Flyers were a mess in loss to Oilers as playoff hopes fade

Flyers were a mess in loss to Oilers as playoff hopes fade

EDMONTON, Alberta — Take away all the hype surrounding the Brandon Manning-Connor McDavid saga, what are the Flyers left with on Friday?

Well, it’s not good.

Lost in translation from Thursday’s 6-3 Oilers spill is the numbing reality that for the first time in eight games, Dave Hakstol’s team was a mess.

Defensively, the Flyers were scrambling in their own end, two steps behind the play. Their forwards were lost somewhere on the Macleod Trail leaving Calgary, trying to backcheck and goalie Michal Neuvirth looked subpar from the get-go.

That’s a recipe for disaster and a blowout loss, which is what happened eight games ago in Carolina when the Flyers were crushed, 5-1.

“That second period there, we fell asleep. Well, not asleep, but they got some chances and they capitalized on them,” Brayden Schenn said. “In the third, we made a push, but weren’t able to come back.”

And the cherry on top? The Flyers have now lost five of their last six games and have finally been eclipsed by a team behind them.

“We needed a much better job from our team, that’s for sure,” Radko Gudas said.

Hakstol went with seven defensemen in the Oilers’ loss to get Michael Del Zotto back in the lineup but it backfired when Jordan Weal went down with an upper-body injury. Weal said he was “OK” after the game.

That left 10 forwards to play the remainder of the game against one of the fastest clubs in the league. Truth is, the Flyers couldn’t match the Oilers' speed. Players were forced to double shift which is why Schenn, for instance, had a season-high 22:35 in ice time.

“The guys did a good job, we battled hard and, obviously, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We kept going and pushing. We didn’t give up."

For months now, the Flyers have looked over their shoulders at a struggling Islanders club, which appeared as a vague shape in their rearview mirror.

Well, the Isles' win over the Rangers on the same night the Flyers lost, moved them ahead of the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division to fifth place, dropping the Flyers (61 points) to sixth in the division and 10th overall in the East.

Hakstol’s club remains two points behind Toronto in the second wild-card spot, but the Islanders, Florida and even Buffalo are right with them. 

The Isles have 62 points with two games in hand. The Panthers have 60 points with three games in hand. Buffalo has 60 points, but has played the same number of games (58) as the Flyers.

It would be an understatement to say the playoffs are quickly fading from the Flyers' list of possibilities.

One of the inherent advantages of playing teams in the West is you can collect points with a win without having to worry about a head-to-head loss because there’s no direct impact within your division.

There is, however, the indirect effect of a loss to the Western club when your division foes are all winning games, and that’s what has happened on this trip.

“It’s not much consolation because we didn’t get the two points,” Simmonds said. “We’ve got to start over and figure things again for Vancouver.”

Given how things have gone lately, there’s little to grasp in the Flyers' overall play that would suggest they’ll somehow salvage two points on Sunday night in Vancouver against the Canucks.

Brandon Manning hopes fight signals end to dispute with Connor McDavid, Oilers

Brandon Manning hopes fight signals end to dispute with Connor McDavid, Oilers

EDMONTON, Alberta — They slashed at him, poked him, even chided him from the bench when he was on the ice.

At some point, you knew Brandon Manning was going to have to do something. Patrick Maroon became his date with destiny.

The 230-pound Maroon, who has 25 pounds and two inches on the 6-1 Manning, jumped on him after a second-period faceoff.

To his credit, Manning took a beating but never went down, answering the many blows he endured (see video).

All of this a final crescendo to the entire Connor McDavid fiasco which began over a year ago, when McDavid fractured his clavicle against the Flyers. The 2015 No. 1 overall pick carried the puck past Manning when he lost a skate edge and fell, crashing into the boards with the Flyers' defenseman on top of him. As a result, McDavid missed 37 games and a chance at Rookie of the Year, while the chirping and nastiness over the hit all continued right into this week.

“It didn’t bother me,” Manning said of his ordeal during the Flyers' 6-3 loss to the Oilers on Thursday night (see game story). “I’m not scared of fighting. It’s just a matter of time. I picked my spot. I wasn’t too worried.”

Manning said he didn’t want to fight at the wrong time. It was a close game early, then Edmonton blew it open at 4-1 (see feature highlight).

Manning and Maroon were talking in the circle when they dropped gloves.

“To go out and fight just for the sake of fighting is not what I’m about,” Manning said. “We’re down 4-1, there’s an opportunity there and Maroon was willing, [so] you take it.”

Is this the end of the McDavid flap?

“Let’s hope so,” Manning laughed. “I’d love that. No, Connor didn’t say a word on the ice today. Even their guys, Patrick said ‘good job’ afterward. We would do the same thing if one our superstars got hurt. I understand it.”

Manning’s teammates gave him praise.

“It happens sometimes,” Wayne Simmonds said. “The way Manning plays, he plays hard. He finishes his checks, he’s a tough player.”

