Flyers

Rob's Rants: Enough already with Dave Hakstol's coach-speak

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Rob's Rants: Enough already with Dave Hakstol's coach-speak

Rob’s Rants have been an Eagle-free zone for the past 10 weeks and clearly, that isn’t changing anytime soon. Let’s hope we can keep this run going well beyond Super Bowl Sunday and into the offseason. But there is one Philadelphia team that has not escaped the wrath and it’s not the Sixers or Phillies.

Dave Hakstol
The Flyers have been mired in a serious funk of late. They lost their eighth straight Monday, another heartbreaker at the hands of the Penguins. Their inability to hang on to leads and their lack of scoring contributions from anyone not named Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier or Jakub Voracek is a major issue. Despite good goaltending from Brian Elliott, this team continues to disappoint.

But even more unacceptable than the lack of scoring balance and late-game collapses are the comments from head coach Dave Hakstol. Exhibit A comes after his club blew a two-goal lead at home on Black Friday versus the Islanders.

“You’ve got to evaluate it for what it is," Hakstol said last Friday. "I think in seven of our last 10 we’ve gotten a point. Five of those are shootout or overtime losses.”

I’m not one who believes in flipping tables and calling players out after every loss, no matter how bad the defeat. That act grows old real quick with professionals in 2017. The days of Mike Keenan are gone. However, there is a fine line between setting fire to your dressing room and Hakstol’s postgame rationalizations. Publicly, he is a monotone, work-hard, muck-and-grind, generally-say-nothing type of coach. And that’s fine as long as he can motivate his players. Clearly, that’s not happening. In both losses to the Islanders, the Flyers were caught asleep in the defensive zone in the 3-on-3 overtime. It’s bad enough something like that happens once but the very next game? They are puck-watching while the other team scores the game-winner. That is discipline.   

Taking solace in getting seven points in your last 10 games is not just coachspeak, it’s irresponsible and sends a weak message to the players and the Flyers' devout fan base. Ron Hextall, a very patient man, went out on a limb when he hired Hakstol, who had no previous NHL coaching experience. So it will be interesting to see how much rope Hextall gives Hakstol if this continues. But as the old saying goes: It’s getting late early.  

NFL celebrations
We’ve certainly seen our fair share of touchdown celebrations with the number of times the Eagles have found the end zone this year. And ever since the NFL loosened up the reigns on post-touchdown fun, players and teams have gotten quite creative. Some love it, some hate it. This debate is pretty simple. If your team’s the one celebrating after a score, you love it. If it’s the opposition doing the choreography, you don’t.

Jim Harbaugh
For all the bluster, the Woody Hayes glasses, satellite camps, the bad khakis hiked up to his breasts and the thousand-yard stares, Jim Harbaugh has come up real small at Michigan. They’ve lost to Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State this year. All quality teams, but losing to all of them ain’t cutting it. In his three seasons in Ann Arbor, he’s 0-3 vs. Ohio State and 1-7 versus top-10 teams. Maybe lose all the antics and deliver a better offense.      

Young rookie
I’ve noticed several NFL broadcasters, but in particular, Troy Aikman use the term “young rookie.” With the exception of a Brandon Weeden, Chris Weinke or Drew Henson — who came back to football after failed baseball careers — aren’t all rookies young?

Christmas car gift
Christmas and holiday commercials are now in heavy rotation. There is one in particular that has driven me nuts for years. The husband or wife will come downstairs and be escorted outside, only to be presented with a brand new car with a bow on the hood. Maybe it’s me, I didn’t come from money, but I have yet to meet anyone who’s been given an extremely pricey, luxury car for Christmas. Who is this target audience?

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak

BOX SCORE

The Flyers developed a Muhammad Ali-type mentality Saturday night.

It was hockey’s version of the rope-a-dope, where the Flyers took the Dallas Stars' best punches early on before going the distance, eventually wearing down an opponent that was playing their third game in four nights.

The end result was a 2-1 Flyers victory, extending their season-high winning streak to six games (see observations).

In fact, the Stars attempted to set the tone on the opening shift when Stars captain Jamie Benn tried to rattle the cage of Claude Giroux. They tangled on their way back to the bench with Benn extending his glove underneath Giroux’s chin.

“We knew they were going to have a good push at the start of the game,” Brian Elliott, who has started all six games of the winning streak, said. "We knew they wouldn't be able to keep it up playing a back-to-back. I thought our guys did a really good job of sticking to that game plan and staying patiently persistent."

The Flyers also knew the Stars would come out of the gates flying after a disappointing 5-2 loss at New Jersey the night before.

“We’ve been on the other side of it,” Giroux said. “Playing a back-to-back, it’s not easy, especially when you’re traveling and we really wanted to take advantage of that. Other teams took advantage of us before.”

The Flyers started to turn up the heat in the opening minutes of the second period when they controlled play with extended shifts in the Stars' end of the ice, coupled with a pair of breakaway opportunities from Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek.

