The Flyers look to end their five-game road trip on a high note with a win in Vancouver against the Canucks this evening. With last night’s 4-1 loss in Edmonton, the Flyers are 1-2-1 on the trip so far, with the lone win being a 6-2 showing in Buffalo that looks like a mirage given how they’ve looked in the other games so far.
Vancouver finds themselves outside of the playoff picture as well, but winners of three of their last five with impressive showings against the Blue Jackets and Predators. The Canucks are led by yet another Swedish standout in Elias Pettersson, who has 33 points in 28 games (16 goals, 17 assists). Bo Horvat is second on the team in scoring with 29 points in 34 games but the scoring balances out after that with last year’s rookie sensation Brock Boeser missing a handful of games due to injury.
The Canucks are 14th in scoring, but have had plenty of defensive issues in ranking 29th in goals against so far. The goaltending hasn’t been good, with both Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson playing to save percentages just a tick over .900. Like the Flyers, the Canucks also have slumping special teams, with both the power play and penalty kill operating well below the league average.
The Flyers are desperate for a win, but left much to be desired in Edmonton the other night. Here are three things to watch for if the Flyers are to get back in the win column.
1. Come out guns blazing
Vancouver is a young team playing with some confidence lately, but they’ve got definite flaws that the Flyers should be able to expose. First is to get off to a strong start, score first and keep the pedal to the metal. While the Canucks have confidence going, the Flyers have none and could shrivel up if they go down early yet again.
Only way to combat that is to get Claude Giroux out there early and often and try to grab a lead and work from there. Giroux and whoever his line mates are have been the Flyers’ greatest offensive hope lately, so ride the captain tonight.
2. Get to the high-danger areas of the ice
The Flyers peppered Mikko Koskinen a night ago, but not with many dangerous chances in front of the crease. When things started to get away from them, the Flyers tended to lean back towards cycling the puck to the point and sending lazy wrist shots towards the net.
Against Calgary, they crashed the net with regularity and forced Mike Smith into a couple gaffes by putting the pressure on. Koskinen was pretty comfy in net all night and had clear sight lines to most pucks. The Flyers need to work harder to create better shooting lanes and get the puck on net to create rebound chances or be rewarded with some puck luck.
The Flyers were willing to pay the price to score goals against Calgary, but not against the Oilers. They’ll need to be willing to do so against the Canucks or it could be a tumble to the very bottom of the East.
3. The goaltending
Alex Lyon is back in the net with Michal Neuvirth back East for the birth of his child and Brian Elliott back East to get a checkup. Anthony Stolarz has started a few games in a row and needs a rest with his injury history. Lyon needs to be better than the four goals on 12 shots he allowed in his only appearance with the big club this year, or the Flyers are going to be in deep, deep trouble.
Lyon is plenty capable, but he hasn’t seen NHL speed in quite a while, and the Canucks’ up-tempo game could present issues. Also presenting issues for the goalie is the Flyers’ awful defense, one that frequently leaves opposing players wide open in scoring areas on a nightly basis. Then there’s the turnovers and poor coverage. Good luck, Alex.
Flyers Projected Lineup
van Riemsdyk — Giroux — Konecny
Raffl — Couturier — Voracek
Laughton — Patrick — Simmonds
Lindblom — Varone — Weise
Provorov — MacDonald
Sanheim — Gostisbehere
Hagg — Gudas