Connor McDavid scored twice and added an assist in the Oilers’ 4-1 win over the Flyers at Rogers Place on Friday night. It’s the fourth loss in five games for the reeling Flyers, who sure didn’t look like a team playing with the sense of urgency you need to when you’re a team away from the bottom of the standings.
But more on that in a minute. Here are five things we learned from the Flyers’ latest setback, one that really makes it feel like a change has to be coming.
Where was the urgency?
The Oilers are playing some good hockey under Ken Hitchcock, moving their mark to 9-2-2 since the bench veteran replaced Todd McLellan, but the Flyers were playing an Oilers team that played in a track meet against Winnipeg the night before while the Flyers got cozy in a nearby hotel.
The Flyers were rested, and came out with a few strong shifts but really sagged off as the game wore on until things were out of reach late (because of course). They battled a bit after Alex Chiasson’s opening goal, but after McDavid extended the lead to 2-0 just over midway through the second the Flyers really started going through the motions.
*tries to resist making another strips joke*— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 15, 2018
McDavid takes the puck from Ghost and eventually scores off the back of Stolarz. pic.twitter.com/7waZkdPQpB
A lazy shift followed and the Oilers took advantage with Adam Larsson scoring 1:31 later to make it 3-0 and effectively end the night early for all interested parties. It wasn’t until Jake Voracek got on the board with around 10 minutes left in the game that the Flyers found some life again. But it was too late and Mikko Koskinen kept rolling and shut the door on any comeback attempts with McDavid cruising to an empty net goal to push the final to 4-1.
At no point did the Flyers feel fully invested in winning this hockey game and when things went bad they didn’t push back, they just kind of sat there and let it happen. Not good.
Another massively blown coverage
One of the the things that’s most concerning about the Flyers right now is that we’re seeing the same mistakes and miscues game after game.
One of them is defensive coverage, which still appears to be an issue even after showing Gord Murphy the door and bringing in veteran bench coach Rick Wilson. This one wasn’t all of the defense, as the forwards got their fair share of blame for their work.
It was Chiasson’s first period goal on which Andrew MacDonald was tied up below the goal line and Ivan Provorov wandered over to try and help out. But MacDonald was beaten already and Provorov was in no man’s land with the puck going past him to the wide open Chiasson for the goal. Travis Konecny was pinching towards the puck in the corner, because two Flyers weren’t enough, and James van Riemsdyk was seen after the celebration cruising in by with his head in the rafters.
Did I mention that MacDonald had not one —but two!— chances to clear the puck before the whole sequence started. And Dave Hakstol had that man start the hockey game, and continues to play him in all of the hockey games.
These issues aren’t new, and don’t look like they’re going away anytime soon. Buckle up, gang.
Dave Hakstol, ladies and gentlemen!
I mean he refused to pull his goalie early armed with a power play and trailing two goals late, but at least he juggled his lines heading into the third period! The line changes to start the third screamed desperation, but then Hakstol goes conservative at the end and makes it seem like the line changes were a mirage.
Nolan Patrick, who played well in a diminished role (more on that in a minute), jumped up with Claude Giroux and Konecny while Phil Varone (also having a nice game) hopped up to play with Wayne Simmonds and JVR. Hakstol even shook up the defense pairs, which left much to be desired through 40 minutes; separating the disastrous pair of MacDonald and Provorov.
The changes didn’t produce much, but at least it was something. As for the late pull of Anthony Stolarz, well, that’s a missed opportunity in my book. When Jesse Puljujarvi took a hooking call with 3:32 left in regulation and it still 3-1 Oilers, Hakstol should have yanked Stolarz to get a two-man advantage the first chance he could. Sure, the Oilers have some dangerous skaters that salivate at the prospect of an empty net, that was a prime chance to get a serious advantage for a struggling offense and he punted it like the current version of Doug Pederson.
The Flyers really need to clean house, and soon.
Patrick responds well to demotion
Hakstol would never say it, but Friday was a definite demotion for the second-year center. Having started the season as the No. 2 pivot behind Sean Couturier, Patrick found himself playing fourth line minutes on Friday. He was back with Oskar Lindblom, whom he’s showed some deal of chemistry with in the past.
The numbers weren’t pretty, as Patrick skated to a 43% Corsi For, about 20% below his teammates, but the effort was there for the young center. He made a few nice plays in his own zone and drew a penalty in 14:40 of ice time. The Flyers need more from their former No. 2 overall pick, but watching him respond and not just pout after getting a rather clear demotion is a positive sign going into Vancouver.
Power play continues to befuddle
Armed with five power plays on the night, including a double-minor, the Flyers’ 29th-ranked power play managed just five shots on Koskinen without finding the back of the net.
But while none of them were inspiring in any way, the double-minor to Drake Caggiula was the most alarming. In that four minutes the Flyers were anything but dangerous with Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere playing catch a bunch and Jake Voracek passing on cross-ice feeds. They didn’t try to get pucks on net and when they did the attempts were futile and deadened by the time the reached the Oilers’ netminder.
Most of all the power play looks predictable, with the Oilers’ 20th-ranked penalty kill snuffing out the Flyers’ side net play and back door plays with ease. Their forwards stayed square to Gostisbehere’s point attempts and blocked them off when Ghost loaded one up. It was predictable, and easy to defense.
While much of the talk of the Flyers’ coaching ineptitude falls on Dave Hakstol (and it should), the assistants that head up the NHL’s 29th and 31st-ranked power play and penalty kill units are plenty to blame as well. The Flyers’ coaching staff needs to be blown the heck up.