Flyers Practice Report: Defense Prepares to Survive an Avalanche.

As the Flyers prepare to depart on a three-game Western Conference road trip, they started out Monday with bad news. I previously reported that Travis Konecny is out indefinitely with a concussion. Also, Phil Myers left the ice early with back spasms. Konecny is out and Myers is not expected to play on Wednesday night as the Flyers travel to Denver to take on the high-scoring Colorado Avalanche. Konecny will not travel with the team.

As the Flyers took to the ice in a split practice, the defense was first on the ice. All seven defensemen started out practice, however, Phil Myers left the ice early. Alain Vigneault stated, “Myers started practice [then] came off as spasms came back. So that still gives us six healthy ‘D.’ So you got one more day here to figure out exactly there if everybody’s going to be available if they are we’re going to go to Colorado with four lines and six ‘D’.”

Defense Prepares for a high powered Offense

The Avalanche have scored the second-most goals in the NHL behind the Washington Capitals, and have a league-leading average of 3.70 goals per game. They currently sit fifth in the NHL in points with 41, two more than the Flyers. Nathan MacKinnon is a superstar in this league and is a threat to score every time the puck is on his stick. On Monday he had another multipoint game as he had a goal and an assist in a 5-4 OT loss to Calgary.

Flyers’ defenseman Justin Braun may have the most experience playing against the Avs. When asked what insight he could give his teammates, he stated the following:

“I think everyone knows in the league how good they are this year and you know what kind of game they play, it’s up-tempo. You know, they want to get on the rush. You can’t turn pucks over and they’ve been healthy this year. They’ve, you know, they’ve been one of the best teams in the league we got to be ready for them.”

When asked if there was any key to defending them Braun stated the following:

“I think you know, you gotta have a good fore-check out slow them down and can’t be one and done so there skill guys just flow through the D zone, get the puck with speed. That’s when you run into trouble and McKinnon’s getting the puck in the middle. You know, and he’s got room to work with, you know, you got to kind of make those guys stop. You know, make them defend a little while and spend half their shift working down low.”

Provorov Up to the Task

MacKinnon has scored points in all but five games this season. He is third in the league in scoring behind Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid and is a bonafide superstar in this league. Tasked with shutting down MacKinnon and the high powered offense will be Ivan Provorov. When asked about the challenge that the Avalanche pose, he stated the following:

“Yeah, I know, they’re a great team they got you know, speed, you know, tons of great players just you know. I think our main focus is to play our game you know, play with the puck, make them defend and when they have the puck, just you know, take away time and space, play hard on them, you know, have a good gap and you know, try to frustrate them all night.”

Provorov has been fantastic this year. His average time on ice is 24:53 and has 19 points, both of which are fourth in the Metropolitan Division. But in assessing Provy’s play, you can’t just go by statistics. Provorov has been playing great defense this year. He continues to make plays in the defensive zone and block shots. Provorov is showing this year that he is a top NHL defender. When asked about his play this year he deflected praise, giving credit to the team:

“I think just overall team play, you know, we’re playing well. We
you know, we have the puck, we dictate the game most of the nights and now it’s easy to play the way when everyone’s going and, you know, we have the puck. Last year, we defended way too much. And now we are, you know, playing faster and breaking up plays early. So we get the puck earlier and have more time to play offense and, you know, easy to play that way and you can create more offense that way.”

The defense will have their hands full. Vigneault will also need to adjust his lines and play the matchup game. Look for Provorov to have another night leading the team in time spent on the ice. The Flyers will practice again Tuesday in Voorhees before flying to Denver. The puck drop is scheduled for Wednesday at 9:30 PM from the Pepsi Center.

Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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