Flyers

Jordan Weal talks nearly going to Vegas, 'politics' that kept him in AHL

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Jordan Weal talks nearly going to Vegas, 'politics' that kept him in AHL

VOORHEES, N.J. — It was just a week ago that Jordan Weal was faced with yet another nail-biting deadline.  

Only this time he was trying to move all of his stuff out of his Boston apartment before the lease expired. Weal believed he had prepared for everything until he encountered some bad wiring on the rental trailer he was preparing to tow for his trip back to Philadelphia — a problem that took some eight hours to repair, placing his commute in jeopardy.

“It was tense getting things moved out for sure,” said Weal, who found himself more relaxed skating with teammates this week in Voorhees, New Jersey.

Weal’s latest expedition just seemed to sum up what was the most nerve-racking, yet rewarding summer of his professional career leading up to a two-year extension worth $3.5 million. 

“Going into free agency, I had no idea what to expect," he said. "It was kind of a whirlwind with all of the stuff going on, especially with the Vegas stuff. That was changing everything. I was just sitting back and letting my agent do everything."

The “Vegas stuff” Weal is referring to was the expansion draft that took place 10 days prior to free agency. The Vegas Golden Knights had their sights set on Weal, along with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, as their Flyers selection. As humbled as Weal was to be wanted by the NHL’s newest franchise, he made it known through his agent, J.P. Barry, that he wanted to stay in Philadelphia. The Flyers and Weal reached an agreement just days before the start of free agency on July 1.

“I was really happy to get something done with the Flyers and come back here," Weal said. "It's a great organization, one of the best organizations in the league. Just a sense of comfortability, knowing everybody, coming back and building off what we had last year."

Weal proved his worth down the stretch run with eight goals and 12 points from Feb. 28 to the end of the season, primarily playing on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.  

“They’ve been in the league so long, both of them,” Weal said of Filppula and Simmonds. “They’re just great players and I can’t say enough about those two. It was a pleasure to play with them. Hopefully, we can start the year again together.”

The fact that Weal had to wait until February to finally get his NHL shot was frustrating to him and mind-boggling to his former Phantoms assistant coach Riley Cote, who spoke about the situation with Broad Street Hockey.

“This guy outgrew the American Hockey League two years ago," Cote said. "Unfortunately, he was screwed with politics last year with the Flyers, and I don’t remember how many games he ended up playing.”

According to the BSH article, Cote didn’t elaborate on what those politics were and Weal couldn’t say for certain what kept him in the AHL perhaps longer than expected, but he had high praise for Cote.

“I’m not sure [about the politics], but Cotesy was an awesome coach and for whatever reason, he’s out of the organization now," Weal said. "Guys down in Allentown really loved him. He’s a player’s coach. He played the game for such a long time in such a hard way. He knew every style of play and every player’s personality and how to coach him. I heard he had some great things to say in that interview.”

If you’re wondering how Weal is wired, more so than his rental trailer, look no further than his parents — his father, Kelly, and his mother, Shelley — whom he calls the “yin and yang” in helping him navigate his NHL career. Dad is the watchdog-type while mom keeps Weal grounded.

“My dad gets a little wrapped in it, but my mom, she definitely keeps me down to earth,” Weal said. "She says, ‘All your buddies back home are sitting at an eight-hour desk job and you get to play hockey for three hours a day.'

"It’s pretty nice to do what we’re doing. You've just got to step back sometimes, and when things aren’t where you want to be or going the way you want, you have to remember you’re playing a game and you have to work hard to get what you want. [The politics] definitely popped into my head a couple of times, but you can’t get all consumed in it, and you’re not doing yourself any favors.”

And as Weal has found out, just getting from Point A to Point B is never as easy as it looks.

Claude Julien gets last laugh in return to Boston

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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.