CHICAGO — Corey Crawford was the reason behind a lack of offense.
Another injury was the reason behind the Flyers' lack of defense.
Crawford stopped all 35 shots he faced, including a handful of breakaways, as the Blackhawks shut out the Flyers, 3-0, at the United Center Wednesday night (see observations). It was the third time in the first 13 games the Flyers were unable to manufacture a single goal.
There was a Valtteri Filppula breakaway, a Travis Sanheim breakaway, a Filppula wraparound, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek had opportunities from point-blank range, and yet, the Flyers were just blanked altogether.
“I really can’t find one guy who was below the bar tonight because of effort,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We had a real good effort throughout. Offensively, we didn’t have anything to show for it, and that’s the difference in the hockey game.”
“The chances we had were quality chances. So many times the puck was just laying there and Crawford found a way to make the save,” Giroux said. “We did a good job of going to the net and getting traffic, getting rebounds and it was just hitting a glove, a skate or something.”
Sanheim, who impressed coaches with three preseason goals, was on the verge of scoring his first NHL goal in the second period when he fired a shot top left corner on Crawford, but the Blackhawks' goalie reached out with his blocker pad to make the save.
“I tried to get it off quickly,” Sanheim said. “Hopefully those bounces start going my way.”
Every period the Flyers increased their shot total, going from eight to 12 to 15, as they battled desperately to break through with that first goal.
“The third period we had seven or eight really good scoring chances, like I said, we just didn’t have anything to show for it,” Hakstol said. “You've got to give [Crawford] credit for that.”
However, the Flyers can be faulted for helping pump some air into the Blackhawks' power play that had looked completely flat coming into the game. Chicago’s man advantage was 2 for 30 on home ice and ranked 28th overall. On the Blackhawks' fourth opportunity, they finally converted when Brian Elliott’s initial save was a rebound that wasn’t cleared and Artem Anisimov moved past Ivan Provorov for the game’s first goal (see highlights).
“You hope your guys are close enough to battle for it and clear it,” Elliott said. “It’s tough when you’re killing penalties like that. They have one extra guy and you have to figure what to cover.”
The Flyers were forced to cover for Radko Gudas, who never returned after the first intermission following a hard hit he took from Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad, resulting in an upper-body injury. For the second time in three games, the Flyers' defense was reduced to five players, three of them rookies.
Not only have the Flyers lost three defensemen in the span of 11 days, but three veteran blueliners for a team that was already pushing the youth movement. Combined, the three rookies logged 56:20 of ice time or nearly half of the 120 minutes required of a team’s defense corps.
“It’s not what you want to see on any team, especially your own,” Elliott said of the injuries to the defense. “We just have to battle through it. It’s just a next-man-up mentality that when one guy goes down, another one picks up the slack.”
“We have to play with those guys that we have right now," rookie Robert Hagg said. “There’s not much we can do about it. We’ll see Thursday (in St. Louis) who’s playing, and whether Gudas is back tomorrow or not.”
Gudas was dressed and standing in the hallway after the game with no residual appearance of an injury. If he can’t play in St. Louis, in all likelihood, 29-year-old Will O’Neill will be pressed into action against the Blues in what would be his NHL debut.
Notes and tidbits
• Provorov continues to log some heavy minutes. Wednesday night, Provorov was on the ice for a career-high 29:51, the second straight night he has posted a career high in ice time. That’s the most playing time in a regulation game for a Flyer with less than 100 career games played.
• Sean Couturier led the Flyers with six shots on net. It’s the third game this season in which Couturier has had six or more shots on goal. Prior to this season, Couturier had that many shots in just four of the 416 games he had played in. He’s currently on pace for 246 shots this season.