January 13, 2017

Flyers-Canucks day-after: Not pretty, but two badly needed points

Flyers NHL

“That was ugly, wasn’t it?” Brayden Schenn asked.

“Obviously not textbook in any way, shape or form,” Dave Hakstol later added.

The Flyers were in need of a win on Thursday night in South Philly, and it appeared as if they were catching the right team at the right time. The Vancouver Canucks had been playing decent hockey as of late, but they still entered the night 5-13-2 away from British Columbia.

And after a 5-4 shootout victory, the Orange and Black got the two points they were desperately in search of. It just wasn’t a pretty performance, especially from the Flyers’ defense and goaltending.

Michael Del Zotto and Brandon Manning couldn’t stay out of the box. Ivan Provorov made sloppy mistakes in his own zone with puck. Shayne Gostisbehere made a few mistakes in his own zone without the puck in terms of positioning. Andrew MacDonald and Nick Schultz always have their limitations.

And Steve Mason, who was under siege for the first 22 minutes as the Flyers killed penalty after penalty, let in a very poor third goal to Markus Granlund:

“Overall, I am just not happy with where the game is at right now. I have to find ways to work through this and like I said, to get back to where I know I can be,” Mason said.

After allowing four goals on 24 shots, Mason was pulled in favor of Michal Neuvirth in between the second and third period.

“It was a tough second period for us,” Hakstol said of the decision. “There was a lot of different things going on there. So, it was probably two-fold. I think Mase would probably admit there is one more save there he can make, but at least equal or more than that, it was time to make a change for our team and push for a change in direction and our focus.”

Neuvirth pitched a shutout through overtime and the eventual shootout. The Flyers got tallies from Schenn (who leads the league in power-play goals with 10), Travis Konecny (three goals in six games), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (!), and Sean Couturier (more on him later).

And most importantly, the Flyers found a way to get two points with a difficult road trip to Boston and Washington up ahead this weekend.

“Yeah, I think our game has been up and down, even tonight, we know we can play better,” Claude Giroux said. “Obviously, we got the two points and the result we wanted, but at the end of the day we look at our game again and it must be better.”


•    Oh, is he? Good thing you told me after.” – Giroux, upon learning that Ryan Miller was the all-time winningest goaltender in shootouts. 

To beat Miller on the game-winner in the shootout, Giroux changed up his normal tactics in the skill competition. Instead of going slow and deking the goalie, he skated 100 MPH and fired the puck without making any major moves. It appeared as if Miller wasn’t ready for the shot.

•    “The way we started, with the high-sticking penalties, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like that.” – Hakstol, on the Flyers’ three high-sticking penalties (two for double minors) in the first period

These weren’t cheapies, either. Manning took a couple of penalties, and on both kills, Del Zotto clearly high-sticked Daniel Sedin. The score sheet says the Flyers gave up only one power-play goal, but the Canucks really converted both times Del Zotto went to the penalty box. Granlund’s first second-period goal came a second after the penalty expired.

•    “It was good to score in the 5 on 3, and I thought that we had some good looks and some good puck movements. But seeing it now it would have been nice to get one more.” – Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins on his team’s power play

•    “I liked their line, I thought that Sean had a heck of a night. Both directions, both specialty teams in the faceoff dot. In every phase of the game he was a real great hockey player for us tonight. He led the way.” – Hakstol on Couturier’s play

The Flyers reshuffled the forwards again, and Couturier, Jake Voracek, and Nick Cousins passed both the eye test and graded out as the Flyers’ best line on the night. For my money, Coots was the best player on the ice:

When Voracek set him up for a slam dunk in the third period, with Lou Nolan still announcing Bellemare’s goal, it was a matter of him deserving what he got:

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann