Avalanche 5, Flyers 2: Defensive Breakdowns in 1st Loss of Season

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DENVER - A 2-0 start has eluded the Flyers for a sixth straight season.

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The Avalanche scored late to erase any ideas of a comeback Saturday as the Flyers fell, 5-2, to Colorado.

Was taking Radko Gudas out of the lineup the wrong move? And how long will the Flyers be without one of their key forwards? 

Here are my observations from the Pepsi Center in Denver:

1. Colorado's first goal was a disaster in the making as Andrew MacDonald lost his footing with Tyson Jost. Nolan Patrick toppled over both guys to give the Avalanche an easy 2-on-1 opportunity in front of the net. For whatever reason, MacDonald was really slow to get to his feet.

2. Dave Hakstol wanted to give Christian Folin a game on this road trip, but perhaps Colorado wasn't the opponent for a defenseman to get acclimated to his new team. Folin had a number of turnovers/giveaways in the opening period as the Flyers' third paring had early troubles handling Colorado's forecheck. In hindsight, Hakstol should have stuck with Gudas, who turned in a solid game paired with Travis Sanheim in Vegas.

3. James van Riemsdyk blocked a shot in the first period and didn't return to the game. The Flyers later announced JVR had suffered a lower-body injury (see story). His injury forced Hakstol to mix and match his lines with Michael Raffl taking JVR's spot on the third line. 

4. Looking for a textbook breakout play? Then go back and watch the video of the Flyers' first goal that started with Ivan Provorov getting the puck over to Shayne Gostisbehere, who banked it over to Claude Giroux. It was Giroux who threaded the needle to spring Travis Konecny.  

5. The Flyers had a tough time containing the speed and quickness of the Avalanche's top line. Midway through the second period, Nathan MacKinnon took the puck behind his net and skated coast to coast. He split all five defenders on his way to creating a scoring chance and drawing a hooking penalty on Robert Hagg. For the most part, MacKinnon, a Hart Trophy finalist last season, had too much open ice.

6. The game-winning goal was scored as Gabriel Landeskog was actually calling for the puck when he planted himself right in front of Brian Elliott. Landeskog motioned to MacKinnon to shoot the puck on his forehand side and MacKinnon did just that with a perfectly redirected shot from Landeskog. 

7. The ice surface shouldn't have been too choppy with the Avs having played their home opener on Thursday. However, the NBA's Nuggets hosted a preseason game on Friday. Either way, the Flyers had a difficult time maintaining their edges. Sanheim struggled with his footwork early on and fell several times, as did Giroux, who completely wiped out with no one around him. The Flyers' overall execution and puck movement just wasn't very clean and crisp for the first two periods. 

8. Probably not the way he envisioned it, but Mikhail Vorobyev will take his first NHL goal however he can get it. The marker came on a bizarre play when Avs defenseman Mark Barberio collided with goaltender Semyon Varlamov. My feeling is that Barberio took his eye off the puck just long enough that he couldn't avoid the collision. 

9. Interestingly, general manager Ron Hextall said some of the Flyers' big names needed to play better after the game in Vegas. It was surprising to hear him say something like that after a season-opening victory. He may be singling out Patrick and Jakub Voracek, who haven't generated very much at even strength. They started to find some open ice in the latter stages of the second period.

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