The Canucks entered this one coming off a big win at Colorado. They outscored the Avalanche 5-1 Saturday in a game that was a bit closer than the scoreboard would suggest.
They faced off against Carter Hart and the Flyers who come into this afternoon’s game having won a remarkable seven straight. Ask any Philly fan and they’ll swear this streakiness is normal.
Don’t just take it from me though:
the Flyers have an 8 game losing streak and a 7 game winning streak this season, so I simulated a 23-29 team 25,000 times to see how often that happens. the answer is it happens 1.6% of the time by chance, but 100% of the time if you're the Flyers.
— Namita (@nnstats) February 3, 2019
With Sven Baertschi out, Tim Schaller gets a bump to the top line, but you have to wonder, why not literally anyone else?
Tanner Kero, for instance, is second on the farm team in points behind Reid Boucher and has 14 points in his last 10 games dating back to the first of the year. This run includes a hat-trick, a two goal game, and six multi-point games. Call up Gaudette, maybe? Utica is like a paper-airplane’s toss from Philadelphia.
Brandon Sutter’s line had the first opportunity of the game for either side. Stemming from a Philadelphia giveaway, Roussel had the controlled entry along the near boards. There, turning towards the center of the playing surface – away from pressure – he flung the puck over the stick of Virtanen who was waiting at the top of the left circle. Virtanen one-handed the puck off the boards through four Flyers to Brandon Sutter who was left all alone in front of Carter Hart. In an attempt to recover, Nolan Patrick took out Sutter, sweeping his leg out from underneath him, sending the Canucks to the power play 1:15 into the game.
Twenty two seconds into the power play, the Flyers would attempt to capitalize on a botched pass from Elias Pettersson. They let their top players take the PK and therefore had a two-on-one with Couturier and Giroux. While a diving Edler may have forced an off-target pass that was sticked away by Markstrom, he managed to get tangled up with Elias Pettersson who went straight off into the dressing room.
— Vanessa Jang (@vanessajang) February 5, 2019
Boeser followed this sequence with an uncontested shot from the slot, but I’m not sure I can draw up a potential worse outcome from an early power play for the visiting team.
Jay Beagle would slide into Pettersson’s spot with Boeser and Goldobin for one shift before the young Swede returned at the 14:42 mark of the first period.
As we neared the halfway point of the first, Edler fired one off the post from the high slot and the Canucks held a sizable lead in shots on goals, shot attempts and scoring chances. Nevertheless, the score still read 0-0. To this point, the defense had done an exceptional job of keeping Philadelphia’s chances to the outside or getting a stick on attempts to get to the slot. Their best chance thus far, aside from the shorthanded 2-on-1, was a feeble wrap-around chance easily snuffed out by Markstrom.
The Flyers had a high percentage opportunity when Mikhail Vorobyev, centering the fourth line in his 12th NHL game, nearly potted the put-back following a botched glove save, but Markstrom was there with the leg pad for the stop. The Vancouver goaltender had trouble holding onto an unobstructed Andy MacDonald point shot coming off a feed from the far boards from Phil Varone. This sequence came as a result of a forced turnover from Pouliot by Vorobyev, who blocked a poor backhand clearing attempt.
Philadelphia followed this with a strong solo effort for Voracek. He drove the net, but again Markstrom made the save.
The Flyers seemed to be coming in waves when a poor choice from Konecny ended up on Sutter’s stick. Sutter found Virtanen already behind the Flyers defense. Virtanen beat the net minder to the low glove side, but unfortunately Shotgun Jake hit the post.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) February 5, 2019
Credit where it’s due: Sutter read the play well to intercept the pass. The errant pass was likely forced by defensive pressure provided by Jake Virtanen.
Philadelphia countered quickly, but Nolan Patrick fired his shot from the left circle off the inside of the far post. Thankfully for this writer and the Canucks, Markstrom was able to settle things down, smothering the puck later in the play. At this point, fourteen minutes into the first, the Flyers had surpassed the Canucks in shots on goal, 9-8.
Troy Stecher went off shortly thereafter on a tripping call. He got the stick in between the legs of a streaking Flyers player.
Vancouver kept the top unit from the home team mostly to the out side for the majority of the penalty kill. The Canucks special teams unit ended the kill with a slight breakaway for Brandon Sutter, who missed the net wide on a one hand, back hand attempt.
