Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers vs Vancouver Canucks

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What a great time it is to be a hockey fan in the City of Brotherly Love! The Philadelphia Flyers get in a win in Prague, Czech Republic and get another at home to start the season undefeated. Now, it’s time to test their skill for the first time in the 2019-2020 season across the northern border in Canada against the Vancouver Canucks. The Flyers won impressively against the New Jersey Devils, shutting them out 4-0. Carter Hart stopped twenty-five shots en route to the 2-0 start to the season. To improve to 3-0, Philadelphia is going to have to bring that same focus to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Recently, the Vancouver Canucks earned their first win on the season against the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings goaltender, Jonathan Quick, looked so uncomfortable in net against a swarming Canucks offense. He was a victim of some unfortunate passes that turned into goals, a defense that left him in odd-man rush situations, and simply a poor outing. That being said, the Canucks did a great job of converting powerplay opportunities, scoring on odd-man rushes, and passing to create an open shot on net. The final score of that game favored Vancouver, 8-2. Quick was on the wrong side of every one of those eight goals.

In the last ten games against each other, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Vancouver Canucks have split the series at five wins apiece. Saturday, October 12th, 2019 will determine what team is on the right side of history. In the earliest stages of the season, the Flyers have the momentum on their side. The Canucks are coming into this game with three injuries listed. Oscar Fantenberg is currently in concussion protocol since October 8th, Tyler Motte is out a couple of weeks with an upper-body injury since October 2nd, and Antoine Roussel is targeted to return in November following off-season ACL surgery. Philadelphia is reporting as completely healthy.

Vancouver Canucks – Skaters

JT Miller is the leading scorer on the Vancouver Canucks with one goal and four assists. Each one of his points has come during even-strength hockey. The playmaker is scoring on 20% of his shots. Brandon Sutter, on the other hand, has two goals and an assist tallied this season. Like Miller, each one of his points has also come during even-strength hockey. However, Sutter is converting on 25% of the shots he takes. All of the combined goals between Miller and Sutter came in that thrashing of the Los Angeles Kings.

On defense, Quinn Hughes is one of the better defensemen for the Vancouver Canucks. Hughes has scored a goal this season and tallied two assists in the offensive zone, but the team defense needs to improve. While I do say that Hughes is one of the better defensemen on the Canucks, he only has a +/- of 1 and made only two hits. I would argue that Troy Stecher is the best defenseman on this Vancouver team. He isn’t producing in the offensive zone like Hughes but has matched the +/- of 1. What separates Stecher from Hughes is that he has blocked two shots and collected three hits, showing that he is doing more on defense.

Vancouver Canucks – Goaltending

The only goaltender to see playing time for the Vancouver Canucks has been Jacob Markstrom. The thirty-year-old has surrendered seven goals so far this season in three games, securing a 92.2% save percentage while posting a goal allowed average of 2.38. Markstrom had a great night in the net that was lost in the offensive barrage against the Los Angeles Kings. He stopped 37 out of 39 shots. Also on the Canucks roster is Thatcher Demko, who is in his second year in the NHL.

Philadelphia Flyers – Skaters

Each time I have watched the Philadelphia Flyers play this season, I’ve thought to myself, “I am excited for six more years of this guy,” when I watch Travis Konecny play. The Flyers leading scorer has five points on the season, sorting into three goals and two assists. All of Konecny’s goals have happened in even-strength hockey, but the two assists all come on the powerplay. This means that Konecny could is a pivotal part of a successful powerplay for Philadelphia. Oskar Lindblom has contributed on offense in the early stages of this season too. His two points consist of a goal and an assist. His only goal this season has come on the Flyers powerplay while his assist has come during even-strength hockey. Konecny is scoring on 60% of his shots while Lindblom is converting 14.3% of his shots.

Defensively, Travis Sanheim is playing effective team defense. He hasn’t thrown his weight around yet this season and blocked just one shot, but he offers a team-high for defensemen on the +/- statistic of 3. Matt Niskanen is beginning to blossom in orange and black. He’s served up an assist on the offensive side and maintained a +/- of 2. The defensive stats show that he is playing as well or better than Sanheim, blocking one shot and dishing out three hits. Niskanen’s lone assist this season came on the powerplay for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Philadelphia Flyers – Goaltending

As the Vancouver Canucks, the Philadelphia Flyers has only used one goaltender this season. Carter “the Hitman” Hart has already collected his first-ever career shutout win against the New Jersey Devils en route to winning his second game of the season. Hart has been phenomenal in net, posting a 94.6% save percentage and allowing a small 1.5 goals allowed average. Flyers fans can’t sing the praises of Hart enough. Also on Philadelphia’s roster is Brian Elliott, who is in his twelveth year in the league.

Faceoff Possession

This is a statistic that is heavily in favor of the Philadelphia Flyers heading into their visit against the Vancouver Canucks. Michael Raffl is the only Flyer who is currently posting a faceoff win average under 50%. Overall, Philadelphia is combined for a 61.7% faceoff win percentage. The Canucks have five players under the 50% faceoff win percentage. Those players are Brandon Sutter, Jake Virtanen, Jay Beagle, Elias Pettersson, and Adam Gaudette. Overall, Vancouver is under the 50% faceoff win percentage as a team, showing at 45.7%.

Prediction

I’m aboard the Philadelphia Flyers machine this season and that trend is continuing this game against the Vancouver Canucks. However, I don’t think the Flyers score four goals in this game. My final score prediction is another close game. I’m going 3-2 in favor of the Flyers. Under Alain Vigneault, I think that the powerplay prowess continues against the Canucks.

Puck drop is scheduled for 10:00p, live from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia. The money line favors the Philadelphia Flyers at -104 with an over/under set at 5.5.

 Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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