Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers vs Edmonton Oilers

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Philadelphia Flyers
Feb 2, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) punches Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier (14) during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Enduring their first loss in regulation for the 2019-2020 season, the Philadelphia Flyers are aiming to win tonight. Again, in Alberta, Canada. This time, they hope to right last night’s wrong against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.

In his lone start of the season, Brian Elliott was the only silver lining in a game where the Flyers got off to a slow start and continued to play on their heels defensively. David Rittich surrendered one goal but wasn’t challenged nearly as often as Elliott was. The Calgary Flames got the win, 3-1, including an empty-net goal.

Two nights ago, the Oilers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-1. Like the Calgary Flames, the Oilers did have a goal waived because the net came off the moorings when the puck crossed the line. Unlike the Flames, Edmonton wouldn’t get that win despite the waived goal. In their contest against the Blackhawks, the Oilers were able to keep the pressure on offense while playing well defensively. This game played out exactly like the Flyers’ loss to Calgary. Chicago led by two goals before Edmonton scored their first, followed by the insurance goal on the empty net for the Blackhawks.

Over the last ten games against each other, the Flyers and the Oilers have split their series with five wins apiece. If you take it back to the eleventh game, the Flyers have a 6-5 advantage, including the rare shootout win. The Oilers do have a couple of days rest coming into this game and Philadelphia is looking to get back into the win column after being on the wrong side of the final score the past two games. It’ll be hard to do against a fresh team like the Oilers when the Flyers played the Calgary Flames less than twenty-four hours ago. The bright side is that Carter Hart will be starting in net, who had a rest last night, against a fresh opponent. In net for Edmonton will be Mike Smith, who played in the loss against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Taking a quick look at the injury report, the Philadelphia Flyers still have a clean bill of health with no injuries listed. For the Edmonton Oilers, defenseman Adam Larsson is on the long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury.

Edmonton Oilers – Skaters

The Oilers offense is getting work done when they’re on the ice, which shouldn’t be to anyone’s surprise. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid lead the offensive production with a mirrored amount of four goals and eight assists, totaling twelve points. Draisaitl has four even-strength goals with five even-strength assists and three assists on the powerplay. McDavid has two even-strength goals and two powerplay goals with three even-strength assists and five powerplay assists. Furthermore, Draisaitl is scoring on 16% of the shots he takes while McDavid is scoring on 23.5% of his shots. This offense is dangerous.

Matt Benning is leading the defensemen of the Edmonton Oilers with a +/- of 5. He is the true defenseman on the unit, only contributing two assists during even-strength hockey. He’s been disrupting offenses too, blocking six shots and dishing out nine hits.

Darnell Nurse is the defenseman with a little bit of offensive flair for the Edmonton Oilers. He has a +/- of 2 but converted a goal this season along with four assists. One of Nurse’s assists has come on the powerplay. He has shown he can be more effective on defense than his counterpart, Matt Benning, blocking twelve shots and providing seventeen hits.

Edmonton Oilers – Goaltending

Between the pipes for the Edmonton Oilers is Mike Smith. While he did have one lackluster outing against the Chicago Blackhawks, he has had two days to recover for this start against the Philadelphia Flyers. In four games started, Smith is 3-1-0 this season. Diving into the numbers, he’s allowed ten goals this season and maintained a 91.7% save percentage while yielding a 2.51 goal against average. The statistics will tell you that he didn’t have a good start against the Blackhawks, but the two goals he surrendered before being removed off the ice were tough. Patrick Kane put a smooth wrist shot right off the faceoff past Smith and Alexander Nylander scored on what was practically a breakaway. Before Nylander’s goal, Chicago hadn’t gotten a shot off for ten minutes against the Oilers.

Philadelphia Flyers – Skaters

Offensively, the Philadelphia Flyers have funneled through the same few players all year and it’s starting to become a detriment. Travis Konecny is the leading in points for the Flyers with seven points. He has three goals and four assists on the season, all of the goals coming during even-strength hockey and all but one of his assists coming on the powerplay. His first even-strength assist of the 2019-2020 season was last night against the Calgary Flames when Matt Niskanen recorded his first goal of the season. More on him soon.

Trailing behind Travis Konecny for second in points of the Philadelphia Flyers forwards is Oskar Lindblom. Again, a lot of his points have fed through Travis Konecny himself on the powerplay. Lindblom has two goals and one assist this season. All of his goals are on the powerplay, most recently against the Vancouver Canucks. His lone assist is during even-strength hockey. Konecny is scoring on 42.9% of his shots this season while Lindblom is scoring on 18.2% of the shots he takes.

We’re adding another name to the list of defensemen in this edition of “Spying on the Saboteur.” Aside from Matt Niskanen and Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere has joined them with a +/- of 2 this season. Niskanen still has recorded the most amount of points of these defensemen with three this season, while Sanheim has one point and Gostisbehere has zero. The breakdown of Niskanen is one goal during even-strength hockey and two assists on the powerplay. Sanheim’s lone point is an assist during even-strength. Defensively, Niskanen still is doing more with five blocked shots and four hits. No hits have been given out by Sanheim, but he’s blocked three shots. Gostisbehere has just started to get on the board defensively with one hit and blocked shot apiece.

Philadelphia Flyers – Goaltending

I strongly believe that the return of Carter Hart after one game of rest is going to be vital to the Philadelphia Flyers’ success if they are to win tonight against the Edmonton Oilers. Hart is beyond excited to play tonight at Rogers Place because he is from Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada. He’s familiar with Rogers Place and this is his first opportunity to face the Oilers in that arena. Statistically, Hart has had two quality starts in his three games this season. I think that he passes the eye test for the better there as I mentioned earlier with Mike Smith. Hart has allowed five goals this season and maintained a 93.8% save percentage while preserving a 1.62 goal against average.

Faceoff Possession

There is a little bit of separation in this statistic, favoring the Philadelphia Flyers. The Edmonton Oilers have five players that are over the 50% faceoff win mark. Those players are Connor McDavid, Joakim Nygard, Colby Cave, Markus Granlund, and Riley Sheahan. As a team, the Oilers have a 48.1% success rate at the faceoff dot. The Flyers have five players who are over the 50% faceoff win percentage too. Those players are Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton, and James van Riemsdyk. As a whole, Philadelphia has a 57.8% success rate in the faceoff circle. At puck drop, probability favors the Flyers to possess the puck.


Last night, I said it would be fair for the Calgary Flames to get the win against the Philadelphia Flyers. In my head, the game was going to play out a little closer than it did, as I predicted the Flames would win, 3-2. However, the Flyers played on their heels for the large majority of that game and couldn’t get the offense established. Calgary won, 3-1.

The Edmonton Oilers played good defense against the Chicago Blackhawks, but it wasn’t their night. The Oilers’ loss was a spitting image of the Philadelphia Flyers loss to the Calgary Flames when you look at how goals were scored and the final. However, Edmonton showed more fight with their prolific offense. Some bounces just rang off the post, but they made scoring chances happen.

In net, I think Carter Hart has the advantage. Two good goaltenders are playing head-to-head tonight, but I believe that the rest Hart received puts him on an even slate with Mike Smith. That being said, my prediction is going to lean with the Edmonton Oilers, 3-2. If the Philadelphia Flyers win tonight, it is because the defense decides to get physical with the Oilers skaters and the Flyers convert on special teams.

Puck drop is scheduled for 9:30p, live from Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. The money line favors the Edmonton Oilers at -130 with an over/under set at 6.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports