EDMONTON, Alberta – The Edmonton Oilers broke out their orange jerseys against the Flyers Friday night, in what was clearly overkill.
The Flyers don’t need any help passing it to the other team.
The parade of defensive zone lapses and mid-ice miscues continued for this struggling, tied-for-last-place in the Eastern Conference team, as they fell to the Oilers, 4-1, Friday night at Rogers Place.
``In this league, you give the puck away, you give it back to the other team, you’re gonna get hurt,’’ Flyers coach Dave Hakstol was saying prior to the game. ``Not only are you taking it away from yourself offensively because you don’t have the puck. But you give teams back the puck that transition well, they’re gonna hurt you.
``That’s been our issue the last half dozen games. We haven’t consistently through the 60 minutes taken care of the puck or been hard enough with it.’’
If you start with the 6-0 loss in Toronto on Nov.24 that triggered Ron Hextall’s dismissal, and included Friday night’s loss, it has been eight games now. Eight games in which the Flyers have allowed 35 goals.
Incredibly perhaps is that they have won two games in that span, and if not for that last-minute collapse in Calgary on Wednesday, it could have been three. This despite their power play being filed with the Missing Persons Bureau (0-for-5 Friday night, including a 4-minute power play that mustered three shots). And despite what has now become a nightly juggling of lines by Hakstol as he vainly seeks a spark.
The Oilers, who had lost in overtime the previous night in Winnipeg, scored their first goal Friday after the Flyers coughed up a puck in their own end. Two defensemen were caught on one side of the ice, Travis Konecny and James van Riemsdyk were in no-man’s land, and Connor McDavid found Alex Chiasson alone in the slot to make it 1-0 at 12:37. It screeched to a halt some early momentum the Flyers had built -- another trend on this road trip.
``When we get down, I don’t know what it is, but we get really down on ourselves, and turn to a negative bunch,'' said Shayne Gostisbehere.
The Oilers made it 2-0 at 12:37 of the second after Gostisbehere lost a puck to McDavid as both chased it to the corner, looking on helplessly as McDavid, who had a three-point night, retrieved a rebound from behind the net and banked it off Anthony Stolarz as he tried to regroup from his first save.
They pushed it to 3-0 less than two minutes later, Adam Larsson’s shot lacing through three Flyers bodies and past Stolarz, who appeared to be screened. That stretch of play is representative of Hakstol’s comments earlier in the day, and reflective of how mentally fragile this team has become.
It’s tiring always saying that we didn’t play that bad and deserved better. At the end it doesn’t matter. you just have to win the games. You score one goal again, had a lot of PP opportunities, didn’t generate anything... at least if we dont score we have to generate momentum and make them tired. We didn’t do that either.''
The Flyers finally came alive in the third period, mounting their most sustained pressure. After Dale Weise missed a great chance in the slot and rang the post, Voracek’s shot from the high slot found net among a babble of bodies at 10:03. . Sean Couturier deflecting Jake Voracek;s shot from the high slot at 10:03.
As they had in the first period, the Flyers outshot the Oilers in the final period, this time by 13-7. But the bouts of disorganization and what can only be described at this point as team depression... well they looked a little like the Edmonton Oilers less than a month ago, before they fired Todd McLellan and pulled 66-year-old Ken Hitchcock out of retirement to replace him.
They are 9-2-2 since.
Including last night, the Oilers have outscored opponents, 25-13, over their last six games. Both Mikko Koskinen and Cam Talbot have seen their save percentages increase dramatically, and the Oilers have surged into the second wild-card spot of the Western Conference.
As for the Flyers, they seem lost right now, tied at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with New Jersey and Florida.
``We’ve got to fill up some of the little holes and some of the inconsistencies,'' Hakstol had said before the game. ``When we do that it’s a confident group that we know we can push back in the right direction. But time is short.’’
Sure is. Maybe too short.
Breakaways: Caleb Jones, younger son of former NBA player and current Pacers assistant coach Popeye Jones, made his NHL debut Friday night for the Oilers. He was called up after Edmonton lost two defensemen to injury earlier this week, including 25-minute man, Oscar Klefbom… Hitchcock on what makes McDavid unique: ``He’s a fearless, reckless player. He’s a tremendous athlete, a tremendous player but he’s fearless — willing to pay any price to score a goal. To attack. He goes into places that make me nervous just being on the bench. Absolutely reckless and fearless, in order to get into scoring areas.”