“That (second) period was the one for me where we pushed the game in our direction,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It was during the second period we were able to use everybody. Everybody was going and that allowed us to raise the pace of play a little bit.”

The Flyers were also propelled by their power play that finished the game 2 for 6 and a whopping 12 shots on net. After scoring on a rebound that deflected off the backboards, Shayne Gostisbehere landed the knockout blow with 1:10 remaining in overtime when "Ghost" blasted an overtime slapper during the 4-on-3 man advantage.

“A lot of that power play was going rover," Gostisbehere, who scored his fifth career overtime winner, said, "but you could tell we were feeding off each other, finding lanes and we were just relentless and a goal at the end just showed we weren't giving up there."

Stars coach and former Flyers bench boss Ken Hitchcock was attempting, for the second time, to become the third coach in NHL history to win 800 career games. Much of the reason he didn’t achieve the milestone was the careless penalties of forward Alexander Radulov, which led to both of the Flyers' power-play goals.

“It’s not team discipline, it’s individual,” Hitchcock said. “It’s disappointing to fight like we fought and battle. Come off, playing hard like this off a back-to-back, it’s really disappointing to take those two penalties at the end of the game.”

The Flyers also snapped a seven-game losing streak in contests that extended after regulation. The Flyers had dropped five of those in overtime and another two in the shootout.

“I thought we had a really positive attitude,” Elliott said. “I think everyone thought we would go out there for overtime and win. I didn’t think anybody had any doubts or anything. That’s all you can ask for going into those situations.” 

“I liked the way we approached overtime,” Hakstol said. “I didn’t think we pressed or pushed anything. We weren’t taking any long shifts, no high risk plays. I thought guys just went out and did their job and did it the right way.”

Right now, it’s a Flyers team that may not be floating like a butterfly, but they can certainly sting like a bee.

Craig Anderson leads Senators to 4th-ever outdoor shutout

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Craig Anderson leads Senators to 4th-ever outdoor shutout

OTTAWA, Ontario — Craig Anderson stopped 28 shots for his 40th career shutout, leading the Ottawa Senators to a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night in the NHL 100 Classic outdoor game.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Bobby Ryan and Nate Thompson scored for the Senators, who have consecutive wins for the first time in more than a month.

Carey Price was kept busy as he stopped 35 shots for the Canadiens, but didn't get any offensive support.

The temperature at puck drop was about 12 degrees. Despite the frigid temperatures 33,959 fans filled the stands at TD Place for the first outdoor game for the current Ottawa franchise. The game was part of the NHL's 100th anniversary celebration (see full recap).

Hutton saves 48 shots, outduels Mason in battle of former Flyers 
ST. LOUIS — Carter Hutton made a career-high 48 saves to earn his ninth career shutout as the St. Louis Blues beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-0 Saturday night.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Vince Dunn scored for St. Louis, which snapped a two-game skid.

Hutton improved to 5-2-0 a day after being activated from injured reserve after sustaining a lower body injury. He was tested early and often as Winnipeg peppered him with 15 shots in the first period and 21 more in the second.

Steve Mason, making his first appearance since Nov. 25, stopped 28 shots as Winnipeg lost for the fifth time in six games.

Tarasenko opened the scoring on a power play 9:16 into the first period when he buried a pass from Alexander Steen. That goal was Tarasenko's 15th of the season and third in his last 12 games. It snapped a streak of four games for St. Louis without a power-play goal (see full recap).

Ovechkin's goal gives Capitals OT win over Ducks
WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin scored on a slap shot at 1:58 of overtime, and the Washington Capitals rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 Saturday night for their sixth straight win at home.

Ovechkin's 23rd goal of the season came on a blast from the top of the right circle that beat Anaheim's John Gibson.

Washington took only 15 shots over the first 40 minutes and trailed 2-0 before Nicklas Backstrom knocked in the rebound of a shot by Ovechkin at 3:05 of the third period.

Evgeny Kuznetsov tied it just over four minutes later, beating Gibson on the stick side with a shot from the left circle.

Braden Holtby had 28 saves for the Capitals, who have won in a row and 10 of 12 (see full recap).

​Eberle's OT goal lifts Islanders past Kings
NEW YORK — Jordan Eberle scored 1:54 into overtime to lift the New York Islanders to a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.

John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee also scored to give the Islanders the lead after they trailed 2-0. Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots to help New York win for just the second time in seven games (2-4-1) and improve to 10-2-2 at home.

Oscar Fantenberg, Tyler Toffoli and Anze Kopitar scored for the Kings, who have lost three straight after an eight-game winning streak. Darcy Kuemper finished with 29 saves.

Kopitar tied the score 3-3 with 13 seconds remaining in regulation when he knocked the puck past Greiss after a scramble in the crease. Kopitar's team-leading 17th goal came after Lee had given New York a 3-2 lead with 3:16 left (see full recap).