Flyers hold team meeting after 'unacceptable' effort in loss to Sharks

Flyers hold team meeting after 'unacceptable' effort in loss to Sharks


Tuesday night’s lackluster, lethargic effort was the tipping point.

A 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks, the same team the Flyers knocked off on opening night, culminated with a players-only, closed-door meeting (see observations). Even the players’ fathers, in attendance for a special gathering coordinated by the Flyers, were waiting outside the dressing room.

“We've got to look at each other and see what we’re playing for here and go play for it,” captain Claude Giroux said. “The position we’re in here, it’s really frustrating. It’s not the position that we thought we’d be in right now.” 

The Flyers’ winless streak stretched to nine games (0-4-5) with their last victory three weeks ago on home ice over the Chicago Blackhawks. They posted a 2-5-6 record during the month of November.

“It’s not just this one [game]. It’s all nine,” forward Wayne Simmonds said. “It’s a cumulative thing. We’ve had leads, chances to win in overtime, shootouts and whatever it may be and we haven’t done it. I know this is unacceptable. This isn’t right.”

“I think it’s just a matter of guys saying what you want to say,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “It’s not questioning anyone’s integrity or their work ethic or anything. It’s more just we got into this thing together, and it’s up to us to get out of it.”

The mistake-filled effort on Tuesday night included countless turnovers, sloppy passing and six minor penalties during a span of 27 minutes that negated a pair of power-play opportunities. 

After witnessing a similar performance against the Canucks last week, the Wells Fargo Center crowd quickly turned on the guys in orange sweaters. However, the most venom was reserved for the head coach as a chorus of boos and “Fire Hakstol” chants intensified in the final minutes of the game (see Ron Hextall's take).

“Nobody said this was going to be easy,” Dave Hakstol said. “If you don’t want to be in this spot, that’s a choice. That’s how I react to it. There’s high expectations in this market, and we have maybe the best fans in the National Hockey League and they’re full value for having the expectations.”

“They can chant whatever they want. We’re in this together,” Giroux said. “We’re all in the same boat here. It’s not on him. It’s on everybody.” 

“I don’t think that’s a fair assessment,” Simmonds said of the chants. “He’s not on the ice, he’s not playing. It’s up to us to go out there and play every single night.”

Playing for the first time in a week, Michal Neuvirth couldn’t come up with his best effort either, as he was slow to react on the Sharks’ first two goals — a Chris Tierney snap shot from the high slot and Joe Thornton’s sharp-angle shot during a 5-on-3 power play that gave San Jose a 2-1 lead after the opening period.

“Yeah, I’ve definitely got to stop that one,” Neuvirth said of Thornton’s goal. “It was a long shift and some heavy legs, but I’ve got to make the save there, for sure.”

Frustration mounted as the Flyers, playing on the second night of a back-to-back with tired legs, went more than 23 minutes while registering just one shot against Sharks netminder Aaron Dell.

“Maybe when you’re tired you make some poor decisions,” Giroux said. “We didn’t take care of the puck. We made some bad decisions. We didn’t generate any offense. I don’t really have answers for you. We just have to find a way.”

“I probably think that last night’s game was a tough loss to swallow,” said Neuvirth, who backed up Brian Elliott’s 47-save performance in Pittsburgh. “I think that affected us tonight.”

“Everything’s connected,” Hakstol said. “We ran out of gas, for sure, as we ran into the third period. I thought effort-wise was there. We just didn’t have much execution and we didn’t have much energy.

“There’s not a magical formula. You go back to work. You believe in the guy that’s next to you. You’ve got to stick together and believe in the guys that are in that room. Nobody’s going to wave a magic wand.”

Wednesday is a much-needed day off for the Flyers. Many of them will drive their fathers to the airport following the two-day dads’ trip that isn’t exactly one they’ll be bragging about for years to come.

Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

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Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 shots for his fifth shutout of the season, Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, and the Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday night for their 10th straight win.

Pierre-Luc Dubois had two assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved to 42-28-5 and joined Philadelphia (1984-86) and Pittsburgh (2010-13) as the only NHL franchises to record 10-game win streaks in consecutive seasons.

The shutout was the 24th of Bobrovsky's career and his seventh straight win. Sonny Milano, Seth Jones and Thomas Vanek -- into an empty net -- also scored for Columbus, which moved into a second-place tie in the Metropolitan Division with idle Pittsburgh, each with 89 points.

Florida dropped to 37-28-7. With 10 games left in the season, the Panthers remained a point behind the idle New Jersey Devils for a playoff spot (see full recap).

Maple Leafs top Predators in Matthews’ return
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Auston Matthews had a goal in his return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 10 games and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday night.

The Predators had been 14-0-1 since their previous regulation loss on Feb. 17.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner each had a goal and an assist, and William Nylander and Jake Gardiner also scored for Toronto, which has won five of six.

Morgan Rielly had three assists for the Maple Leafs, and Tyler Bozak had two. Frederik Andersen stopped 23 shots.

Viktor Arvidsson and Scott Hartnell scored for Nashville. Pekka Rinne had 23 saves (see full recap).

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings
DETROIT -- Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves for his third shutout of the season, and Brett Connolly scored the game's only goal on a third-period breakaway to lift the Washington Capitals to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

The Capitals have won six of seven and lead Pittsburgh and Columbus by four points atop the Metropolitan Division as the regular season winds down. Washington has turned increasingly to Grubauer of late after Braden Holtby struggled in February and at the beginning of March. Holtby wasn't available Thursday because of an injury coach Barry Trotz described as a tweak.

The Capitals took the lead with 13:19 remaining in the game after Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet couldn't control the puck near Washington's blue line. Connolly and teammate Jakub Vrana went the other way on a two-man breakaway, and Connolly beat Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot to the glove side. It was his 15th goal of the season.

The Red Wings had a goal called back for goalie interference in the first period -- replays showed Tyler Bertuzzi appearing to make contact with Grubauer in front of the net. Detroit squandered a great opportunity in the second when the Red Wings had a two-man advantage for the full 2:00.

Andreas Athanasiou had a breakaway in the third, but couldn't beat Grubauer. Athanasiou had another chance in the final minutes, but his shot deflected wide as Grubauer tried unsuccessfully to grab it with his glove.

Detroit has lost 11 of 12 (see full recap).

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.