Who can I trust?
That’s the underlying question Dave Hakstol is attempting to answer almost nightly as the Flyers inch their way toward a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It was no different in the Flyers' frantic 4-3 win over the Rangers Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).
“We were sporadic. The first three or four minutes of the game, we weren’t sharp or crisp,” Hakstol said. “Honestly, we got back on our heels in the last part of the third period. There are things that we obviously have to clean up.”
The cleanup crew Hakstol is looking for must possess a trustworthiness factor that makes each player dependable during crunch time. Against the Rangers, the Flyers' coach was forced to lean heavily on a handful of guys who weren’t even on Hakstol’s roster during the first half of the season.
Matt Read replaced Travis Konecny (who scored two goals) on the top line, and was counted on defensively where Konecny came up short in the previous two periods. Read played 13:52 to Konecny’s 12:29.
“He wasn’t taking care of the puck very well,” Hakstol said of Konecny. “Individuals have got to be better at this time of year and how we manage the puck and the mentality that we’re going to do things with.”
“It’s just part of buying in and doing things for the team” Konecny said. “I have no problem with it. It’s a matter of getting the two points. If that’s the way we’ve got to win, then we’ve got to do that every time.”
The 21-year-old Oskar Lindblom scored the eventual game-winning goal on the opening shift of the third period, and the second-line winger was consistently shifted until the final four minutes of regulation.
“Everybody’s different. It depends on the player,” Hakstol said. “Oskar is a guy that has come in and fit into the structural part of our game very well if you watch Oskar’s game. He’s just very intelligent in terms of playing within a system. He always finds a way to be on the right side of the puck.”
And then there’s goaltender Alex Lyon, who stepped up following his strong performance in relief of Petr Mrazek Tuesday night in Detroit.
When the defense in front of him broke down, Lyon answered the call and preserved the Flyers' lead throughout times in the second period and even during a spotty third period.
“I was actually thinking about it before the game today,” Lyon said. “Every game is so different, and you feel different. Circumstances are different, the team is different every day, so I think the best guys are those who can adjust to that, so I try and take a page out of their book.”
And with his 33-save performance, Lyon has put himself in position to start Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.
If there’s a doghouse for those who perform poorly, then consider this to be Hakstol’s safe house. They may not be the Flyers' best guys, but as of now, they’re the reliable ones.
Or as Hakstol is looking for — those who play on the right side of the puck.