Radko Gudas taking a single punch to the jaw and crumbling to the ice was in many ways the perfect representation of how things went for the Flyers on Tuesday night.
Call it the punch heard round Southern Pennsylvania.
The orange and black were outclassed in all three zones and all aspects of the game as they turned in their first true clunker of the season in a discouraging 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. There wasn’t a whole lot to like as the team’s five-game homestand (3-2-0) came to a close.
But, as with any game, there were some positives to take away. There were also plenty of negatives. Actually, mostly negatives. We’re not going to get carried away though. It was one game in October. There’s still a lot of hockey left to be played.
Here are Flyers Nation, however, we’ll take a look after every game at three Flyers who turned in good performances and three Flyers who would probably wish we weren’t talking about their efforts. Let’s get started with our first edition of Ups and Downs!
If you watched the first period, it would have been safe to assume Voracek was going to find the back of the net against the Ducks. He came out on fire. The 28-year-old had two really good looks on an early power play and you could tell he was thinking “shoot first.” There was no hesitation on either shot attempt. That’s what you want to see from a guy trying to break a lengthy goal drought. By my count, he had four high-danger scoring opportunities in the first frame alone. But a goal just wasn’t in the cards. No problem. Voracek continued to be the Flyers’ go-to set-up man. He had a stellar backcheck and bodied a Duck off the puck in the neutral zone before sending Claude Giroux the other way on Sean Couturier’s first goal. Then, in the third period, Voracek found a breaking Sanheim, who was wide open, before Couturier buried his second goal of the evening. For those counting at home, that’s 12 assists for Voracek in nine games. And with the way he’s pressing in the offensive zone – he has 29 shots on target this season – it’s only a matter of time before he pots one of his own.
If you had Couturier sitting in a tie for the team lead in goals through nine games, I’d like for you to shoot me an e-mail so you can pick my lottery numbers for me. Couturier is off to a fantastic start with six goals and three assists already this season. In 2016-17, it took him 23 games to earn six goals. Back in 2015-16, it took him 30. A lot of his success has to do with his new linemates. Since being elevated to top-line center, Couturier has shown to be a great fit in between Giroux and Voracek. The trio were the only Flyers forwards who could generate anything offensively against Anaheim on Tuesday, too. They were moving the puck well off the rush, finding open seems at will. That’s why it wasn’t really surprising Couturier tallied both of the Flyers’ markers.
Some of you may think this was an odd decision. OK, I get it. But hear me out. Sanheim is still very much a work-in-progress. He’s a young player trying to adapt to playing against the best players in the world. There will be growing pains. We’ve seen that firsthand with Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. Against the Ducks, though, I thought Sanheim was pretty darn good on a night in which many of the Flyers’ blueliners struggled. The 21-year-old even earned his first career NHL point when he made a beauty of a backdoor pass to Couturier in the third period. What made it even sweeter was Sanheim made a nice defensive play in rush coverage earlier on the shift, too. That’s what he’s going to bring: a strong two-way game. But don’t underestimate his offensive ability. He has the potential to be an impact defenseman on the rush. We saw that in the first period. The Flyers’ top line had an excellent shift applying pressure and it ended with Voracek leaving a drop pass to Sanheim, who was stoned from point-blank range. Sure, Sanheim did have a few hiccups but which defenseman didn’t? There were actually a few defensive plays that stood out to me. Brandon Manning had an awful turnover at his own blue line that could’ve led to an odd-man rush but Sanheim was there to bail him out and disrupt the play. There was another shift where Sanheim and Manning were pinned when they desperately needed a change. What did Sanheim do? Oh, just bodied Ryan Getzlaf off the puck behind the net and moved the puck over to his center to begin a break out. The kid is gaining confidence each and every night. What I like the most his he’s making in-game adjustments. He’ll make mistakes but doesn’t let them bother him. He just corrects it. Very encouraging.
You don’t hear this often: Konecny was absolutely brutal. The second-year Flyer has been superb for most of the early going but he had a night to forget on Tuesday. On the Ducks’ first goal, Konecny made a terrible decision with the puck in his own zone. Instead of putting the puck off the glass high and out, he tried to push it backhanded up the middle. Derek Grant picked off the turnover and put a puck on net that Ondrej Kase got a piece of for a goal. That has to be a teaching moment for a young player. You can’t be too hard on a guy for just one mistake but it needs to be corrected. Later on the game, Konecny was caught flat-footed at center ice as Brandon Montour easily breezed by him to make it a 2-1 game in favor of Anaheim. Konecny took much of the blame but he was far from the only player who made a mistake on the play (we’ll get to that later). To cap it all off, Konecny threw a dumb and unnecessary hit on Jakob Silfverberg as time was winding down in the third period. You could tell he was frustrated but he has to let up there. It was way late and Silfverberg could’ve been hurt as he clearly wasn’t expecting contact. The last thing Konecny needs is a suspension.
Let’s go back to Anaheim’s second goal. What in the hell was Manning doing? He was so far out of position that the Flyers essentially had two defensemen handling the right side of the ice (you don’t need two defensemen on the same side of the ice in this situation). How is it far to criticize Konecny when he had no safety net behind him? Manning probably could’ve even made a play on the puck carrier if he were at least in the middle of the ice. But nope. He was so lost out there. I didn’t like Manning’s positioning on Nick Ritchie’s goal in the second period, either. Granted, the Flyers were shorthanded and close to clearing the puck. But Manning and Robert Hagg allowed Ritchie to sneak behind them and he had all the time in the world to corral a rebound and put it past Brian Elliott. One of Manning or Hagg have to get a body on Ritchie in that instance.
Elliott didn’t have a whole lot of help on Tuesday but he didn’t do himself any favors. He finished the night with just 19 saves on 25 shots, good for a .760 save percentage. Yikes. Ryan Getzlaf’s tally just four minutes into the third period wasn’t pretty, either. Elliott has to make that save from a puck shot that far out. The veteran netminder has been known to start seasons off slowly but the Flyers need him to be better. He’s allowed a few soft goals and has a 3.33 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in six starts. The bizarre thing? He’s 4-2 in those games. That won’t last long if he can’t make the easy saves.