It’s an exciting time for the Philadelphia Flyers after a whirlwind season. They’ve made it to the postseason and are facing off against one of the best teams in the league. The end of the season saw them almost miss the playoffs after a few poorly played games. The Flyers went into Game 1 Thursday night against the Washington Capitals with hopes that they should shut down Alex Ovechkin and score on the Captials’ record-setting goaltender Braden Holtby. It would turn out to be a performance they looked to put behind them. Their power play unit wasn’t performing to its standard. They had three power plays in the first period and lacked the push to work with their man advantage. The rest of the game didn’t go anywhere for the Flyers. None of the players could connect with the puck and their attempts on net never resulted in a goal. A bright spot for the Flyers consisted of a standout performance by Steve Mason until the second period, where the Caps ended up scoring the first of their two goals. Yet all of this would be overshadowed by one overwhelming event.
The Flyers two-way center Sean Couturier took a hard check from Ovechkin in the second period of Game 1. He struggled to get up and didn’t return for the rest of the game. After the game, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia shared the bad news.
Source: Sean Couturier will miss the remainder of the series because of an AC sprain in his left shoulder. More here https://t.co/S6lIh2UUUG
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 15, 2016
The loss of Couturier is a huge blow to the Flyers’ lineup. He’s one of the Flyers’ best defensive forwards. His loss is going to put the team in a difficult position as they’re going up against one of the best offenses in the league. Couturier was also a big player in the Flyers’ penalty kill unit and it’s going to be hard to find some who can replace him. Losing Couturier for the series is pushing the team into a deeper hole that they need to climb out of before it’s too late.
Working with their strengths would help the Flyers’ profile.
A big step towards recovering from their 2-0 shutout would be to work on their strength with goaltender Steve Mason. Mason allowed two goals in the course of 90 minutes and saved 29 of 31 shots. He’s going to be the one that the Flyers rely on going forward throughout the season. Number two goaltender Michal Neuvirth will be waiting in the wings but was sidelined towards the end of the season with an upper-body injury. If Neuvirth gets the chance to start, it will also be a plus for the Flyers. He has been one of the best number twos in the league with a save percentage of .924. It’s a confidence boost for the team to have both goaltenders who can perform under stressful situations but it won’t be enough to keep the Caps from sweeping the series.
Finding a replacement for Couturier will need to be priority number one for the team. Center Scott Laughton seems to be a logical fit for filling Couturier’s shoes but it won’t be an easy task. He’s played in 71 games this season and had seven goals and 14 assists, not too shabby numbers. There will still need to be other line changes to accommodate the losses. Forward Brayden Schenn sensed changes were going to be made and the importance of his performance in Game 1 wasn’t to be underestimated. Head coach Dave Hakstol didn’t have much to say about the impending changes, here he speaks to the Washington Post after the loss. “We need to improve a little what we’re doing without the puck, and we need to try to be a little bit better offensively generating opportunities. You’re not going to get a lot of opportunities against this team. They’re excellent defensively, but we have to work to generate one or two more opportunities.”
[quote_box_center author=“We need to improve a little what we’re doing without the puck, and we need to try to be a little bit better offensively generating opportunities. You’re not going to get a lot of opportunities against this team. They’re excellent defensively, but we have to work to generate one or two more opportunities.”][/quote_box_center]
The team will hopefully get more opportunities as changes are made. Schenn will go over to second-line center and play in the same spot as he did Thursday night. Laughton is hoping to make some impacts in Couturier’s spot and there are bound to be more changes as Game 2 approaches. Yet the Flyers will need to work on their power play units as well as their five-on-five as a result of the personnel loss. Working on the power play will also be to the team’s advantage. They wasted all three of their power-play opportunities in the first period of Thursday’s game. That might be what can take the Flyers team from falling behind to pushing forwards. It will be an uphill battle but one that the Flyers can face with guns blazing.