c/o Frank Fimmano
Three points back of a playoff spot.
Lowly Edmonton Oilers in town, easy win, right? Chance to make up even more ground, right?
Not so fast.
With a chance to pick up some important points before heading into the season’s final stretch, the Flyers fell to the Oilers 4-0 in one of their most disappointing results of the season. The Flyers had numerous opportunities to put pucks in the back of the net but were thwarted by strong goaltending, a couple of posts and a lot of bad luck.
Cam Talbot made 35 saves as he recorded the shutout as his performance put a thorn into the Flyers’ already vulnerable playoff chances.
The theme of the Flyers’ recent three-game winning streak was getting off to an early lead in the opening period, something that had been a plague of sorts for most of their season thus far. Unfortunately, tonight saw them revert to early season form, starting off sluggish and step behind one of the league’s worst defenses.
Edmonton was finally able to take advantage when their phenom Connor McDavid went high octane and just blew by Flyers’ defenseman Evgeny Medvedev and bull rushed Michal Neuvirth. After Neuvirth was able to make the initial save, Nail Yakupov followed up and buried the rebound to give the Oilers the early 1-0 lead just past the midway point of the period. It looked like the Flyers’ would have to tie it up on a late power play and came within inches of doing so as Shayne Gostisbehere rocketed a slapper off the post.
After getting outshot 14-6 in the first, the Flyers’ came out of the locker room much stronger and aggressive and jumped all over the Oilers. They outshot the Oilers 10-2 to start the period yet could not beat the former New York Ranger. Perhaps the biggest save was when Sean Couturier knuckled a puck toward a wide open goal and Talbot slid on his side to make the stop.
Just as it felt like the Flyers would break through and tie the game, disaster struck. Gostisbehere mishandled a puck near the red line and Taylor Hall controlled the turnover and scored on the breakaway to extend the lead to 2-0. Two minutes later, the Oilers would get their second goal of the period as Neuvirth could not control a loose puck away from Patrick Maroon, who stuffed it home to give the Oilers a 3-0 advantage.
The final period saw the Flyers’ frustrations come to a boil as they could not solve Talbot and soon began to get physical with their opponents. Somehow, the Flyers were gifted a four-minute power play thanks to a high stick as hopes were slightly raised. The Oilers would soon put a dagger in those possibilities and the game itself as Mark Streit and Gostisbehere made two poor turnovers leading to a wide open Lauri Korpikoski to beat Neuvirth from the slot.
Lowly Opponents, Lowly Results
Playing down to their opponents has been a lingering problem for the last two seasons and while they have been able to overcome that recently, old habits apparently die hard as they were flummoxed by a very poor defensive team. With a chance to at worst hold serve with the Penguins, they fell two points behind and are now five back with 19 to play. They play another bottom-five team in the Columbus Blue Jackets, which is a must-win game in two days time.
The Flyers did have the advantage in shot-differential, but score-adjusted the edge swung back to the Oilers overall. The intriguing matchup coming in was the McDavid line against the Couturier line, and the result wasn’t really that close. The Edmonton top line was the best possession wise of both teams and the Couturier line was the worst. Impressing for the Flyers was their third line, with Nick Cousins at a plus-7. But to Couturier’s credit, he did make some strong plays on the defensive side and nearly set up a shorthanded goal in the first period.
Despite not getting on the scoresheet, Brayden Schenn has been on a tear as of late as it looks like he’s finally found his stride now in his fifth season with the Flyers. He’s skating with a confidence and strength not really displayed by the former LA Kings top-five draft pick. Schenn has found a home at left wing and seems to be on his way to flirting with the 50 point mark. His strong play has been a big part of why the Flyers have fought their way into playoff conversation.