Flyers

Flyers-Blackhawks observations: Offense fizzles in road shutout

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — The Blackhawks provided the Flyers with every chance in the world to score and score often. However, the end result was a failure to score altogether as the Flyers suffered a 3-0 loss at the United Center. 

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped all 35 shots he faced as the Flyers were shut out for the third time in 13 games this season. 

The Flyers’ record dropped to 6-6-1 as they’ve lost four of their last five games.

• Once again, the Flyers lost another defenseman as Radko Gudas left after the first period and never returned with an upper-body injury. That limited the Flyers to five D-men, three of them rookies.

• With 11:30 remaining in regulation, Jakub Voracek had a nice stretch pass to Claude Giroux, who streaked around Brent Seabrook. But once again, Crawford came up with another big stop. Without question, the Flyers had a handful of grade-A opportunities but were just unable to convert. 

• Voracek had an early opportunity as he took a pass from Giroux and wheeled around Chicago defenseman Jan Rutta, but he couldn’t sneak the puck past Crawford’s outstretched pad.

• The Flyers were playing with fire in the second period and they finally got burned on Chicago’s fourth power play of the game. Richard Panik fired a big slap shot that Brian Elliott stopped. However, Artem Anisimov cut in behind Ivan Provorov to put in the rebound. Several things: Provorov’s reaction kept him from sealing off Anisimov’s path to the crease, and there was no one to clear the rebound. That said, even in the first period, Elliott was not crisp with his rebounds, often lunging to cover pucks in front of him. 

• The Blackhawks’ power-play goal in that second period snapped an 0-for-18 skid.

• Twenty seconds after making it 1-0, Chicago grabbed a 2-0 lead when Jonathan Toews connected on a breakaway. Robert Hagg simply whiffed on trying a shot from the blue line. Toews saw an opening, jumped all over it, and slid a backhand through Elliott’s five-hole. Just an unfortunate play for the rookie Hagg.  

• Aside from a delay of game penalty, there was more to like with Mark Alt’s game. He perfectly played a Chicago 2-on-1 to deny a scoring chance with his stick and knocked the puck to the corner. Later in the second period, he played some airtight defense on Toews as he stuck with him along the boards before he finished a check to send the Blackhawks’ captain to the ice. After 40 minutes, Alt led the Flyers with four hits.

• Travis Sanheim had his best shot so far at scoring his first NHL goal when he was sprung free on a breakaway. Sanheim looked to go top left corner, but Crawford came up with perhaps his best save of the game as he caught the shot with his blocker.

• The Flyers were close to scoring the first goal on several occasions, including when Jori Lehtera flipped a puck that Crawford couldn’t handle. With the puck bouncing around and Crawford clearly out of position, Dale Weise couldn’t get a good whack on it or he likely would have scored his second goal of the season. This was Weise’s first game back after being a healthy scratch the previous three, and he still appears to be fighting rust. 

• A solid job by Flyers as they didn’t allow the Blackhawks to set up their cycle game down low in the first period. Alt turned in a solid opening 20 minutes in his first road NHL game. Watching him closely, he wasn’t rattled playing in a hostile environment. Alt’s only hiccup came early in the period when he lost track of the puck between his skates, which let Lance Bouma to get off a backhand shot. Alt played 4:53 in the opening period.

• It was a roller coaster-type first period for Valtteri Filppula, who had a breakaway wrist shot — the Flyers’ best chance early on — and a wraparound attempt that nearly shot up and over Crawford for a goal. In the same shift, Filppula got his stick around Nick Schmaltz for a hooking penalty. Earlier in the first, Filppula was whistled for high sticking.

• It was good to see Travis Konecny move up to the Flyers’ second line as he appeared to grow frustrated on the third line without Nolan Patrick. Dave Hakstol would like to see more from Konecny and this was a good opportunity as the Jordan Weal-Filppula-Wayne Simmonds combo has not played, nor generated much offense, over its last three games.

• The Blackhawks' best chance at scoring during the first came in the final minute of the period when Cody Franson’s shot trickled past Elliott. Thankfully for the Flyers, there was no one for the ‘Hawks to clean up the rebound. Chicago’s power play has really been a mess this season. The Blackhawks came into this game 2 for 30 on home ice, and on their first power-play chance the Flyers had three easy clears in the first minute.

• In defense of a hit on linemate Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton dropped the gloves with defenseman Connor Murphy, who the Blackhawks acquired from Arizona as part of the Niklas Kjalmarsson trade. Murphy is the son of Flyers assistant Gord Murphy. He didn’t exactly make dad proud as Laughton took him to the ice right away. 

• Voracek nearly banked a shot off of Crawford, who came out of his net to play the puck but showed little urgency in getting back to his crease. The goal-hungry Sean Couturier, who leads the team with nine goals, jumped on the opportunity and tried to bang home a loose puck. Couturier has a tenaciousness about him right now that comes with confidence.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Jori Lehtera-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Mark Alt

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forward Matt Read (healthy), and defensemen Will O’Neill (healthy) and Shayne Gostisbehere (upper body).