Final Score: Philadelphia Flyers 2, Vancouver Canucks 1
Defencemen Tucker Poolman on the right side and Jack Rathbone on the left were absent from pregame skate, replaced by Luke Schenn and Brad Hunt respectively. Poolman left the MInnesota Wild game Tuesday night in the second period with an upper body injury. Rathbone has experienced crisis of confidence; his blatant errant pass in his own end led directly to the Wild’s second goal.
Jaroslav Halak didn’t have a chance to get comfortable in his crease before the Flyers scored :22 seconds into the game: Sean Couturier from Travis Konecny on a clean two-on-one. It started with a blown pinch at the Flyers blueline.
The Canucks gave up another two-on-one forty seconds later but Elias Pettersson broke it up on the backcheck.
Just 2:15 into the game, Quinn Hughes evened things up with a wrister through a screen from the left point that hit the post, bounced out, hit the back of Martin Jones’s left skate and went in.
Hughes then went off for interference at 6:48, a chance to test the Canucks 77.8% penalty kill. Umm, 14-seconds later that percentage dropped further. That’s how long it took the Flyers to score on a very cool triangle set play. Claude Giroux stepped into the left circle, sent a slap-pass off the end boards to Couturier who was waiting just off the opposite post, he whipped a pass across the slot to James Van Riemsdyk (‘JVR’) who tucked it home. Beautiful one-touches and a lesson in geometry. Perfect billiards from Giroux.
It was the game winner, the final goal of the game and it came at 6:58 of the 1st period.
The Canucks almost tied it at 8:46 when Tanner Pearson rushed in and hit the crossbar, blocker side from the left circle. That does not qualify as a shot on goal. The Canucks were outshot 15-4 in the first period but they had a couple more scoring chances than that number would indicate.
Shortly after the Pearson shot, Hughes headed back to the penalty box for a cross check, the type the NHL is trying to eliminate with its crackdown this season. He caught Joel Farabee high and knocked him to the ice in front of Halak.
With Hughes sitting, the Canucks played an amazing game of keep-away in the D-zone and the neutral zone, three times reversing back into their own end for the first full minute of the PK. Once back to full strength the sequence ended with Oliver Ekman-Larsson (‘OEL’), who had lost his stick, kicking the puck back from the low slot to Halak to get a whistle.
Reaching for 300: Halak said in training camp his personal goal for the remainder of his career was to get to 300 wins … he entered the season 19 wins away. Spoiler alert: he remains 19 away. Barring something miraculous, as a back-up, it would likely take him two seasons to get to that number anyway.
More problems for the Vancouver Canucks breakout. Philly made it difficult, but no damage done. There wasn’t much offence happening either way early in the period.
One of the highlights of the second period came at 6:13 with a centre ice fight between Schenn and Zack MacEwen. Two big boys throwing fast and furious. Decision: Schenn. It’s rare to see a guy celebrate losing a fight, but that’s what recent-ex-Canuck MacEwen did. Maybe he was celebrating the takedown. He lost the fight but got the takedown.
Which raises an important question – why don’t modern linesman jump in when two combatants are fatigued and still standing or grasping. In this case the officials didn’t get a chance because the fight transitioned directly into the wrestling toss/throwdown. More often than not that seems to be definitively required or desired to end a fight these days. In my mind it’s the most dangerous element.
MacEwen by the way, claimed by the Flyers off waivers from the Canucks back on October 15th, picked up an extra minor during the altercation for unsportsmanlike conduct. He had grabbed Schenn’s visor.
The power play that resulted found chances, but not the back of the net. Rasmus Ristolainen then went off for cross checking at 10:34 and the PP reloaded. With blanks.
The Canucks’ best chances came at even strength. This was a phenomena we saw in the preseason when the team was running a mixed AHL/NHL roster. The power play kept killing the momentum of the 5-on-5. Understandable when you’re finding your games, not using your regulars, or experimenting. But in the regular season, the PP shouldn’t be destroying momentum. That was the case in the second period against the Flyers.
Overall the Canucks dominated the middle ten minutes. Even the sometimes awkward Lammikko, who works hard, managed to get a grade-A scoring chance on a rebound.
The second period shots were 16-5 in favour of the Canucks.
Home Cooking: Other than the bounce on the Hughes goal, North Vancouver native Martin Jones had some serious puck luck in the Philadelphia Flyers net. Leaky shots ended up sliding wide. Other times the puck happened to bounce just out of the way of a Canuck looking for a rebound. That’s hockey, and more often than not, you have to be good to be lucky.,
“He was an All-star tonight,” Flyers Head Coach Alain Vigneault said postgame. “He didn’t see a lot of action in the first … in the second and third period there was no doubt he was a big factor in us getting the win tonight.
Nils Höglander went off for high sticking at :22 seconds of the period. He clipped Giroux in the neutral zone.
The Flyers didn’t generate much on the ensuing power play.
Oskar Lindblom of the Flyers then went off for a weak holding call at 5:07 and the Flyers killed the penalty with relative ease. For the second straight power play the Canucks had lots of trouble with zone entries.
It was a placid period in terms of opportunities, especially compared to the previous stanzas.
Uh oh, at 9:34, the Canucks earned another power play when JVR went off for tripping. At this point the PP wasn’t really interrupting any even-strength Canucks momentum so maybe … maybe … no. Tried reverse psychology. It didn’t work.
On the next even strength break-out, the errant Tyler Myers pass through centre ice from inside his own blue line that resulted in icing symbolized the third period.
It came down to the same situation seen late in the third period against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. Down a goal, goalie pulled. But this time there was also an opponent in the penalty box. Ivan Provorov for tripping to make it a 6-on-4 for the final 1:20. Nothing doing. The Canucks never truly gained the zone and set up.
The team departed to some audible crowd moans, with back-to-back one-goal home losses.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers have beaten the Edmonton OIlers and the Vancouver Canucks on back-to-back nights on the road.
The Wisdom of Youth: For me, Quinn Hughes summed up the loss best in his postgame media visit.
“The power play,” he said.
He’s right. Go 1-for-5 instead of 0-for-5, a reasonable expectation given the unit’s recent successes, and you’ve got a tie game that can go either way. Instead, the team chased the game, something they’ve done far too often this early season.
Backhand Sauce: Ok, repeating oneself here, but even when it’s not cross-ice, the backhand sauce pass through traffic doesn’t work. Neither does the between-the-legs no look zone exit.
Simmer’s Canucks 3-stars:
3) Juho Lammikko – A for Effort.
2) Luke Schenn – The Canucks needed to exert some physicality. He did so with hits and the fight.
1) Quinn Hughes – Despite the trips to the box, he scored the lone goal and played 28+ minutes.
Stay tuned here for 5 Canucks Takeaways from VHN.