Connor McDavid

Flyers are a hot mess — and everyone should be feeling the heat

Flyers are a hot mess — and everyone should be feeling the heat

EDMONTON, Alberta — Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher believes the answers for the team’s countless problems have to come in-house.

Right now, that house is on fire and nobody can find the hydrant to connect the hose. 

Friday in Edmonton, the Oilers poured more gas on the Flyers' blazing inferno of a season that continues to go up in smoke, winning easily, 4-1, at Rogers Place (see observations).

“It’s tiring to say we didn’t play that bad and maybe we deserve better,” Jakub Voracek said. “In the end, it doesn’t really matter. It sucks. It sucks for everyone here. There are no excuses. Nobody cares. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. You can fight whatever feeling you want. It doesn’t matter.”

To be clear, Voracek’s not saying that the Flyers don’t care, but rather the league doesn’t care about how poorly the Flyers are struggling.

Yet, here’s the disturbing part: opposing teams don’t need to bring their A-game to produce a "W" when a B-minus effort will get the job done. The Oilers were a tired bunch, having played the previous night in Winnipeg. They were also down two key defensemen and resorted to calling up a 21-year-old rookie making his NHL debut.

On a night when three different NHL teams rallied from three goals down to win, the Flyers once again looked deflated falling behind 1-0, which is pretty much all it takes these days — and their 6-12-2 record (23rd in NHL) when the opponent scores first reflects a spiritless attitude.

“When we get down, I don’t know what it is, but we get really down on ourselves and turn into a negative bunch,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. 

Edmonton tried to inspire the Flyers. Oilers center Drake Caggiula gifted the Flyers a four-minute power play with a high-stick to the chin of Nolan Patrick that could have swung the game in the Flyers' direction. Then again, an eight-minute man advantage against the 23rd-ranked penalty kill probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

No goals. No momentum. No chance.

“Lately, our power play — I mean all year — we’ve been doing nothing,” Sean Couturier said. “It’s horrible. Right now, we’re just passing it around and we’re not doing anything and it’s killing the momentum.”

Even Connor McDavid had a superstar night on the scoresheet without actually dominating the game on the ice. McDavid mustered just two shots on net — a bank shot off Anthony Stolarz from behind the goal line and a tap-in putt into an empty net. His first goal came off a hard forechecking play that made Gostisbehere look rather silly (see highlights)

“I should’ve made a better play,” Gostisbehere said. “I was at the puck first and should have gone D-to-D, but he picked my pocket to their guy and then shot from the corner. Best player in the world made a good play, but I should have made a stronger play.”

Flyers hockey is one hot mess with too many fires to put out right now.

And everyone should be feeling the heat.

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Oilers 4, Flyers 1: Little life in 3rd straight loss as road trip becomes uglier

Oilers 4, Flyers 1: Little life in 3rd straight loss as road trip becomes uglier

BOX SCORE

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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Flyers at Oilers: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Oilers: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

EDMONTON, Alberta — Bring on Connor McDavid.

The Flyers (12-13-4, 28 points) have beaten the Oilers (17-12-3, 37 points) in three of their last four meetings including a 4-2 win in Edmonton last season.

The Flyers held the Oilers' superstar center to just one point and no goals in last season’s sweep of Edmonton.

In his career, McDavid has seven points (two goals, five assists) in six career games against the Flyers. 

Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock talked about what makes McDavid a unique player:

The thing that’s unique to him is that he’s a fearless, reckless player. He goes into places that make me nervous just being on the bench. Absolutely reckless and fearless, in order to get into scoring areas.

Let's take a look at Friday night's essentials:

When: 9 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 8:30 p.m.
Where: Rogers Place
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• Alex Lyon has rejoined the Flyers from Lehigh Valley and will back up Anthony Stolarz. Lyon started one game this season — Nov. 21 in Buffalo — allowing four goals in the first period. 

Michal Neuvirth left the team and returned home to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. 

There was an outside possibility that goaltender Brian Elliott might play during this Western Canada road trip, but that won’t happen after he returned to Philadelphia for what the team referred to as a scheduled medical appointment. Elliott had taken part in practices and morning skates (see story).

• The Oilers are one of four teams to make an in-season coaching change so far in 2018-19. Former Flyers coach Hitchcock (2002-07) took over for Todd McLellan on Nov. 20 and the Oilers have responded with an 8-2-2 record under Hitchcock.

Under Hitchcock, the Oilers are playing a much more structured defensive game, allowing just 2.5 goals per game after giving up 3.3 goals under McLellan, proving a coaching change can have immediate dividends.

"I just had coffee with Rick Wilson (Flyers assistant coach) and we both said, ‘Are we friggin’ nuts?’ We were the mayors of the coffee club," Hitchcock said. "Both of us miss one thing and that’s the thing that drives us, and that is we both love having a stake in the game."

• The Flyers are playing their fourth set of back-to-back games with Friday’s game in Edmonton followed by Saturday’s game in Vancouver. They’re 2-1-0 in the first game of a back-to-back and 1-2-0 in the second game. 

This also marks the second time they’ve played back-to-backs on the road after winning, 6-2, last Saturday in Buffalo before dropping a 7-1 game in Winnipeg.

After the Flyers outshot the Flames, 7-0, to open the game, Calgary dominated in possession with a 41-12 shot advantage over the final 53 minutes. 

Dave Hakstol said Friday morning: "There are stretches of games where we give the puck up way too easily."

• Hakstol may also want to re-think his 3-on-3 combinations for overtime. The Flyers are 1-4 in games decided in OT this season. Wednesday’s dreadful 6-5 overtime loss to Calgary marked the third overtime game this season that saw the Flyers lose on the opening shift. 

On Nov. 3, the Sharks' Timo Meier scored 13 seconds into OT in a 4-3 Flyers loss. On Dec. 6, the Blue Jackets' Seth Jones scored 10 seconds into the extra period, and Wednesday it was Johnny Gaudreau scoring just 35 seconds into overtime.

• The Flyers should have an overwhelming edge in the faceoff circle. The NHL’s best team has won 55 percent of its draws this season while the Oilers are ranked 28th in the NHL at 47.3 percent.

• Radko Gudas had six stitches over his left eye in a fight with Buffalo’s Nathan Beaulieu. While he could elect to have the stitches removed during the road trip, Gudas has elected to wait until he returns home, as his adorable daughter Leontynka has personally requested to remove dad’s stitches. Gudas said she likes to play nurse. Can’t wait to see how that goes.

Projected lineup

Forwards
James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Oskar Lindblom-Phil Varone-Dale Weise

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Robert Hägg-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Anthony Stolarz
Alex Lyon

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