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Canucks 5, Flyers 1: Homeward bound

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Some observations for your morning…

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

That’s all, folks! The Western Canadian swing is complete and the Flyers are coming home 1-3-1. Which is, well, yeah, it’s not ideal. But maybe there’s a shake up on the horizon. Which would be more ideal. Anyway, we still have one more game to talk about before we get to that future stuff. So let’s dive right in.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com

1. That’s a start!

Hey! The Flyers came out with some jump in this one, and actually looked really sharp in the early goings. They had a great chance on the rush from Nolan Patrick after he won the opening faceoff that just missed. But it was a definitive sign of life, and it set the tone for the first few minutes of the period. The Flyers were, in short, pretty dominant. They were getting zone time and generating pressure, but they just couldn’t find a way to close on any of those chances (we know, we’ve heard this one before). And, even more unfortunately, they couldn’t sustain that pressure outside of those first few minutes. We’re getting there, too. But we don’t get to talk about strong starts all that often so we had to squeeze a note there.

2. Killing penalties

It was sort of a mixed bag for the Flyers while down a man last night. We almost got our first look at the penalty kill of the night early in the first period, but we were spared (but only because the Canucks scored on the delayed penalty when the defense in front broke down and Chris Tanev was left all alone to shoot).

We had a couple of looks at the proper penalty kill later on, and the good news is that these two went much smoother than the 6-on-5 did. The PK was able to keep the Canucks from getting too well set up, from sustaining much in the way of pressure. Add to that the fact that they were able to break out of the zone for a couple of shorthanded chances, and you’ve got yourself some successful kills, and good work to boot. Which, if nothing else, is refreshing.

3. Messy, messy, messy

That’s one goal given up, and given the game arc we’ve seen of late, you probably have a pretty good idea of where we’re going from here. The Flyers, as we noted above, had a very good first few minutes of play, but after they gave up the Tanev goal, things started to spiral. It wasn’t a full deflation or halt of effort, but they just got, well, as the title suggests, messy. After dominating during the first few minutes, the Canucks stole just about all of the momentum away from the Flyers. The Canucks were left to get to work in the offensive zone, and the Flyers couldn’t seem to find a way to break up their push. As such, it also shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that that first goal turned into two more in the next five minutes. It’s the same old story once again, you give up a goal, and then a little bit (and sometimes more than a little bit) of space after, and you get burned for it. And the Flyers still haven’t found a way to shake this.

4. All the goalies

The goalie drama really never ends, folks. We though Alex Lyon was going to start this one (the Flyers tweeted as much and then deleted it), but then we found out it was actually going to be Anthony Stolarz starting his second game in the back to back. And then he let in two goals in the first period and was pulled. But the goals weren’t all on him, were more a product of poor defense in front of him. And then we found out that he had a lower body injury and wouldn’t be able to return. So it was Lyon time, anyway.

And, all, told, he was okay. He gave up two goals on 19 shots, and, as was the case with Stolarz, we can’t blame them all on him. The first came off a weird bounce that deflected in behind him, and the second he was partially screened in front. Could we have hoped for a little bit more? Sure. But he came in in relief and was… well he was fine. It was a hard comeback in front of the Flyers, but not unreasonable, when they were down two. The push in front just wasn’t quite there.

5. The power play

We’ll be direct with this one: it was another not excellent night for the Flyers’ power play. It’s been rough, of late, but we just about knew that they would have some chances to (hopefully) turn things around against a Canucks team that’s been struggling on the discipline front. And they got just that—four chances in total, but four chances that they just couldn’t do anything with.

And it’s worth noting that those four chances weren’t absolute disasters—the Flyers were still able to put up six shots and three scoring chances, and were generating some pressure, but they couldn’t close. And, we can commend their good underlying work, but at some point we need them to find a way to convert. They have seven power play goals on their last 73 attempts. And something’s got to give.

6. Scott Laughton brings some flash

As we’ve all picked up on by now, there wasn’t a whole lot to be terribly excited about from last night’s game, but we were saved from having absolutely nothing to be excited about by our pal Scott Laughton. That was nice of him.

He had himself a pretty solid game. He came out of this one with three shots and that very nice goal that you just saw up above. It was just about everything you could have asked for in a breakaway goal—the zip, the playing of the bouncing puck back to himself, the shot, beautiful. But this also wasn’t his only chance of the game. Indeed, he also had another chance, shorthanded, later on that looked dangerous, but just wouldn’t go. But if nothing else, this was an encouraging game—after having been quite for a bit, it was nice to see Laughton flash a bit, give a nice show of his ability for the new GM.

7. Nolan Patrick, hello

And speaking of guys who have been pretty quiet of late, let’s talk about Nolan Patrick. Because he looked better last night. Like Laughton, Patrick was able to bring something of a flashy performance on the night, with the highest points being the two chances on the rush he created, using some speed and working to crash the net and create a more dangerous chance. But beyond that, his underlying numbers were solid as well, with four individual scoring chances and an adjusted 56.2 CF% at 5-on-5.

Of course, he couldn’t register any points on the night, but his game seemed if nothing else a strong foundational effort. He needed to find a way to get back on track sooner or later, and this effort seems a fine one to build off of. So let’s do that? Please?

8. Pressuring

And now seems a good enough time to extend a nod for a more nebulous bit of good work done. We’ve seen it time and again, that when this team falls behind, that all the air just goes out of them. They’re just skating and going through the motions and waiting for the game to be over. There’s no push, no urgency, they just deflate.

But that didn’t happen last night. the Flyers were able to keep the pressure up, were able to remain active on the rush and even generate a handful of dangerous looking sequences. But they just couldn’t seem to solve Markstrom. Even so, we can’t help but feel that this is a step in the right direction, the team finding a way to keep pushing in the face of a deficit. It’s been a problem, and it seems they’re working towards solving it.

9. Promised and delivered….

I told Steph that if things started to go south in this one that I was just going to abandon the fight and just talk about how great Brock Boeser’s hair is. So we’re going to do that. Well, actually, I’m just going to point out that it’s really great and drop these throwback gifs from last year’s all star skills competition.

Thanks for tuning in.

10. The only damn thing I know

That might have sounded like the type of point that might normally go in this section, but we have some more serious business to get to, as we close things out. Before the Flyers headed out to Western Canada we (and Chuck Fletcher) talked about how this road trip was a test. It was a test of what the team was working with, what they could do, and how the coach could help them put it all together. And, quite frankly, they failed. And in pretty spectacular fashion.

So, the only damn thing I know? Something’s coming. Buckle in, folks.