In current state, Dave Hakstol has tricky job with Flyers

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In current state, Dave Hakstol has tricky job with Flyers

Dave Hakstol has to walk a fine line between winning and development.

When it comes to Ron Hextall's organizational blueprint, those two concepts intertwine. While the future is important, so is being competitive in the present.

There is no tanking, nor is there a disregard for tomorrow.

As the head coach overseeing the day-to-day operations of such a model, Hakstol finds himself in a daily conundrum of sorts, trying to strike that balance between Hextall's two all-important objectives.

Lately, though, Hakstol has probably been more focused on winning the day than he's ever been, compared to worrying about a year, month or even a week down the road.

And can you blame him?

Less than a week ago, fans were calling for his firing, almost coming together like an angry mob outside the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers were mired in a losing streak that bottomed out at 10 games and had Hakstol's boss being peppered with repeated questions surrounding the head coach's job status.

So, yeah, in this current climate, Hakstol is in the business to win hockey games, no matter what the cost — and it showed during the team's three-game resurgence in Western Canada.

As the Flyers tallied off three straight wins and outscored the opposition, 13-5, the organization's young building blocks quietly saw their ice times dip considerably. Nolan Patrick played an average of 8:55 over the three games, down from 12:31 prior, while Travis Konecny averaged 9:54, down from 14:07, and Travis Sanheim 11:47, down from 16:08. 

All three players are foundation pieces. All three first-round picks. All three no older than 21 years old, but here because they belong and are in the NHL phase of their development.

The minutes don't exactly jive with development. Many would like to see Patrick, Konecny and even Sanheim provide more offense in greater ice time.

But the tactic of shortening his bench a bit to close out games and place more experience on the ice has worked for Hakstol.

With an increased role, Michael Raffl has five goals in his last eight games after playing just 10:55 a night the previous 21 contests. The 29-year-old Austrian put up four points (three goals, one assist) in the past three games on the Flyers' new second line, alongside Jakub Voracek and Valtteri Filppula. Voracek went off for seven assists over that stretch, while the 33-year-old Filppula totaled four points (one goal, three assists) of his own playing 19-plus minutes a game.

On defense, 31-year-old veteran Andrew MacDonald played heavy minutes (22:51), as did Ivan Provorov (25:25), lightening the load on the rookie Sanheim.

None of this is to say Hakstol is forgetting the long game, which Hextall values so greatly. Before the Flyers staggered into desperation mode of try anything and everything, Hakstol actually allowed for the youth to play bigger roles.

Patrick, Konecny and Sanheim have all seen opportunity throughout the Flyers' first 29 games, and Hakstol will have to understand the importance of finding them more as this season chugs forward.

Because with Hextall, the future is always in sight.

As for Hakstol, discovering a happy medium becomes the challenge ... in a season full of them.

Seguin nets OT winner for Stars

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Seguin nets OT winner for Stars

BOSTON — Tyler Seguin made a move at the left circle to get past one defender, then skated into the slot as the other two Bruins went to the ice.

He swooped wide to Anton Khudobin's glove side, inducing the goalie to leave his skates as well, and then flipped the puck into the net for the game-winner.

"I feel like everyone was just sliding at me, and the whole time I wanted to pass," Seguin said after his goal with a delayed penalty man-advantage gave the Dallas Stars a 3-2 victory over Boston on Monday.

"I was just kind of looking for the right play and just kept holding it," the former Bruins first-round draft pick said. "I just kind of shot it, and luckily, it went in."

Stephen Johns and Alexander Radulov also scored for Dallas, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 30 shots (see full recap).

Tavares' 2nd goal lifts Islanders past Canadiens in OT
MONTREAL — John Tavares scored his second goal of the game 1:51 into overtime to lift the New York Islanders to a 5-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

Mathew Barzal, coming off his second five-point game of the season, had a goal and two assists to keep up his scoring binge for New York. Anthony Beauvillier and Adam Pelech also scored to help the Islanders win their third straight after a season-high five-game losing streak, and Thomas Greiss finished with a career-high 52 saves.

Nicolas Deslauriers, Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin and Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal, which twice tied the scored after falling behind by two goals. Carey Price stopped 19 shots.

Pelech gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead 2:37 into the second period as he pounced on a loose puck after Barzal's shot was blocked and swept it in fromt eh slot for his first of the season (see full recap).

MacKinnon helps Avs beat Ducks for 7th straight win
DENVER — The save by Jonathan Bernier that sticks out the most was the one where he simply stuck out his stick.

