A milestone night for Flyers to end homestand

A milestone night for Flyers to end homestand


The Flyers closed out their five-game homestand Wednesday night with a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

Claude Giroux assisted on three of the Flyers’ goals. 

Rookie defenseman Robert Hagg scored his first NHL goal.

The Flyers held the Red Wings to one shot on net over the final 10:56 of the third period.

Making his ninth straight start, Brian Elliott turned aside 25 of 28 shots to improve his record to 13-7-6.

The Flyers finished with a 4-1-0 mark on the homestand and are 15-12-7 overall. They play back-to-back road games in Buffalo and Columbus on Friday and Saturday, respectively, as they head into the Christmas break. 

• The Flyers’ defense looked very leaky in the first five and a half minutes. Caught up in a line change, the Red Wings found the Flyers’ defense flat-footed at their own blue line as Gustav Nyquist got behind Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas. Once again, Elliott was there and bailed out his teammates. 

• Midway through the first period, Anthony Mantha attempted a breakout pass from behind his net, but snapped his stick and the puck dribbled right to Sean Couturier in front of the crease. It was a heads-up play by Jimmy Howard to react as Couturier set up Giroux for a one-timer and that failed to connect as the Flyers had a prime opportunity to score the game’s first goal.

• There was another Flyers’ turnover that saw Hagg’s pass picked off by Andreas Athanasiou in the neutral zone. A few seconds later, Hagg pushed the puck along the boards and it popped out to Athanasiou, who fired a slap shot on Elliott.

• The Flyers had sloppy in the neutral zone again, as Athanasiou jumped on a loose puck. Shayne Gostisbehere jumped up to play his man, Athanasiou and his blazing speed raced past Hagg and broke in on Elliott. However, Athanasiou lost control of the puck and was unable to get off a good shot.  

• Giroux found the soft spot in the high slot and unleashed a one-timer that Howard snared. On the ensuing faceoff, Nolan Patrick won the draw as the puck came out to Gudas, who fired a shot that popped up and over the net. Dale Weise beat Jonathan Ericsson around the net and then wrapped it around for a goal as Howard was late to cover the post.

• Travis Sanheim coughed it up in the neutral zone as he tried to skate the puck over center ice. The Flyers’ neutral zone play was brutal in that opening period. At least a half-dozen turnovers. The Flyers were credited with just three giveaways in the first period, but it certainly felt like a lot more than that.

• The Flyers allowed a brutal goal in the final seconds of the opening period as Dylan Larkin sent a cross-ice saucer through the defense. Andrew MacDonald swiped at it, but came up empty. Martin Frk snapped off a perfectly-placed and timed shot over Elliott’s blocker side shoulder. One way or the other, MacDonald has to prevent that pass so the Flyers get out of the period without allowing goal.

• The Flyers have been very good over the past eight games of eliminating stick penalties. However, Jordan Weal was whistled for a double minor high-sticking penalty after he caught Frans Nielsen up around his face along the Flyers’ bench, and it proved costly. 

• The Red Wings converted on the four-minute power play as Mike Green half-cocked a slap shot and placed it perfectly to Elliott’s blocker side. Elliott was screened on the shot and failed to pick it up off Green’s stick.

• While I still think Travis Konecny tries to do way too much with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, he drew a holding penalty on Ericsson along the boards that set up the Flyers with their first power-play opportunity of the game.

• The Flyers had some brilliant passing as Giroux sent a puck cross-ice to Jake Voracek, who in turn sent a touch pass down low to Wayne Simmonds for an easy tap-in goal. Howard simply couldn’t react fast enough and the Wings’ PK just couldn’t adjust that quickly.

• The Flyers failed to build any momentum off their game-tying goal, as just 40 seconds later the Wings forced them into another turnover when Valtteri Filppula turned the puck over behind the goal line. Henrik Zetterberg jumped all over it and sent a centering pass to a wide-open Nyquist on a play that Ivan Provorov should have covered.

• Kudos to rookie Hagg, who scored his first NHL goal on a big slap shot that beat blocker side.

"It feels pretty good,” Hagg said after the second period, “I had a few chances earlier this season, so to see that one go in feels pretty damn good."

• The Flyers opened up the scoring in the third period with a play that looked somewhat similar to their power-play goal earlier. It was all set up by Giroux’s thread-the-needle pass to Simmonds, who fed it over to Couturier. Couturier needed a second whack to push it past Howard for the goal. Giroux’s passing in this game was some of the best I’ve seen from any player all season. It was Couturier's 16th goal of the season, a new career-high.

• Aside from Giroux, Dylan Larkin may have been the second-best player in this game. The Wings’ top center was all over the ice, as he forced turnovers and created plays. He nearly made the Flyers pay for their sloppiness in their own end, but Hagg was there to block Larkin’s shot.

• The Flyers had some great pressure late in the third period started by the top line and then continued by the second line. In all, the Flyers spent about 1:15 in the Red Wings’ zone.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

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

Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Taylor Leier (upper body, day to day) and Mark Alt (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.