Philadelphia Flyers

Can the Flyers spring a surprise in Edmonton?

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When the Philadelphia Flyers closed their four-game homestand, they finished against their stiffest competition to date. Against the Florida Panthers, there were some good things to discuss. Without Ryan Ellis, the Flyers hung in against an undefeated club. Kevin Hayes is still on the long-term injured reserve roster. Philadelphia will salivate at another opportunity versus the Panthers later in the season.

Tonight draws many similarities. The Edmonton Oilers are also undefeated, and this will be the first road game of the season for the Flyers. Ellis will be out of the lineup again. I harped on this in the preview versus Florida: Philadelphia cannot allow a defensive detail to go unturned.

Penalties did the Flyers in versus a good Panthers team. Seven committed: four different defensemen (Ivan Provorov, Nick Seeler, Keith Yandle, and Travis Sanheim,) a double-dip from Nate Thompson, and another untimely penalty from Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Against the best powerplay in the league, disciplined hockey needs to headline focal points.

Philadelphia has a chance to prove they’re road warriors. It’s the first time they’ve taken a trip to Canada since the 2020 NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals (Scotiabank Arena against the New York Islanders during the original pandemic playoffs.)

Here’s what to watch for as the Flyers visit the Oilers:

Crude Oilers

Canada is beautiful, but the Philadelphia Flyers could get off to an ugly start against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers convert 47.1% of powerplay chances (best in the NHL) and kill 88.2% of penalties (fifth-best in the NHL.) There is a word for their special teams: elite. Already, the Flyers are climbing a steep, uphill battle.

Excluding game misconducts, Philadelphia averages over ten minutes in the penalty box. If they allow Edmonton five powerplay opportunities, they’ll convert two of them at least.

Once you get past the discrepancies between the two special teams, the Oilers aren’t invincible in 5v5 scenarios. Alain Vigneault and his staff understand that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl account for roughly 37% of Edmonton’s point production. Isolating Draisaitl from McDavid is the game plan. It’s easier said than done. Five other teams tried, yet these two still represent 43% of the total goals scored in 2021-2022.

McDavid and Zach Hyman could feast on Justin Braun. Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Kailer Yamamoto could rip the Flyers’ second pair. Defensively, Philadelphia needs to be uncharacteristically perfect.

A Philadelphia Fly-By

Per Kevin Durso, the lineup:

  • Giroux, Couturier, Konecny
  • Farabee, Brassard, Atkinson
  • Lindblom, Laughton, van Riemsdyk
  • MacEwen, Thompson, Aube-Kubel
  • Provorov, Braun
  • Sanheim, Ristolainen
  • Yandle, Seeler
  • Hart [Jones]

I wrote two separate pieces about Nicolas Aube-Kubel (who would be playing his 100th game tonight) and Travis Sanheim as of late. There isn’t an in-between for Aube-Kubel. He’s either the jolt of energy the Philadelphia Flyers require or the haunting reminder of what it’s like to be on the penalty kill in a close or tied game. Alain Vigneault needs him to do the small things correctly. That begins with eliminating penalties.

Aube-Kubel is second to Nate Thompson in penalty minutes. Similar to Thompson (and Max Willman,) Aube-Kubel has yet to contribute to the scoresheet. A scoring play produced by the Flyers’ fourth line would be a refreshing addition to 2021-2022.

It’s critical to maintain a level head on defense. Take the body when it’s required (in the slot and at the boards) but remain home to mitigate high percentage scoring chances (the Edmonton Oilers rank sixth in goals scored.)

Games like tonight are where Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen need to play wisely.

Sanheim is second to Ivan Provorov in blocked shots and leads Philadelphia defensemen with five hits. It’s Ristolainen who needs to be more disruptive. Each time the Oilers have an offensive possession, Sanheim or Ristolainen need to make their presence known. Physical, smart hockey is the thesis to solving Edmonton.

Prediction

Hammer the over on the goals scored. I have several on the agenda. Unfortunately for Philadelphia Flyers fans, the Edmonton Oilers have more firepower. Tonight could be settled in overtime, in which the Flyers could steal a victory. If the result is regulation or a shootout, I favor the Oilers.

Oilers win, 4-3, in regulation.

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre

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Eric is a University of Delaware graduate with a degree in English. While in school, he began writing for different publications such as The Highlight Network, Amps and Greenscreens, and he did color commentary for the University of Delaware Men's and Women's lacrosse teams throughout the 2013 season as an alumni. Prior to being featured with Philly Sports Network, he began a pro-wrestling podcast with a childhood friend called the Totally Over Podcast. As an avid sports die-hard for all things Philadelphia, Eric is also a proud supporter of West Virginia University.

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