphia penalty kill during those two minutes, so that's progress. The Flyers power play didn't score either, but it wasn't for lack of effort. They peppered Miller with four shots and pressured the Canucks continuously, but simply could not find the back of the net. The special teams results may have been a mixed bag, but positive signs were undeniable.
  • Aside from Giroux, Matt Read stood out among Flyers forwards. He's been relentless in the offensive zone over the past few games, particularly in terms of puck pursuit and in battles along the boards. He's playing the type of game that will have the high-end skilled players on this team begging for him to join their line, as he's showcased both the speed and the effort necessary to corral loose pucks and set up the Flyers scorers. Great to see Read back to his old self after a disastrous 2014-15 season.
  • Evaluating Steve Mason's performance last night is difficult. On one hand, the Flyers absolutely bled chances in the early first period, late second, and late third periods. But on the other hand, the goalie's positioning on all three goals was suspect. He was totally fooled by Jannik Hansen's deke in the first, allowed a harmless-looking shot to slip through on Horvat's tally, and seemed to go down a bit early on Virtanen's goal. There were extenuating circumstances on each, though - poor defensive plays caused the first and third goals, and Nick Schultz screened Mason badly on Horvat's shot. Maybe we're just a bit spoiled due to Mason's incredible 2014-15 season, as Nick Mercadante's adjGSAA/60 statistic (which accounts for shot quality) credited the Flyers' goalie with an above-average performance tonight. It's just that Mason has yet to truly steal a game this year for Philadelphia, and we're now over 10 percent of the way through the season.
  • In trying to justify Dave Hakstol's decision to sit Evgeny Medvedev instead of Nick Schultz tonight, I could come up with only one semi-acceptable explanation - the trajectory of Schultz's play. After playing a particularly passive neutral zone style in the season's first two weeks, Schultz has recently made a conscious effort to be more aggressive. It's not always working, but Schultz has been jumping into the offensive zone more often to keep pucks alive and isn't getting totally throttled in Zone Entry For percentage anymore. He certainly hasn't been good (and as I broke down yesterday, even the improved Schultz hasn't outperformed a struggling Medvedev), but maybe Hakstol wants to see if Schultz's positive trajectory continues. It's not as if players like Brandon Manning are making strong cases to stay in the lineup over Schultz anyway.
  • Some of this was due to a number of icing calls, but I was alarmed to see the line of Vincent Lecavalier, Brayden Schenn and Sam Gagner sent out for even a few defensive zone draws. The line combination consists of two forwards with decidedly below-average defensive awareness (Gagner and Lecavalier) and one whom the jury is still out on (Schenn). The absence of Sean Couturier must be weighing heavily on Hakstol's mind if he's using those guys even once to get the puck out of the defensive zone.
  • After staking a claim as one of Dave Hakstol's favorite lines in the early going, it's been interesting to see the fourth line fall out of favor in the wake of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's injury. Chris VandeVelde and R.J. Umberger both received less than ten minutes of 5v5 ice time, and the line as a whole struggled to generate any real offensive pressure (only two even strength shot attempts in the game). The loss of Bellemare's plus skating ability is limiting their effectiveness, as they've been unable to play the chip-and-chase, relentless forechecking game that was resulting in heavy ice time during the season's first two weeks.