The Philadelphia Flyers took the ice against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night on a four-game losing streak. In their skid, the team has lacked the ability play to their high caliber talent level largely in part to turnovers.
Tuesday night, the Flyers played a nearly flawless first period and looked like the Stanley Cup contender that they were built to be. However, for the remaining two periods the team fell back into their old ways.
Despite their 4-1 triumph over the Oilers, few were pleased after the game.
“We played a different game in the first period and really took control,” explained head coach Peter Laviolette after the game. “[The Oilers] changed their game a bit and started to pressure a little more, so the turnovers happened but there are a lot of unforced turnovers that we don’t need to make.”
Turnovers have been one of the biggest negatives for the Flyers in their recent struggles and Tuesday was no different. The team had 13 giveaways, some of which created excellent opportunities for the young Oilers. What made the turnovers so troubling is the same thing that makes the Flyers’ struggles so troubling at this point of the season; stark contrasts in play.
In the first period, the Flyers pounded and pummeled the Oilers, much the way they were pounded and pummeled against the Rangers on Sunday. The score after one stanza was 2-0, but it didn’t do a justice to the game on the ice. The Flyers outshot Edmonton 17-1 in the first period, and it looked like the team that had piled up points for most of the season was back in action again.
With a young and depleted team on the opposite side of the puck, it stood to reason that the Flyers would use the game to completely extinguish their troubles of late.
Instead, the team came out relaxed, unaggressive and nonchalant. Those characteristics of the team’s play created lackadaisical turnovers and sloppy play. Philadelphia lacked significant possession of the puck in the second and third periods. In the first period, the team refused to relinquish the puck at any costs.
In the second and third periods, the Flyers were outshot 24-10, which very nearly allowed the Oilers to equal their shot attempts on the game’s final score-sheet. The performance was nearly identical to the team’s matchup with Buffalo last Saturday. It was in that game that the Flyers held a 2-0 lead due to a dominant performance after 20 minutes of play.
However, the main difference in the two games was that Buffalo is a team fighting for their playoff lives with the talent to make Philadelphia pay for their mistakes. That’s exactly what the Sabres did in a 5-3 victory over the Orange and Black.
However, the team was fortunate that the lowly Oilers had neither the hunger nor the talent to make them pay on Tuesday night. But, with all the Flyers giveaways, it seemed as if they were inviting their Western Conference foe to do so.
“After [the first period], the wheels fell off and we started turning the puck over and stopped moving our feet,” said Flyers defenseman and former Oiler Chris Pronger. “Our gaps as defenseman got bad and our forwards gaps got bad. If you turn the puck over like that the other team is going to gain a lot of momentum.”
Regardless of the play that the Flyers displayed for the final two-thirds of Tuesday’s game, they found their way back to the win column.
But no one was interested in that silver lining after the performance, especially not Pronger.
“I think there’s winning and then there’s winning in spite of how you play,” he said. “There’s been a lot of talk and sometimes talk is cheap.”
For the Flyers, the time to talk has come and gone. The time to start playing 60 minute efforts is here to stay for the remainder of the season.
With performances filled with turnovers like the one handed in on Tuesday, the remainder of the season may not be that long after all.