Bo Horvat took a soft tripping penalty in the neutral zone with three minutes remaining. Canucks fans again saw the top unit of Eriksson and Sutter start things off after strong finish on the last PK. Beagle and Motte took over 30 seconds in and Motte worked his way in off a face-off for a slick high-blocker back hand shot that nearly snuck by Carter Hart.
Eriksson and Sutter would come back on with 30 seconds to go on the PK. They wouldn’t be as fortunate this time as the Flyers would score right off a controlled entry from Nolan Patrick. He shoveled the puck to Konecny on the near boards. Konecny found Couturier streaking through the high slot near the left circle, past Sutter and above Gudbranson who was standing next to Markstrom for some reason. Couturier fired a laser just below the glove of Markstrom who had no chance on the shot off cross-seam pass.
The Canucks started the second period down 1-0 on the scoreboard, 14-10 in shots, and looking to regain some footing. They stumbled down the back half of the first after a strong first ten minutes of play.
This didn’t quite go as planned when 40 seconds in, the Flyers again had another controlled entry and Lindblom found Provorov alone in the slot. Markstrom was aggressive in coming out to cut down the angle and challenge the shot and made a big blocker save on the early opportunity.
The Canucks were able to get some sustained zone time as Virtanen took a rocket of a shot from the high slot two minutes into the period. A minute later the Beagle line generated a similar opportunity, but Tanev muffed a shot from the blue line. Varone capitalized on the opportunity generated from the off-balance and fired the puck to Voracek. The Flyers right winger drove the puck straight into Markstrom on the breakaway and it just snuck in past Markstrom’s right leg pad 3:28 into the second.
After another round of sustained zone time for the home team and their top line, followed by a 3-on-0 for their second line broken up by Markstrom, the Canucks countered with a second breakaway opportunity for Brandon Sutter. The saucer pass from Goldobin got away from Sutter as Carter Hart met him at the top of the right circle, but luckily for the road team he passed the puck off the boards to Brock Boeser who fired a laser into the now empty net. This was just their second shot of the second period.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) February 5, 2019
Drawing back within one seemed to tilt the playing field a bit. While the prior seven minutes of play before the goal had been decidedly in favor of the Flyers, the Canucks began to start generating dangerous opportunities at an accelerating rate.
11:15 into the second, Leivo, Boeser and Co. had an extended sequence in the Philadelphia end. This notably included some sharp passing with both players working below the net. This played seemed to cause a bit of confusion for the Philadelphia defense, but the low-to-high pass generated a shot that wasn’t able to find its way to traffic.
The Sutter line followed with a strong shift on the ensuing offensive zone faceoff, leading to an opportunity from the low slot for Jake Virtanen, but he fired it off Carter Hart’s leg pad. A minute later and late on their shift, the Tyler Motte had a strong solo effort on a 3-on-2 from the Beagle line. The Boeser line followed up the strong effort from fourth line by generating a good shot opportunity for Nikolai Goldobin who fired the puck off Hart’s shoulder and out of play.
The Canucks continued to generate chances with Boeser getting a shot from the high slot with 4:30 to go. At this point they began really pulling away from Philadelphia in shot attempts.
With 1:45 to go, the Canucks generated one of those high danger opportunities represented by the large step upward in the expected goals chart. Edler dumped a puck in from the blue line on the young Flyers goaltender who decided not to cover the puck. His hesitation to cover the puck allowed Roussel to make a play off the boards and back in front for Beagle and himself. Beyond being a good scoring chance, this would generate a power play opportunity for the road team when Wayne Simmonds threw a punch in the scrum.
The best chances on this power play would come from a broken Horvat drive to the net that trickled up to Hart’s pads and an off-target shot from Boeser on a beside-the-net-to-front pass from Horvat.
The Canucks started the third period out attempting the Flyers 51-40 but being out shot 26-24. They squandered the remaining sixteen seconds of power play leftover from the second.
Brock Boeser took an offensive zone penalty three minutes into the third, tripping Flyers top left-handed defenseman Ivan Provorov in a board battle. The PK unit for the Canucks played well again, giving up zero opportunities against Markstrom.
Markstrom took a shot off the mask on a sharp angled shot with thirteen minutes and change to go. Aside from the occasional Flyers counterattack, the Canucks generated consistent pressure from their top lines. This notably included a switch of Horvat for Pettersson centering Goldobin and Boeser.
