The Vancouver Canucks face off against the Philadelphia Flyers to begin their six-game Eastern road trip.
With four road games coming up in the next six days, the Vancouver Canucks will be facing the toughest test of the season to date. First up are the Philadelphia Flyers though, who have just three wins in their past dozen games and have lost four straight.
As the Canucks saw last game against the Saint Louis Blues, they have the ability to keep up with the NHL’s top teams. They also have the tendency to slack off against the weaker opponents, last seen in the loss against the Vegas Golden Knights.
There is a risk that the Canucks shoot themselves in the foot against the Flyers. The Philadelphia Flyers are struggling this year despite the outstanding success of their top scorers.
The Canucks, however, cannot afford to get off to a losing start on this tough road trip. The trip only gets tougher, including games against both of last year’s conference champions. American Thanksgiving is right around the corner and teams in playoff contention around this time of the year tend to make the playoffs.
Who’s on offence
Jake Virtanen: JV18 has been a great linemate for the Sedins and an underrated, underused winger for the Canucks this season. The Flyers have big forwards Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek scoring at a phenomenal rate and the Canucks should take advantage of Virtanen’s speed and size against the Flyers who are missing Gudas and Weise, two rather gritty players.
Derek Dorsett: I think it’s time Dorsett started scoring again.
Who’s on defence
It was an ugly past couple of games for the entire Canucks blueline, but this game against the Flyers is the biggest for Alex Biega and Derrick Pouliot. With both Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher coming back soon, Biega and Pouliot are soon becoming healthy scratches.
If the two want to keep playing or compete for the 7th defenceman rights rather than the 8th defenceman rights, this Flyers game will be crucial.
Who’s in net
2017-2018 Record: 8-8-4
2016-2017 Record against Canucks: 2-0-0
Goals For: 56
Goals Against: 56
Injuries: W Jordan Weal (upper body, day-to-day) / D Andrew MacDonald (lower body, day-to-day) / G Anthony Stolarz (knee, indefinitely) / D Radko Gudas (suspended, Dec. 12)
Former Canuck Dale Weise is not expected to play.
Who’s on offence
Jakub Voracek: Voracek has ten multi-point games this season, including four points in the past two games despite both being losses for his team. With 25 points in 20 games, the 214-pound forward is going to be a handful for the Canucks blueline, especially for a guy like Ben Hutton.
Nolan Patrick: Though Patrick has only had two goals and four points in the 11 games played, he is the young star for the Flyers. It will be worth seeing how he stacks up against the likes of Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser.
Who’s on defence
Shayne Gostisbehere: With 16 points in 17 games, Gostisbehere is once again a powerful contributor from the blueline. Against a Canucks blueline that has 25 points altogether, he is a player to watch on the Flyers blueline that is always dangerous.
Who’s in net
Keys to victory
- Take the shot when it is there: The Flyers are among the best in the league in shot suppression (29.5 shots against/game) but have some of the worst goaltending, thanks to Brian Elliott. Back-up Michal Neuvirth has been better so the Canucks need to capitalize on the few shots they will be given on the road.
- A Power play revival: The Flyers gave up a hat-trick to Sean Monahan their last game, all three goals on the man advantage. The Canucks need their power play to revive for this road trip after struggling at home, and the Flyers are vulnerable on the PK at just the right moment for the Canucks.
- Get traffic in front of Markstrom: The Flyers have size up front, thanks to Voracek and Couturier. The Canucks have struggled to keep big forwards at bay this season, both along the boards and in front of their netminder. Have the big boys give Ben Hutton, Alex Biega and Philip Holm (should he play) a tough night, leading to penalties, if not goals with the screen set up.
- Score first and keep the lead: The Flyers have lost only once (7-1-2) when they score first. They have only won once when scored against first (1-7-2). They have yet to lose when heading into the intermission with a lead (11-0-3, 1st and 2nd intermission combined). Score first and you have the home advantage for real.
The Canucks have shown resilience in bouncing back from losses and cutting their losing streaks short. This Flyers team is lacking confidence and the Canucks can take full advantage of them when some of the Flyers’ physicality is out of the lineup.
The Flyers’ speed and superior depth on the blueline will be too much for a slumping Vancouver team. Once again, Tanev and Stecher’s presences are missed.
The Boeser line continues its dominance and scores both goals. The Canucks get thoroughly out chanced, but the goaltending is fantastic. Look for Marky Mark to get the start.
If Canucks fans thought we had hit rock bottom, they were being naive. This road trip will be savage. Green’s early success has been countered by other teams’ scouting and he’s started to overcoach. Outsmarting himself by giving Sutter greater and more important minutes than Henrik is a mistake that will continue to cost the Canucks.
A mobile Flyers blueline pushes play on both sides of the ice. They stifle the Canucks’ offence, whilst also transitioning the puck efficiently. This ultimately makes the difference, as the Canucks fail to establish meaningful o-zone time.
The team had a 3-1 lead before losing in OT. This will likely be the easy game of the week. Canucks have only won three of their last 10 games and need to show they are still road warriors. Nolan Patrick and Claude Giroux get goals for the Flyers while Brock Boeser, Loui Eriksson and Thomas Vanek will light the lamp for the Canucks.