Flyers-Ducks observations: Homestand ends with a dud

Flyers-Ducks observations: Homestand ends with a dud


This was not the same Anaheim team the Flyers faced 17 days earlier in Southern California.

Playing with their top center Ryan Getzlaf and one of their best defensemen in Hampus Lindholm, the Ducks were opportunistic by capitalizing on the Flyers’ mistakes in a 6-2 decision at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night.

The Ducks took the game over in the second period. In what had been the Flyers’ best period this season, Anaheim scored three unanswered goals to take a three-goal lead into the third period. The Flyers had previously outscored opponents 12-5 during the middle frame.

The Flyers closed out their five-game homestand at 3-2-0 for six points.

• Nolan Patrick was shaken up when he went back to retrieve the puck below the Flyers’ goal line. Chris Wagner delivered a hard check that appeared to rattle Patrick’s head (see video). No penalty was called as the Flyers’ rookie went straight to the dressing room for further evaluation. He was showered and in a suit for the start of the third period. Jori Lehtera took Patrick’s spot at center. 

• You could sense the Ducks’ top line was humming in the first period, and it finally broke through with a goal in the second, as Getzlaf sent a cross-ice pass in front of the crease to Rickard Rakell, who tapped in the 4-1 goal.

Getzlaf missed the first game between the Flyers and Ducks with a lower-body injury. Tuesday’s game was his first game in two weeks. Getzlaf, along with Rakell and Corey Perry, spent a lot of time in the Flyers’ zone during the opening 20 minutes. 

• Getzlaf also added a wide-angle goal Brian Elliott should have stopped to give him a goal and an assist. 

• Anaheim extended its lead to 3-1 midway through the second period when Nick Ritchie pounced on Elliott’s rebound. Ritchie was able to elevate a backhand that caught Elliott’s right arm and trickled over the line.

• A little frustration seems to have set in for Jakub Voracek, who can’t buy a goal. Voracek uncorked a one-time slap shot that hit goalie John Gibson right in the crest. Voracek appeared somewhat mystified as he continues to search for that elusive first goal of the season, even with a team-leading 12 assists. 

• I can’t disagree with the penalties that were assessed to Wayne Simmonds when he got tangled up with Getzlaf. Simmonds wouldn’t let go of Getzlaf’s stick. Meanwhile, Getzlaf continued to tug it out from under Simmonds. As frustration grew, Simmonds gave Getzlaf a crosscheck after the whistle blew and was assessed a double-minor that led to an Anaheim power play. 

The retaliator always seems to get caught in the referee’s crosshairs.

• Claude Giroux was giving the referee some choice words on the bench. As he wristed a shot on Gibson, Antoine Vermette took a whack at Giroux and broke the stick of the Flyers’ captain. Yet, no slashing penalty was called. 

On Giroux’s next shift, he was whistled for a legitimate trip (perhaps out of frustration) when he stuck out his skate and tripped up Wagner, who had leveled Lehtera a few seconds earlier.

• Brandon Montour raced past a flat-footed Brandon Manning to give the Ducks their first lead of the game at 2-1. The Flyers’ poor play in the neutral zone allowed Montour to gain speed and have a wide-open look on Elliott.  

First-period observations
• Sean Couturier gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead for the sixth time in nine games. Giroux threaded a nice pass to Couturier, who got behind the defense for the breakaway. Couturier gave Gibson a nice backhand deke before losing control and then regaining it to flip it just over Gibson’s glove. 

The Flyers’ No. 1 center seems to find a way to get at least one quality chance in front of the goalie every game. 

• The Ducks scored first when Travis Konecny delivered a weak backhand along the boards. The pass was picked off by Derek Grant, who immediately fired a shot that was redirected by Ondrej Kase past Elliott for the Ducks’ first goal. Not much Elliott could have done to prevent the goal.

• Radko Gudas wanted a piece of Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who has a reputation of getting under players’ skin. Bieksa gave Gudas a mild crosscheck in the back after play was stopped and that prompted Gudas to drop his gloves. The linesman intervened before a fight ensued. 

Not sure Gudas’ reaction was warranted, but it was nice to see the feistiness. Both players were assessed two-minute minors for unsportsmanlike conduct. 

As soon as both guys served their penalties, they engaged in fisticuffs as Bieksa decked Gudas with a right hand in a five-second knockout, and it was back to the box for five more minutes (see video)

• The Flyers drew their first faceoff violation of the regular season when Grant was kicked out of the circle and Ritchie committed another false start well before the linesman dropped the puck. Under new rules, two violations within the same faceoff result in a two-minute minor penalty. 

Lines, pairings and scratches

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Dale Weise-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Shayne Gostisbehere-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forwards Taylor Leier (upper body) and Matt Read (healthy).

Claude Julien gets last laugh in return to Boston

AP Images

Claude Julien gets last laugh in return to Boston

BOSTON -- David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner each scored an early goal, Tuukka Rask stopped 21 shots and the Bruins beat Montreal 4-1 Wednesday night in Canadiens coach Claude Julien's return to Boston.

The surging Bruins have earned at least a point in 14 straight games (10-0-4), their longest stretch since going 15-0-1 in March 2014.

