Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers


When Dave Hakstol was hired on May 18, 2015, to become the 19th head coach of the Flyers, there was an underlying belief that given his collegiate pedigree, Hakstol was the perfect bench boss to handle the team's homegrown prospects.

However, as we’ve seen over the course of three seasons, the progression of a young player doesn’t always continue on an upward trajectory from the moment they start their NHL career.

As he juggles a roster that is now the youngest in the Eastern Conference following injuries to Brian Elliott and Wayne Simmonds, Hakstol appears to be pushing all of the right buttons, including those connected with the organization’s most prized prospect, Nolan Patrick.

Thursday night’s 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets further exemplified that as Patrick scored a power-play goal in his second straight game (see observations). With the injury to Simmonds, Hakstol believed Patrick could slide seamlessly into Simmonds' net-front role on the top unit, and the rookie has yet to disappoint his coach or teammates.

“I think there’s a little less pressure,” Patrick said. “You don’t have the puck on your stick as much. I think my shots are something I need to improve on. It’s kind of nice for me to be there and not try and beat goalies with my shots. I like it there.”

Hakstol recognized early in the opening month of the season that Patrick wasn’t quite ready to handle the role of being a top-six forward, but over the course of an 82-game season, he has gradually given the 19-year-old center more responsibility and Patrick has proved he’s deserving of the coach’s trust.

“His approach, his hockey sense and his intelligence is what gives him an opportunity to be successful in any situation,” Hakstol said. “Each time we’ve been able to give him more of an opportunity, he’s taken advantage of that. Nolan is doing a lot of those little things on a nightly basis — up and down the middle of the rink, playing a good 200-foot game, and the fact he’s taken pride in that is the foundation of his game.”

“He’s been great,” Patrick said of Hakstol. “When I first got here, they made me work for everything. They didn’t put me in situations I wasn’t ready for. Even now, when I’m not playing great, he does what’s best for the team. He’ll hold me back or not put me out there when I’m struggling on faceoffs. He notices that and he’s been huge for me.”

And Patrick has been huge for the Flyers. He’s now scored a goal in three straight games. 

You’re never quite sure when the future will eventually catch up to the present, but with the help of his head coach, it’s coming at just the right time for Nolan Patrick.

Blue Jackets pull even with Flyers in points

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Blue Jackets pull even with Flyers in points

BOSTON -- Cam Atkinson scored 2:55 into overtime to lift the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 5-4 victory over Boston on Monday night for their eighth straight victory, spoiling a splendid NHL debut for Bruins forward Ryan Donato.

Sonny Milano, Boone Jenner, Thomas Vanek and Artemi Panarin also scored for the Blue Jackets. Nick Foligno had two assists, nd Vanek and Jenner each added one. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 34 shots.

Atkinson cut in on the left wing and fired a wrister past Rask for the game-winner.

Columbus moved into a tie with Philadelphia with 85 points, but the Flyers hold the tiebreaker for third place in the Metropolitan Division and the Blue Jackets hold the first wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Donato had a goal and two assists for Boston, which moved a point behind idle Tampa Bay for first in the Atlantic. Riley Nash, Brad Marchand and David Krejci also scored for the Bruins, and Tuukka Rask finished with 19 saves (see full recap).

Luongo, Panthers blank Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Roberto Luongo stopped 28 shots for his third shutout of the season and 76th of his career, leading the Florida Panthers to a 2-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov scored to help the Panthers inch closer to a playoff position, pulling three points behind idle new Jersey for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Florida has two games in hand on the Devils.

Antti Niemi finished with 38 saves for Montreal, which was shut out for the second straight game and 12th time this season -- including three against the Panthers. The Canadiens were coming off a 4-0 loss at Toronto on Saturday.

The opening 10 minutes saw two fights, one of which had Ekblad sparring with Nicolas Deslauriers. It may have fired up the big defenseman because he stole a puck from Michael McCarron, deked past defenseman Jeff Petry and beat Niemi with a move to the backhand for an unassisted goal with 1:29 left in the opening period.

Jacob De La Rose thought he had tied it for Montreal 17 seconds later, but a video review showed Alex Galchenyuk was offside by a toenail and it was waived off.

Barkov got his 26th of the season at 6:23 of the third when his shot from the left side went in off Montreal forward Logan Shaw.

Star goalie Carey Price returned to the Montreal lineup after concussion suffered Feb. 20. He backed up Niemi (see full recap).