With 10:20 to play in the game there was an injury stoppage for defenseman Alex Edler. The camera quickly panned away once it became evident there was significant blood loss. The play causing the injury looked innocent enough as Voracek skated harmlessly behind Edler before the defenseman’s stick got caught in his skate. This appeared to drag Edler down, landing face first against the ice. It appeared the fall caused him to awkwardly twist his right knee that was facing the opposite direction from which Voracek’s stick was pulling.
— Vanessa Jang (@vanessajang) February 5, 2019
Vancouver had Philadelphia bottled up consistently, for the next few minutes, generating a number of opportunities for the usual suspects. Pettersson drew an important penalty with 6:30 to go as he pulled the puck into the high slot through traffic in that way he usually does.
Goldobin had an opportunitiy thirty seconds into the power play from the left circle and again twenty seconds later as he fired back a hot rebound from an Elias Pettersson one-timer into what he thought was an open net. Hart made a remarkable save to keep the Flyers on top.
WHAT. A. SAVE. CARTER. HART. 🧡 pic.twitter.com/I1bVwf9K2c
— Brandon Murphy (@2Murphy8) February 5, 2019
As the power play wrapped up Sutter generated an opportunity for Virtanen in front. This play start with him working the puck on the backhand to Pouliot on the point. Pouliot fired the puck back to Sutter along boards in the right circle. Sutter stepped up to draw in the defender and fired a wrist/pass shot off the Flyers crest on Hart’s chest right to Virtanen, who was waiting unguarded in front of Hart. Virtanen and the driving Sutter banged away at the puck (I believe Sutter should have gotten credit with a second PP shot on this sequence) until it ended up in the net.
Virtanen got wrapped up with the Flyers top PK unit in the ensuing scrum after the play was blown dead very, very quickly given that Hart didn’t have any coverage of the puck. The referee who blew it dead was behind the crowd in front and must have lost track of it. Poor referee positioning cost Vancouver a goal here. They went to Toronto, but, in truth, the whistle had blown ahead of the puck crossing the goal line.
The Canucks at this point were out shooting the Flyers 37-30 and had dominated the last ten minutes of play with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
Travis Green pulled Markstrom with 2:00 to go in the game. The Canucks generated a marvelous opportunity for Pettersson from the high slot, which gave Horvat a juicy rebound just out of reach. They got one last chance from an offensive zone faceoff after a Philadelphia icing with 15 seconds to go. Sutter won the draw with some help, Boeser generated two shots, the second of which went just wide and bounced to Sutter in front who hammered away at it to no avail.
Considering the Edler injury, the Canucks played exceptionally well in the second half of the game. Markstrom got hung out to dry a number of times early in this game and only conceded two goals on 1.97 xG. He kept the team in this game during a rough fifteen minute stretch.
Barring the last ten minutes of the first and the first five minutes of the second, I think we saw one of this team’s most complete efforts in Philadelphia tonight.
This game exemplified what Brandon Sutter played can contribute to this team without being a flashy, top-line player. He brought stability and consistency in his game tonight playing predominantly against Flyers top unit and their third line. You’d hope this would open things up for the Boeser unit more than we saw tonight, but for the Canucks to be successful, Sutter and his line have to continue this level of play.
Pettersson continues to be a force for the Canucks.
As a result of the Edler injury, Pouliot would pick up five shifts in the back half of the third period, including forty-six seconds of power play time, after only two shifts in the first half of the period. This included and led to the Sutter+Virtanen goal-not-a-goal sequence.
The Canucks thoroughly outplayed the Flyers, but Carter Hart stole another one for a mediocre Philadelphia squad who has won eight straight games now.
Oh, Tim Schaller played like, five minutes. My sole critique tonight is that the Canucks could have used someone with modicum of offensive or defensive talent in his spot since they lost the game by a goal.
The Canucks take on the Washington Capitals in the second half of a back-to-back tomorrow. Travis Green has given us an early sampler of the injury report, which obviously includes Alex Edler, but more surprisingly included Thatcher Demko. Demko tweaked something in warmups and, with the team on the east coast, Jim Benning emergency recalled Michael DiPietro from the Ottawa 67’s to back up.
Hopefully we see the same solid effort with a different result tomorrow afternoon!