Flyers

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Nolan Patrick, Valtteri Filppula trading spaces

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Nolan Patrick, Valtteri Filppula trading spaces

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It appears Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol is switching up his second and third lines for tonight's game against the Anaheim Ducks.

During today's morning skate, Nolan Patrick and Valtteri Filppula swapped spots. Patrick was centering Dale Weise and Travis Konecny, while Filppula was with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds.

Patrick had his hands full Wednesday with Logan Couture's line in San Jose and then endured a heavy workload the following night against "That 70's Line," arguably the Kings' best line with Jeff Carter at center.

The line of Weal, Filppula and Simmonds caught fire in the final few weeks of last season, and perhaps Hakstol is looking for that line to spark some offensive firepower again. 

“We’re definitely more familiar,” Filppula said. “We played quite a bit at the end of last season. That’s always something that helps.”

“I don’t know (why it worked). We just built chemistry really quickly — me and Wealsy,” Simmonds said. “We started off with (Claude) Giroux and then switched to Filppula and I don’t think we missed a beat. Filppula’s a veteran player with great awareness and he’s always in the right spots. The way he plays the game, you just get open and he’s going to put the puck on your stick. For me, I think that’s a great thing.”  

It’s easy to look at the move as a demotion for the 19-year-old rookie Patrick, but it could allow him to open up his game offensively playing alongside Konecny.

“Just continue to grow your game,” Hakstol said of Patrick. “He’s a confident player. He’s doing a good job. He’s going to experience a lot of firsts along the way. First game in San Jose, I thought he did a really good job — with the puck, without the puck. The following night he has the experience of his first back-to-back with a little bit of travel in between, and he’s going to continue to learn through a lot of these firsts.”

Power wingers
Whenever the Ducks and Flyers do battle, it’s typically a matchup of two of the premier power forwards at the right wing position. Since Simmonds joined the Flyers in 2011, Corey Perry ranks second in goals in the NHL with 183 amongst right wing and Simmonds is fourth with 166. The "Wayne Train" has patterned himself after Perry over the years. 

“I actually used to hate his guts (when I was in L.A.),” Simmonds said of Perry. “But we spend a lot of time now in the London (Ontario) area during the offseason. He’s one of the guys I’ve tried to emulate his game since coming to Philadelphia — playing that net-front presence. He’s probably been the best in the league over the last 10 years in that area. There’s lot of his game that I’ve tried to take and incorporate into my own.

“He’s a good player. He’s strong, he’s physical. He can skate. He’s got good hand-eye coordination,” Perry said. “You put all of those together, you’ve got a pretty good hockey player. He’s a player I know quite well. He loves the game and he just wants to be out there and help the team win.”

Playoff redemption
Brian Elliott will be back in net, and this time, looking to wash out the bad taste of last year’s playoff series against the Ducks, who swept Elliott’s Flames out of the playoffs, essentially ending his brief one-year stint in Calgary.

Elliott started all four games and finished with a 0-3 record, a 3.89 goals-against average and an .880 save percentage. It was, by far, the worst playoff series in his 10-year NHL career.

Hakstol believes, though, Elliott can build off his season-opening victory in San Jose.  

“There were several key (third period) saves in that game,” Hakstol said. “He fought hard to make those saves. Beyond that, I thought he had a good presence. The end result is what really matters. He helped us get a win in a tough building on the road in night No. 1" 

Coach speak
In studying game tape of the Flyers' first two games, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle has definitely noticed the speed and agility of the Flyers’ blue line.

“The one thing you do notice that stands out is the ability of their back end,” Carlyle said. “That’s probably the biggest change I can see from the two games that I’ve watched. I think that the (Shayne) Gostisbehere kid is a special player in the back end, and (Ivan) Provorov seems to have a comfort zone in doing that and playing that type of game, and they have some young kids who can move up and down the ice.”

A day off in paradise
Nothing beats a complete day off on a road trip in Southern California.

Filppula lounged around Newport Beach. Sean Couturier hit the stores for some shopping, where he purchased a pair of dress shoes. However, none of that topped the excitement of the Jakub Voracek-led group that spent the day at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Voracek drove a “soccer-mom” style minivan toting around teammates Radko Gudas, Michal Neuvirth and Gostisbehere to name a few.

Projected lineups and pairings
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott

Claude Julien gets last laugh in return to Boston

ap-canadiens-claude-julien.jpg
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.