Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers


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. 

Flyers show off their youth in win over Rangers

Flyers show off their youth in win over Rangers


The Flyers survived one of the most dangerous lines in hockey to defeat the Rangers, 4-3.

It marked the first game this season at the Wells Fargo Center between the storied rivals. 

Travis Konecny scored twice to give him 22 goals for the season.

Claude Giroux contributed three assists for the second straight game. His second consecutive three-point game allowed him to reach the 90-point mark for the second time in his career.

Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 33 of 36 shots for his fourth career win.

The Flyers continue to inch closer to securing a playoff spot as the Panthers lost to the Blue Jackets. Currently, Florida is the final team out and trails the Flyers by seven points with just over two weeks remaining in the regular season.

• After a slow start, the Flyers finally got it going five minutes into the game. Jori Lehtera worked his into the slot for a one-timer chance on Rangers rookie goalie Alexandar Georgiev. Just a little over a minute later, Travis Konecny did an excellent job of working his way into the left circle while using Sean Couturier and two Rangers as a shield to block Georgiev’s view. 

• The Flyers didn’t give up too much in the first period and outshot the Rangers, 15-8. However, they were careless defensively against the Rangers’ top line and it cost them. Konecny attempted to intercept a centering pass (which could have resulted in a breakaway). Instead, Mika Zibanejad was able to make a move past Radko Gudas and slide a shot five-hole through Lyon to tie the game at 1-1. With Brandon Manning along the left side board tying up the right winger, Konecny couldn’t afford to whiff on that play.

• After the Flyers were on their heels in the first four minutes of the second period, they came up big during a 4-on-4. Jakub Voracek produced a terrific individual effort to score his 19th goal and give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. Typically when Voracek skates into a sea of defenders, he turns the puck over. In this instance, he was helped out by Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei, who lost his stick and couldn’t tie up Voracek.

• Part of that goal was set up by Zibanejad’s poor decision to engage with the Flyers after the whistle. The result of his overaggressiveness was two minutes for roughing, which negated a Rangers power play that resulted in Voracek’s goal.

• It took all of eight seconds for the Flyers to extend their lead to 4-2 in the third period as Nolan Patrick built up some speed and snapped a shot up high on Georgiev. The goalie couldn’t corral the puck, which led to a rebound. Credit Oskar Lindblom for going hard to the net and stuffing home the rebound for his second goal. Lindblom has been providing effort plays since being called up. He had several quality chances against the Rangers before scoring his goal.

• Lyon came up with his save of the night in the second period as the Flyers were caught in a 2-on-1 situation. He produced a sprawling pad save on Zibanejad. Unlike what we’ve seen from Petr Mrazek recently, Lyon is coming up with saves when his defense lets him down.

• Exhibit B in Lyon’s defense came in the third period as Chris Kreider appeared to have a wide-open net. Lyon continued to battle and appeared to have stopped Kreider’s shot with the side of his mask or shoulder. More concerning was how the Flyers were caught with the pairing of Travis Sanheim and Andrew MacDonald against the Rangers’ top line.

• The Rangers worked their way back to 3-2 on a fortuitous goal from Jesper Fast, who was simply looking to center the puck to a teammate when he banked the puck off Ivan Provorov’s skate and past Lyon. The Rangers’ top line of Zibanejad, Kreider and Fast came into the game on fire and is one of the top scoring lines in hockey over the past few weeks. 

Robert Hagg finds himself the odd man out vs. Rangers

AP Images

Robert Hagg finds himself the odd man out vs. Rangers

Rookie Robert Hagg will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his career following his performance Tuesday in Detroit, where the defenseman played just 12:39 and finished with a minus-2 rating, including just four shifts and 2:28 during the Flyers' third-period comeback.

Hagg missed four games with a lower-body injury, and when he returned he played on the left side, paired with Radko Gudas. For most of the second half of the season, Hagg has played the right side with Andrew MacDonald as the team’s second pairing.

“It’s not always about the individual,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “The pair (Hagg and Gudas) didn’t have easy chemistry there. We ended up in some situations with and against the speed and ended up with some bad gaps. The pair and combination wasn’t as effective as we needed it to be.”

Lyon in the crease
If Hakstol wanted to be a very unconventional think-outside-the-box coach, he would start Petr Mrazek for a period and then bring in Alex Lyon for the remaining two periods and beyond.

Lyon will start tonight’s game against the Rangers, the same team he earned his first career win against after replacing Michal Neuvirth following the first period. 

Some of Lyon’s best work this season has been coming in cold off the bench. He owns a .970 save percentage in games he has entered in relief, and a pedestrian .890 save percentage in five games he has started.

“It’s not just based on one performance, it never is,” Hakstol said. “ It’s always based on situation and a player’s body of work. Alex’s body of work has been good. He came in the other night and did an excellent job and that’s part of the decision.”

Shorthanded shortcomings
The Red Wings scored the tenth shorthanded goal against the Flyers Tuesday, matching the Colorado Avalanche for the most 5-on-4 goals allowed this season. 

This season, the Flyers are 4-4-2 in games in which they’ve given up a shorthanded goal, but more importantly, many of those goals have been momentum killers — the difference between tying a game or facing a two-goal deficit.

In the Flyers' 5-1 loss to the Rangers on Jan. 16, New York forward Paul Carey scored shorthanded with ten seconds remaining in the first period that extended the Rangers lead to 3-1, and took away any hope for a Flyers' comeback.    

“The Rangers are going to come with the kitchen sink on their penalty kill and they’re playing without a lot of pressure,” Hakstol said. “At times, you’re going to see two, three and four guys on their PK come up the ice offensively, so we’re going to have to do a very good job of that tonight.” 

Much of the blame can be attributed to the power play’s 1-3-1 setup — Shayne Gostisbehere serving as the only player on the point with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek in the circles, Sean Couturier in the high slot and Wayne Simmonds down low.

When a turnover or giveaway is committed between the circles and the blue line, typically only Gostisbehere or the player taking his spot at the point is the only player back to defend, leaving the Flyers wide open for a two-on-one shorthanded chance against.   

“We starting off taking a chance with one defenseman out there,” Gostisbehere said. “That’s just the name of the game. I don’t think there’s too many power play units with two D out there right now. I think for us, it’s staying within ourselves and keeping it simple.”