Rinne makes 35 saves in Preds’ shutout
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Pekka Rinne stopped 35 shots for his eighth shutout of the season and the Nashville Predators set a franchise record by earning a point in their 15th consecutive game with a 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

Mike Fisher and Ryan Johansen scored goals 4:34 apart in the second period, and Filip Forsberg and Ryan Hartman sealed the victory by scoring in the final four minutes.

The NHL-leading Predators improved to 14-0-1 in their past 15, and also extended their team-best road winning streak to nine straight.

Rinne won his 11th straight to match his personal best in a stretch in which he's allowed just 18 goals. The shutout was the 51st of his 12-year career and third in nine games.

And Rinne also improved to 40-9-4 in becoming the NHL's seventh goalie to win 40 games in a season three or more times.

The Predators haven't lost in regulation since a 3-1 defeat to Detroit at home on Feb. 17. And they improved to 12-0-3 in their past 15 road games since a 3-0 loss at Vegas on Jan. 2 (see full recap).

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny is one of a handful of young Flyers who thrives on confrontation, lining up an opponent in his crosshairs and going for the kill.

And that’s just his profile in Call of Duty — the popular war-based video game he plays occasionally with teammates.

And while Konecny didn't show up on the scoresheet Sunday evening, he still answered his call of duty, leading the charge in a variety of ways in the Flyers' 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals that inched the Flyers within four points of the division-leading Caps and two points of Pittsburgh for second place. All three teams return to action Tuesday with the Flyers in Detroit.

Battered, bloodied and perhaps a little beaten, Konecny was determined that the Capitals weren’t going to get the best of him.

“I just think I’ve learned in the two years I’ve been here it doesn’t matter what your role is on the team,” Konecny said after the game. “Everybody buys in, everybody blocks shots, everyone goes to the net, everyone backchecks. I think it’s a part of me that’s learned to become a Philadelphia Flyer.”

The orange and black uniform was only a cover for the black and blue bruises Konecny’s body endured. In the third period, he stood directly in the line of fire of Christian Djoos’s shot and then limped back to the locker room. On his next shift, Konecny blocked another shot from Dmitri Orlov.

Even after giving all the postgame interviews, Konecny was still limping. The playing surface at the Wells Fargo Center may not have had enough ice for all of his sore spots.

“He’s got the heart of a lion and I think you’ve seen that all year long,” said Wayne Simmonds, who tallied twice in the win. “I kept telling him that’s what winners are made of. It’s the type of effort we’re going to need from every single guy in this dressing room. He blocks one shot, he gets up slowly, gets back on the ice, blocks another.”

The clean-cut and rather reserved Konecny that came to the Flyers as a 19-year-old rookie last season has now been replaced with a more brash, tattoo-sporting, always-chirping Konecny with a longer hair style and the appearance of facial hair.

The only missing element to complete the look is a leather biker’s jacket.  

That rugged toughness was on display again when he dropped the gloves with Washington winger T.J. Oshie and bloodied his knuckles 7:41 into the third period.

“I just got high-sticked right before,” Konecny said. “I got frustrated and I finished my hit on him. Not a bad guy to take off the ice when they’re trying to score."

“It was awesome. It was great to see,” said Simmonds. “You see him get high-sticked there. He didn’t quit on the play and kept going. He battles with a guy who’s probably 20 pounds bigger, maybe more than that. It was a great emotional leap for the team in the third period there. Unbelievable job and kudos to him.”

Konecny, who has 19 goals and 22 asissts on the season and has earned Dave Hakstol's trust with a bump up to the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, has quickly rounded into a five-tool player this season with speed, playmaking, a scoring touch with a hard-nosed edge. Much like Brad Marchand with the Bruins, that type of player becomes vital once the postseason rolls around.

“It gives the bench a good injection of life,” said Hakstol. “They love it and guys love to see that on the bench. I think that’s what our guys expect, but it’s always great when you see one guy doing it.”  

Which is probably why Konecny enjoys that other Call of Duty. Another game with a similar approach, except a lot less painful.

Raffl out
General manager Ron Hextall announced Monday morning that forward Michael Raffl will miss two weeks with an upper-body injury suffered in the second period against the Capitals Sunday. Raffl, who has 11 goals and eight assists this year, had been seeing some time on the top line with Giroux and Couturier recently.