Brad Marchand added a power-play goal in the third period, David Krejci had an empty-netter and Patrice Bergeron had two assists for Boston, which posted its second win over the Canadiens in five days. The teams meet again in Montreal on Saturday night.

Jakub Jerabek scored his first NHL goal for Montreal, and Carey Price made 28 saves.

Julien, who coached Boston's Stanley Cup-winning team in 2011, was fired last Feb. 7 in his 10th season. He was replaced by assistant and current Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who opted for more up-tempo, charge-into-the-zone play from his defensemen as opposed to Julien's mostly defensive-minded style.

Rask extended his career-best point streak to 15 games (13-0-2), including a 4-3 shootout win at Montreal last Saturday (see full recap).

Ducks score 4 in 2nd period to beat Penguins
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rickard Rakell and Adam Henrique scored 1:35 apart to Anaheim the lead during its four-goal second period, and the Ducks went on to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 Wednesday night.

Chris Wagner and Ondrej Kase also scored for Anaheim in the middle period, and Hampus Lindholm added an empty-netter in the final second of the game. John Gibson stopped 30 shots to help the Ducks improve to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.

Anaheim scored four goals in a period for first time since doing it in the third period at Buffalo last Feb. 9.

Jake Guentzel, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin scored for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game win streak. Tristan Jarry made 28 saves.

With the Ducks trailing 1-0, Rakell tied it on a redirect of a shot by Francois Beauchemin at 4:17 of the second. Henrique then put them ahead at 5:42, beating Jarry with a wraparound while the rookie was caught flatfooted at the opposite post trying to get his stick back.

Wagner scored on a short-handed breakaway to make it 3-1 at 9:24, notching the third special-teams goal of his career, all of which have come this season.

Kase's smooth breakaway backhand with 1:32 left in the period capped off the scoring deluge. Kase, who also had an assist, has five points in his last three games (see full recap).

Where is Dave Hakstol's sixth sense?

Where is Dave Hakstol's sixth sense?

VOORHEES, N.J. — Movie director M. Night Shyamalan may have created the sixth sense, and some of the more successful coaches in the NHL actually possess it. 

No, not the ability to see dead people, but rather, the recognition of assessing in-game situations and taking an immediate and proactive course of action before the team and the game itself begins to unravel.

Predators coach and former Flyers bench boss Peter Laviolette had an uncanny ability to utilize his only timeout at a moment when the team needed desperately to refocus during a stretch of poor hockey. Laviolette may have signaled for one during a lackluster first period or at the first sign of trouble in the third period.

He’d rip the gum out of his mouth and begin the process of chewing out his guys. His face would turn red and his temperature would rise as if it was measured by the red liquid in a thermometer. More often than not, Laviolette’s teams responded swiftly and appropriately to his message. He had an ability to seize the moment when others may not have seen it coming.

It’s a club Hakstol simply doesn’t have in his bag.

Hakstol prefers to hold onto his timeout predictably when the Flyers are down a goal late in the third period to draw up a play on the dry-erase board or to give his players a breather following an icing call. Rarely, if ever, is that timeout taken in an effort to overcome the opposition’s surge of momentum.

Same can be said for Hakstol’s decision to make a goaltending change.

In the Flyers' two most recent lopsided losses, both 5-1 setbacks to the Penguins and Rangers, Hakstol chose to pull Elliott after two periods with the outcomes pretty much decided heading into the third period. 

Regarding the Flyers' loss to New York Tuesday night: "We put [Elliott] in a pretty tough spot," Hakstol said postgame (see story). "Looking back on it, I could make the change after the fourth goal, but I felt like we put him in pretty tough spots tonight with the opportunities that we gave up in the first 30 minutes of the game."

While every coach seems to possess hindsight, not every coach has the appropriate sense of foresight. Goaltending changes can be the result of poor play in net and Elliott wasn’t great Tuesday night, but the decision can also take on a dual-purpose. Give the backup playing time while also attempting to ignite a spark up and down the bench.

Send a message that it’s not the goaltender’s responsibility alone for digging this hole, but since he can’t bench all 18 skaters, bench the goalie as a result of everyone else’s poor play. 

In both losses to the Penguins and Rangers, once Hakstol decided to replace Elliott with Neuvirth, the Flyers were facing a 4-1 and 5-1 deficit, respectively, heading into the third period. The coach would have had better success creating a spark by rubbing two sticks together.

Over the course of an 82-game season, it’s important for a coach to remain consistent with his message. Over the duration of a 60-minute game, that message is tailored around the team’s performance. Moments and situations elicit when a coach should be bold with his words or more reserved.

Judging by his manner and behavior behind the bench, Hakstol’s barometer rarely tilts one way or the other, and the team has seemingly taken on the personality of its coach, especially at times when urgency is required.

“It’s got to be the same this time of year,” Hakstol said when asked about the team’s mindset following a 5-1 loss. “It’s never as bad you think and it’s never as good as you think. Address the issues, be direct about it, fix them and move forward.”

However, the Flyers are now 27th in the league when trailing after the first period and 25th when trailing after two periods. Against the Penguins and Rangers, the Flyers gave themselves no chance at forcing overtime when every single point matters right now, especially against the two teams they’re chasing in the wild-card standings.      

Hakstol can attempt to correct X's and O’s, but at some point, his decision-making and ability to put his finger on the pulse of his team will become an X-factor.