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Flyers Grades: Couturier Stars As Road Trip Ends With Dud

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Philadelphia Flyers
Sean Couturier lead the way for the Philadelphia Flyers as the Nashville Predators stole an overtime victory, 3-2. (Photo: AP)

As the rebuild thunders onward, it’s good to remember that the Philadelphia Flyers are, in fact, not infallible.

Winning four games in a row is still cool, and getting points in each of your last six games is even cooler. In a perfect world, the Flyers would do better than to lose to the Nashville Predators, 3-2, in overtime at Bridgestone Arena, but that’s what this rebuild is all about. Philadelphia still doesn’t have that dynamic offensive talent, and Juuse Saros’s 38-save performance proves that this was the difference. There are, of course, other factors that played into the loss, but the lack of threatening scoring chances was the main culprit.

Nashville’s power play went 0-for-3 as the Flyers’ penalty kill continues their strong run, but Philadelphia’s power play went 0-for-4. And, the Predators only blocked 11 shots, so there was plenty of traffic for the Flyers to shoot through. The lack of creativity was apparent, though, as we’ll now explore in the grades.

Flyers Power Play: F

There’s really no other way around this, once again. While the Flyers’ puck movement was generally solid, the chance creation and the shot selection was not. Far too often were players shooting when they should pass, and passing when they should shoot. It almost looks as though the players are in their own heads at this point, deferring and waiting for someone else to be the difference-maker.

That’s where players like Matvei Michkov and Cutter Gauthier will make the biggest impact. Those two are gamers that want the puck at all times and want their names in headlines when the dust settles. We could see Gauthier in Philadelphia by the spring, but Michkov is going to be a few more years.

And, even though the Flyers are just holding on to a playoff spot as things stand, this is the kind of thing that will cause them to vacate that spot if it continues. Good teams find ways to win games, and while Philadelphia has done that, it can’t always be ‘We played hard’. There’s going to be times where they need to win barn-burners and put up timely goals. Tuesday night wasn’t one of those nights for the boys in orange.

Sean Couturier: A

On the flip side, Sean Couturier is starting to look more and more like his old self. The 31-year-old is (very) quietly on a six-game point streak, dating way back to the Flyers’ Nov. 30 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

Couturier scored Philadelphia’s first goal against Nashville and assisted the second, single-handedly willing the Flyers back into the game from a 2-0 hole. However, it wasn’t all perfect for No. 14. As overtime kicked off, Couturier rotated in his defensive zone coverage, which appeared to cause some confusion as to who had who. Consequentially, all three Flyers were backed off of Filip Forsberg, who took his shot and eventually followed up on it to win the game for the Predators.

Obviously, the blame doesn’t fall squarely on Couturier, as we don’t know for sure if he was right or wrong. It’s a team game, and other Flyers need to step up in circumstances and in games like this.

Sam Ersson: C-

Sam Ersson did make some big saves at times for the Flyers, but he didn’t make the saves. Especially on Forsberg’s initial shot in overtime. Mistakes are going to happen for the first-year Flyer, but it’s avoidable ones like this that are going to be costly down the road. The bottom line is, the puck needs to be secured. It wasn’t, and that’s how Forsberg was able to smack the puck home for the win.

With the loss, Ersson’s four-game win streak has come to an unceremonious close. But all good things must come to an end, right? This game was also the 24-year-old’s first game with a save percentage below .900 since Nov. 7 – that loss to the San Jose Sharks. This start and Ersson’s last were 10 days apart, so that may also have something to do with it.

The Flyers were running a 2:1 split in starts between Carter Hart and Ersson since Hart’s illness and injury, before Hart started three in a row this past week. Perhaps this will be something to keep an eye on going forward.

The Philadelphia Flyers will return home to the Wells Fargo Center to host the Washington Capitals at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

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