The Philadelphia Flyers lost a frustrating game to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night by a score of 1-0. They had a chance to get points in all three games on the homestand, but they couldn’t get to the dirty areas and get one into the back of the net.
Here are five storylines from the Flyers’ frustrating shutout loss to the Wild.
Top line can’t do it all
The Philadelphia Flyers have the best top line in the league, but after that they don’t have much. That came back to haunt them in a 1-0 loss on Saturday night. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jake Voracek each scored on Thursday night, and they had some chances against the Wild, but they were relied upon too much because the other lines haven’t been producing.
A defenseman usually leads the team in icetime in a game, simply due to their responsibilities and there being six defensemen vs. 12 forwards in a lineup, but Sean Couturier led the Flyers in icetime with 24:07 on Saturday night. That is due to his special teams time, as Gostisbehere and Provorov led the team at even strength, but it shows how much the Flyers rely on the top line. All three members of the top line played at least 17:51 at even strength and 22:34 overall, while the next highest forward played 12:04 (Jordan Weal) at even strength and 16:01 overall (Wayne Simmonds).
In 48 minutes of even strength play, Couturier played 17:51 (37.18%), Valtteri Filppula played 10:33, Jori Lehtera played 9:31, and Scott Laughton played 9:40. The Flyers essentially had a top line and then three fourth lines on Saturday night in terms of ice time.
The top line has been off to an incredible start and they’ve been able to carry the team to victory at times, but the depth forwards are going to need to pick it up and help the top guys out. The first line had a few good scoring chances that were turned away, and the other three lines couldn’t pick up the slack.
Elliott makes it a game
While the forwards were slacking up front, Brian Elliott was doing a stellar job in the crease. He made an incredible stick save on Mikko Koivu early in the 1st period to keep the Flyers in it, and that was a theme on the night. The only goal he allowed was banked in off of him on a wild play.
Elliott only made five saves in the 1st period, but a lot of them were on high-danger chances. Minnesota was credited with two high-danger scoring chances in the period, and had a few more that threatened Elliott. But the netminder did a good job all night long to keep the Wild’s attempts out of the net. Elliott had great positioning for most of the night and was able to prevent rebound chances.
Elliott has allowed four goals in his last three starts, but has come away with just one win. He has made 96 saves on 100 shots through those four games, increasing his save percentage from .884 to .908. He is getting help from the defense in front of him and is adjusting to the Flyers’ defensive system. He was one of the stars of the game for the Flyers and kept them in it for all of the night. Unfortunately the Flyers couldn’t get a goal past Devan Dubnyk to earn at least a point.
Sanheim’s status up in the air
Sanheim entered Saturday’s game coming off of one of the best games of his young career, and that strong play continued in the 1st period. He had a few solid plays to break up chances in the defensive zone, and also started a few breakouts and joined the rush. He and Radko Gudas were the Flyers’ best defensive pair through one period of play with nine shot attempts for and just one shot attempt against for a 90% corsi for.
Their solid play kept going in the 2nd and 3rd periods, but Sanheim suffered a scare later in the period and did not return to the ice afterward. Sanheim’s ankle turned after his skate got locked up with Daniel Winnik in the corner with a little over four minutes to go in the game. He remained on the bench but did not play a shift the rest of the game.
Hopefully that was by design, with the Flyers going on the penalty kill and then pulling the goalie for an extra attacker, but it could be an injury. He did skate during a break to test it out, and he could put weight on it, but it could be something that keeps him out. We’ll probably know more on his status when the Flyers practice on Monday.
Perimeter passing not enough
The Minnesota Wild did a great job of taking time and space away from the Flyers, as they clogged up the middle of the ice and forced the attack to the outside. Even when the Flyers did get into the zone, they could hardly ever get a cycle going and only had a few shot attempts from anywhere close to the slot.
The shot attempt battle leaned heavily in the Flyers’ favor in the 1st period (18-7), but Minnesota held the Flyers to just six scoring chances, and only one high-danger. That was a theme all night as the Flyers peppered Dubnyk from the outside, and he easily turned them away without traffic in front.
The Flyers turned up the heat in the final minute with Elliott pulled, but it was simply too little too late as they couldn’t punch the puck home in the dying seconds.
Credit goes to Minnesota for frustrating the Flyers’ offense, but the forwards need to be able to battle through and get into better positions to convert on their chances.
Power play can’t convert
The Flyers had a few chances to get on the board with a man-advantage, but they couldn’t convert. It’s been a rough go of it recently for the Flyers’ power play as they are now just one for their last 16 over the past five games. The top unit has had good puck movement and chances, but no luck, while the second unit seems to be completely off.
Power play units will always go through streaks, and this cold streak is hitting the Flyers at a bad time. They have had a few games recently where scoring a power-play goal would be huge. Whether it be tonight, last Saturday in a 1-for-6 showing against Colorado, or in Chicago when they went 0-for-3. The top unit has the firepower, they just need to convert.
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