Added Jakub Voracek: “To fight a guy like Maroon, he’s a big boy and [Manning] did a great job.”

Players said the team intentionally did not speak about it before the game. Why? The focus was how important this trip is in terms of playoff standings and getting points, not appeasing the Oilers for a pound of flesh.

From the points standpoint, it’s been a dismal failure as the Islanders pulled ahead of the Flyers, dropping them further out of the wild-card chase. The Flyers only hope to salvage two points Sunday night in Vancouver.

Incidentally, McDavid quietly had a three-point game (one goal), giving him six points in four games against the Flyers.

Power play
Dave Hakstol promised “adjustments” to the power play after Wednesday’s disastrous five-minute power-play meltdown.

Ivan Provorov replaced Voracek on the first unit during one power play but Voracek was on the first unit again for the third power play in which he assisted on Brayden Schenn’s goal.

Matt Read replaced Jordan Weal on the second-unit power play once Weal was injured (see Instant Replay).

Flyers' lineup decision backfires in chippy loss to Oilers

Flyers' lineup decision backfires in chippy loss to Oilers

BOX SCORE

EDMONTON, Alberta — Just about everything that could go wrong for the Flyers did Thursday night against the Oilers at Rogers Place.
 
Dave Hakstol dressed seven defensemen to get Michael Del Zotto back in the lineup off injury.
 
That backfired because Jordan Weal suffered an upper-body injury in the first period, leaving the club with just 10 forwards.
 
Edmonton targeted Brandon Manning the entire game because of the Connor McDavid fiasco and, as expected, Manning had to drop gloves with 230-pound heavyweight Patrick Maroon. Manning got pounded but didn’t go down (see story).
 
And to top it off, goalie Michal Neuvirth, who had been giving the Flyers chances to win without the team scoring much, had a terrible game as he yielded four goals on the first 12 shots he faced.
 
All of which played a part in the Flyers’ 6-3 defeat (see Instant Replay). Couple that with the Islanders’ 4-2 win over the Rangers, and the Flyers are now behind the Isles at sixth in the Metropolitan Division standings.
 
The game was barely two minutes old when Neuvirth gave up a Mr. Softee goal to Matt Hendricks of all people.
 
“A tough start. The first one I had to have,” Neuvirth said. “I had a tough night.”
 
Now the deal was Mark Letestu appeared offsides and Hakstol challenged. The goal stood, which is how the Flyers’ luck is running these days.
 
Del Zotto, dressed as a seventh defenseman after missing 10 games with a bone bruise in his leg, rotated through four partners in the opening period and was caught on the ice for Leon Draisaitl’s 22nd goal at 15:19 that made it 2-0.
 
What set that up was Manning got slashed by Milan Lucic coming around the Flyers’ net. Yet, he was hit with an embellishment call, which led to the 4-on-4. Del Zotto iced the puck and then the Oilers scored right after the faceoff (see feature highlight).
 
Once Weal went down, the Flyers had a depleted lineup on the second night of a back-to-back set trying to keep up with Edmonton via rotations.
 
“Definitely a factor and that’s the risk,” Hakstol said of the lineup decision. “The one risk you run is exactly what happened. We lost Jordan. … That puts our forwards in a hard situation. They battled awful hard through it.”
 
Unlike the Calgary game when they had significant offensive zone time, the Flyers went the final 9:32 of the first period without a shot. However, they played better in the final two periods.
 
In the second period, Jakub Voracek was stopped on a breakaway by Cam Talbot with the score 2-1. If Voracek ties it, who knows.
 
“It was huge,” Voracek said. “I thought I had less time than I actually did. I should have spread him out more and tried five-hole, but I was a little too quick on that. It was a 2-1 game. Maybe it [would] be a little different.”
 
Hakstol said he felt Del Zotto’s speed would help against Edmonton, but the truth is it didn’t slow the Oilers, who then roared back with two goals in 1:15 to make it 4-1.
 
The Flyers mounted a small comeback after a Wayne Simmonds goal late in the second and a power-play goal from Brayden Schenn near the midpoint of the third period.

But McDavid had the last laugh as he finished off the scoring for the night with a goal late in the third period to run his league-leading point total to 66.
 
That only added to the tough night for the Flyers and Manning, who was marked from the get-go.

“He comes into this building, fans are on him, he steps up and fights a tough guy and got challenged all night,” Schenn said. “He dropped his gloves. Full marks to him. Not easy for a guy like him to fight a guy like that with a size advantage going to Maroon.”
 
Hakstol was very impressed with how Manning handled himself.
 
“We know who Brandon Manning is and anyone who has spent any time around him knows, in terms of the honor of the game, there is no one in front of the line before him,” Hakstol said. “He’s first class. He went out and battled hard and did everything he needed to do.”
 
Simmonds agreed.
 
“They were chasing him all over the ice all game long and he did a great job when he fought,” Simmonds said. “Props to him.”