EDMONTON, Alberta — A promising start to a five-game road trip is beginning to completely unravel for the Flyers.
Connor McDavid scored twice, including an impressive bank shot off the back of Anthony Stolarz, as the Oilers handed the Flyers a 4-1 loss Friday in Edmonton.
Why couldn’t the Flyers expose a depleted Oilers defense and how badly did Dave Hakstol shake up the lines after Wednesday’s loss to Calgary?
Here are my observations from Rogers Place:
• The Flyers needed to get in strong on the forecheck and put some pressure on a young, inexperienced and mistake-prone Oilers blue line. Edmonton was missing two of its top defensemen, relegating young Darnell Nurse to that No. 1 role, plus the NHL debut of Caleb Jones, Seth Jones' younger brother.
The Flyers failed to expose the Oilers' weakness in the first period and throughout this game.
• Hakstol’s new-look lines were a real wake-up call for Nolan Patrick, who has gone from a second-line center to a fourth-line checking center.
I thought Patrick responded well, made some plays, drew a four-minute penalty and had a little burst to his game playing alongside Oskar Lindblom once again.
• Did you catch Stolarz’s nifty footwork in the first period? After an Oiler dumped the puck in hard off the boards, Stolarz did a quick foot shuffle in an effort to avoid the puck hitting the back of his skates and going into the net.
With Stolarz’s size, I don’t think a 60-minute game takes a toll on him like a smaller goaltender such as Michal Neuvirth, which gives me reason to think he can handle a back-to-back and playing three games in four nights. Remember Brian Elliott, also bigger in physical stature, won all three of these games last season.
The Adam Larsson goal (the Oilers' third) is certainly one Stolarz should have had.
• Here’s the problem with playing the Claude Giroux line (James van Riemsdyk-Giroux-Travis Konecny) on the road, where you can’t control the matchups. All three forwards aren’t exactly stellar defensively, so when Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald get caught on the same side of the ice, JVR has to come down and cover the man in the slot. That didn’t happen and here’s the end result:
• The outcome could have been different had the Flyers converted on a four-minute power play. However, with the No. 1 unit out there for most of that time, there was too much passing, not enough movement and very little shooting. It’s a power play that has become very stale and is now challenging the PK in terms of its ineffectiveness.
• With a wide-open Travis Sanheim looking for a pass behind the net, Shayne Gostisbehere needed to make a stronger play in the corner and not allow McDavid to easily take the puck away, which eventually led to a bank shot off Stolarz for a 2-0 Oilers lead. Yes, I realize it’s McDavid, but he made that whole play look way too easy.
Gostisbehere was relegated to a third defensive pairing for this game, and right now I trust Sanheim more from a defensive standpoint than I do Gostisbehere.
• The Flyers had several strong shifts in the third period, but they were only able to capitalize when Jakub Voracek’s shot from the high slot snuck past Mikko Koskinen. Outside of that, the Flyers were lifeless and for the most part, they didn’t have that look of desperation tonight (see story).
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