Canucks Gameday Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

After falling 3-2 in a shootout against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, the Vancouver Canucks travel east to the City of Brotherly Love to meet the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time since Nov. 25, 2019. The Flyers are coming off a season where they allowed the most goals in the NHL and missed the playoffs with a record of 25-23-8. This game will mark the 126th meeting between the two teams where the Flyers have an all-time record of 76-35-13-1. Here are a few storylines for each team as the Canucks head into the second game of a six-game road trip that will see stops in Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago, and Seattle.

3 Storylines: Philadelphia Flyers

Revamped Defence With Ellis, Ristolainen and Yandle

The Flyers revamped and retooled their defence core in the offseason adding Ryan Ellis from the Nashville Predators, Rasmus Ristolainen from the Buffalo Sabres, and Keith Yandle from the Florida Panthers. Two of those names should be in the lineup tonight in Ellis and Yandle, but Ristolainen is still nursing an injury that will keep him out of this game. Good for the Canucks because he has 11 points in 14 meetings against them.

Ryan Ellis, Philadelphia Flyers
Ryan Ellis, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It will be interesting to see how this defence now led by 25-year-old Ivan Provorov will perform this season. As Canucks fans know, head coach Alain Vigneault loves to have his defencemen jump up into the play. With the additions of Ellis and Yandle, he will be able to do that more effectively as they both have produced offence in the past. Ellis has five seasons of 30 or more points and Yandle has 11 seasons with 40 or more points including a career-high 63 in 2013-14. Needless to say the Canucks will have to be aware of when they are on the ice.

Brassard Replaces Hayes in the Top Six

The Flyers got some bad news at the beginning of training camp when it was announced that center Kevin Hayes would be out 6-8 weeks following successful abdominal surgery. Morgan Frost and Scott Laughton were thought to be the frontrunners for the job, but when the dust settled it was 34-year-old journeymen Derick Brassard that ended up with the coveted position.

Derick Brassard, Philadelphia Flyers
Derick Brassard, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It was an interesting decision, to say the least, considering Brassard hasn’t posted more than 32 points since the 2017-18 season. He will line up between Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee on the Flyers’ second line.

Will Carter Hart Bounce Back?

Carter Hart had a 2020-21 season to forget as he struggled all year to live up to the hype he generated after his performance in the 2020 Playoffs when he finished with a sparkling 2.23 goals against average and .926 save percentage along with two shutouts. He must have left that goaltender in 2020 because he didn’t look nearly the same in 2021, ending the season with a 3.67 GAA and .877 SV% along with one shutout. He was also near the bottom in goals saved above average (GSAA) with a minus-22.6 and only nine quality starts (QS) after 25 the previous season.

Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If the Flyers are going to make any noise this season, Hart has to return to the form that saw him battle Carey Price as one of the best goaltenders in the playoffs. He is only 22 years old, so there’s no need to panic yet, but with a mediocre backup in Martin Jones, he is going to have to play a lot and play well for the team to have a chance at returning to the playoffs in 2021-22.

3 Storylines: Vancouver Canucks

Nils Hoglander, the Swiss Army Knife

Head coach Travis Green said after the game against the Oilers that he wants to use Nils Hoglander 14-18 minutes as a sort of Swiss Army knife on every line this season. He started the game on the wing with Jason Dickinson and Matthew Highmore but saw time with Horvat and Elias Pettersson too. Judging by his performance in game number one, it seems to have been the right decision as he finished with two assists and four shots on goal.

I’d like to keep Hög between 14-18 minutes and move him around to kickstart lines.

Travis Green on Nils Hoglander’s deployment this season
Nils Hoglander Vancouver Canucks
Nils Hoglander, Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

With how much energy and tenaciousness Hoglander brings to every shift, he is the perfect candidate to be a forward like Jannik Hansen or Alex Burrows and play up and down the lineup. Too bad the Canucks didn’t have one of him for every line.

Vasily Podkolzin: Started From the Bottom, Now We’re Here

If the lines from morning skate hold up for the game, rookie Vasily Podkolzin will start on the top line with Pettersson and J.T. Miller. Green must have liked what he saw from him against the Oilers because he has gone from the fourth line with Justin Dowling and Juho Lammikko to the top line with two of the Canucks’ best players. Will he also replace Dowling on the second power play unit too? We will just have to wait and see.

Vasily Podkolzin, Vancouver Canucks
Vasily Podkolzin, Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Podkolzin had a solid NHL debut finishing with 7:34 of ice time and a 56.3 Corsi-for (CF%) percentage, which is an advanced stat that has been a strength of his throughout his time in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Hopefully, now that he is on the top line, he will get more ice time and opportunities to show the world what he can do. He had flashes of creativity in the little ice time he got, so it will be interesting to see what he can do with more.

No Zack MacEwen, But There is Vigneault and Konecny

This game won’t mark the first time Canucks fans will see Zack MacEwen in a different jersey, but there are still some Vancouver connections with Vigneault and Travis Konecny. Since Vigneault was fired at the end of the 2012-13 season, he has met his former team 12 times and has accumulated a record of 8-2-2 against them. He was arguably the Canucks’ most successful coach with 313 wins in 540 games behind the bench in Vancouver.

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Konecny, as most people know, is Horvat’s second cousin. They have played against each other seven times with Konecny coming away with a goal and four points.

Projected Line Combinations, Defence Pairings & Starting Goaltenders

Vancouver Canucks

J.T. Miller – Elias Pettersson – Vasily Podkolzin
Tanner Pearson – Bo Horvat – Conor Garland
Matthew Highmore – Jason Dickinson – Nils Hoglander
Justin Dowling – Juho Lammikko – Alex Chiasson

Bo Horvat Vancouver Canucks
Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Tyler Myers
Quinn Hughes – Tucker Poolman
Jack Rathbone – Kyle Burroughs

Thatcher Demko: 0-1-0 all-time against the Flyers with a 2.06 goals against average (GAA) and .941 save percentage (SV%)

Philadelphia Flyers

Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Travis Konecny
Joel Farabee – Derick Brassard – Cam Atkinson
Oskar Lindblom – Scott Laughton – James van Riemsdyk
Max Willman – Nate Thompson – Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis
Travis Sanheim – Justin Braun
Nick Seeler – Keith Yandle

Carter Hart: 2-0-1 all-time against the Canucks with a 1.30 GAA and .952 SV%

Canucks’ Next Game: Oct. 16 vs. Detroit Red Wings

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