Out of sheer desperation, no less. To thwart what looked to be a sure goal, too. It's just another sign of how well things have been going for the Colorado Avalanche in recent weeks.

Nathan MacKinnon kept up his torrid home scoring with a goal, Bernier turned back 33 shots and the Avalanche beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 on Monday for their seventh straight win.

Matt Nieto and Colin Wilson also scored for the Avs, who are outscoring opponents 29-10 during their longest win streak since the 2005-06 season (see full recap).

Old wounds have healed for Eric Lindros

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Old wounds have healed for Eric Lindros

You could say the life of “88” has completed a lifelong figure 8, where you ultimately come back to the point where it all started.  

That starting point for Eric Lindros was sometime at an early age when life was simple, friendships were forming and the game of hockey wasn’t tugging him in a hundred different directions. Not that Lindros feels like a kid now, but clearly he views life rather buoyantly.

He smiles, he laughs, he tells stories and enjoys living essentially burden-free. 

“I’m seeing things from a different perspective,” said Lindros during my visit with him at his new home in the Toronto suburbs. “I think when you’re playing, and for good reason, you’re focused on your game. You live, eat, breathe the sport and the game. You have the blinders on. You might not be aware of what’s going on politically. You might not be aware of what’s going on with some of your friends back home.

“Now, I have no blinders. I’m not restricted. If I choose to look left or choose to look right, I can. It’s a different mindset. It’s a different way of going about it. It’s a whole new world.”

Lindros left Philadelphia unceremoniously sitting out an entire season before he was eventually traded to the New York Rangers in August 2001, and even after he stopped playing six years later, a lot of those old wounds still hadn’t healed and the relationship between himself and the organization was scarred. A once tight relationship with former Flyers GM Bobby Clarke was seemingly frayed beyond repair.

The 2012 Winter Classic alumni game at Citizens Bank Park was the first step in the rehabilitation between a stubbornly proud organization and its franchise center the city once cherished. Then came Lindros’ induction into the Flyers Wall of Fame in 2014, his 2016 induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame and now, the latest culmination is the retirement of his legendary No. 88 along with other events surrounding the former superstar. 

There’s now a renewed sense that Philadelphia will always be Lindros’ hockey home.  

“Listen, hockey was great for a long time and where I could give the most was in Philly. From start to finish, I never played as well anywhere else. I really enjoyed it. There’s ups and downs with everything that you do, but overall I truly enjoyed playing there,” Lindros said.

“Eric doesn’t have a home,” Clarke told me in 2011 prior to the Winter Classic alumni game. “Eric needs a home and the Flyers are his home.”
Of course, it’s not exactly a home surrounded by a white picket fence, but rather one that had a fence that needed to be mended. Retirement for Lindros and Clarke, who both coincidentally stepped down as player and executive in 2007, helped gain perspective and patch some damaged feelings. 

“We see each other at all these events and Bob’s been very nice," Lindros said. “We can joke around. What’s happened, happened. Let’s move forward and go on.”

Eric has done that while also discovering why the present should be cherished so much more than what has transpired in the past. Whenever Lindros spends time at alumni functions, he’s easily immersed in the aura surrounding Bernie Parent and how it can easily rub off on him. 
“What a fun-loving spirit. He gets it,” Lindros said of Parent. “You know where some people have that vibe and you want to be in the room with him. He’s got a gift. Bernie’s a terrific, terrific man. He’s got to get me out on the boat.” 

After Thursday's ceremony prior to the Flyers' game against Lindros' hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, Lindros and Parent can hang together all they want, at least, in the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center.

However, Lindros doesn’t need those types of reminders. Nowhere in his brand-new home will you find any connection between himself and his playing days — no photos on the wall, no replica of the Hart Trophy he won in 1995 and no sign of his Olympic gold medal. Nor does Lindros believe his career was any more distinguishable from that of his wife Kina Lamarche, who was a very successful businesswoman.  

As you enter the basement, there’s a painting of Jackie Robinson sliding into home plate. Turn the corner and down the hall you’ll find a newly-installed locker room and a synthetic ice surface that currently serves as a playroom for his three kids: Carl Pierre, Sophie and Ryan. This is Eric Lindros now, a man with a greater purpose in life.   

“Same way my dad was with me,” Lindros said. “My dad took a lot of heat for looking out for me and representing me and my brother. People would be lucky to have my dad as a representative. I’m very lucky to come from where I did. I got big shoes to fill. I’m around the house quite a bit now. I got lucky. I really did. I don’t think it could have worked out better.”