The Flyers and Oilers entered tonight's game, respectively, as the 24th- and 28th-ranked teams in the NHL in the standings. The Flyers are mere days away from being formally eliminated from the playoff race, and were in the final game of a four-game Canada swing during which they had not won a single game. The Oilers are the Oilers. It stood to reason that tonight's game in Edmonton could get pretty stupid.
And it did! It did get pretty stupid! Right from the beginning of the game, where Steve Mason was pulled off the ice after taking warmups as the presumed starter and didn't return to the bench until the second period. Right from the beginning of each of all three periods of play, all of which saw one of the two teams involved score just mere seconds after the opening faceoff. Right as the first-period horn sounded, after which the two teams had combined for six goals (three apiece). And right as it ended, on a long point shot in overtime that saw Ryan Nugent-Hopkins slip behind everyone to pick up a fat Ray Emery rebound and put it home for the winner.
When you get two not-so-good teams with nothing to play for up against each other with three weeks left in the season -- teams that are, in particular, known for their lack of any sort of good play defensively -- there's always the chance that the game that results is ... interesting. Not even necessarily fun, and certainly not always good hockey, but interesting, as much so as you can expect in a game between two teams in the bottom quarter of the league's standings. Interesting in the finding-yourself-shaking-your-head-every-four-minutes-for-one-reason-or-another-type interesting, but I think that counts.
So I guess you can call tonight's 5-4 overtime loss interesting. Not good, not inspiring or deflating or anything like that. But kind of interesting. And right now, that's about all we got.
(But it was still stupid.)
* The main good news out of tonight was the performance of the Flyers' top line. This probably shouldn't be news, but after some scoring droughts for the likes of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek earlier in this month, it's good to see them get back on the sheet. Giroux had two goals (one of which should, it would appear, have gone to Wayne Simmonds, but we'll see), Jakub Voracek clawed his way back towards the top of the scoring lead with three assists, and Michael Raffl scored the game-tying goal to open up the third period. While I can't say I was ever really worried about those guys, per se, it's nice to see them have another one of those nights where they can seemingly do no wrong.
* The Flyers scored a goal in the first period to go up 3-1 and it came via a 2-on-1 that was perfectly executedbetween Ryan White and Zac Rinaldo. I don't have anything to add to that.
* At one point in the second period, the Flyers got a power play after Nick Cousins laid a big (clean) hit on Edmonton's Justin Schultz, only to turn around and immediately get slashed in the leg by ... Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens. Scrivens, by all accounts, seems to be a very calm, rational player -- I can't imagine what else Cousins must have done/said to get a guy like him to take a chop at his leg. Couldn't have just been the hit, right?
* Speaking of Cousins, he got denied on his best chance yet for his first NHL goal in the third period when he got a breakaway off of a great pass from White. Maybe for the best, though -- do you really want your first goal to be against the Oilers? Is that really the story you wanna tell?
* So about the goalies. We still don't quite know how we got there, but after Steve Mason was the likely starter for the night and took warm-ups, Ray Emery ended up taking his spot after the anthems while Mason wasn't on the bench at all for the entire first period. Mason came back out onto the ice for the start of the second period, and via Frank Seravalli of the Daily News, word is that Mason got sick but recovered later on, rendering him capable again of sitting on the bench. That story would seem to check out, though until we had heard that Mason was sick, things did seem real fishy given what happened a couple days ago.
* On a related note, Ray Emery. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't realize he was playing until five minutes before the game started, but still, yeesh. Five goals on 34 shots isn't a great look, and while raw numbers never tells the whole story of a single game by themselves, it's a fairly accurate depiction of how he played tonight. Two goals, including the overtime winner, coming off rough rebounds, and another one after Emery sprawled out to make an initial save and ultimately couldn't corral the puck. He didn't get a ton of help, as is often the case, but some of those are stops that have gotta be made.
* Michael Del Zotto -- in his first game back in a standard, six-defenseman lineup -- played 23:56 in ice time, most of any Flyers defenseman. It seems like he's picking up right where he left off pre-injury. Unfortunately, it looks like those minutes are coming at the expense of Carlo Colaiacovo, who was pretty easily the team's best defenseman while Del Zotto was out. CC played just 16:54 tonight, fewer minutes than any defenseman other than Nick Grossmann. Berube and the coaches likely see Del Zotto as the same type of guy as Colaiacovo -- a risk-taking, play-pushing offensive defenseman. With Mark Streit always getting big minutes, they probably don't want their top three defensemen to all be guys who have a heavy offensive slant. Which, while somewhat understandable, is a shame, because those three guys are the three most talented defensemen currently on this roster. And because Colaiacovo had been playing great, and still looked good tonight even in fewer minutes.
* Lastly, a minor grievance. I, and many others, are well past the point of being concerned with the final result of these games. At this point, we're looking for player development and reasons for optimism heading into next year. Wins and losses are secondary aspects of the big picture. And I know this is not how the team and coaching staff see things, given that Craig Berube probably knows he is fighting for his job. So they're gonna do their thing. Whatever. Fine. But can we please knock it off with the overtime losses? No one wins with an overtime loss. This team isn't going to make the playoffs. It's a point in the standings that strings out the inevitable and may just hurt things in the long run. If you find yourself tied in the final minutes of regulation, go for damn broke. Try and get a W and take your lumps if it ends up being an L. But no conservative play in the final minutes of regulation, please. It would be appreciated.
* Four games in Canada. Two points, zero wins. Ouch.
Couple days off before Wednesday night, which is KIMMO NIGHT WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO SOMETHING TO ACTUALLY BE HAPPY ABOUT. Eight more, team. Let's do it. Go Flyers.