After 2 wins in Southern California, are Flyers out of water?

After 2 wins in Southern California, are Flyers out of water?

The Flyers went out West this week and appeared to have righted the ship with wins in Anaheim and Los Angeles.

It's calmer waters around here right now but have the Flyers turned a corner?

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall debate:

What a difference a few days make. Last weekend, the wheels fell off for the Flyers. Then, they were reassembled in Southern California during the first two legs of a four-game road trip. It's a dose of reality during the reactionary times we live in.

Maybe Dave Hakstol wasn't the team's biggest wart. Maybe firing Hakstol wasn't going to solve all the problems. Maybe a blockbuster move to change things up wasn't the answer.

But we weren't wrong in believing this. A lot of the same issues that have plagued this team the past three seasons resurfaced and you have to look at the one constant.

That is Hakstol. Realistically speaking, a decision on Hakstol would only have happened had this team gone out West and played the same way it did last Saturday in Philly.

Instead, the Flyers won two games, against a banged-up Ducks team and a bad Kings team. They were two games they should have won, and they did. Credit where credit is due.

Now, they face a real challenge Saturday night in San Jose with revenge on their mind. The Sharks are legit, and the Flyers learned that in their home opener.

The Flyers are far from out of the water, and drastic change remains on the table. Team defense remains leaky. The penalty kill stinks — eight PPGs allowed in the last six games.

Two important wins in SoCal doesn't erase anything. If they compete with the Sharks on Saturday night, then I'll say they're out of the water for now.

This team actually has expectations this season, and it hasn't gotten nearly close to showing us it deserves them. We can all use some patience, most of us have been using it.

That said, I don't believe we were wrong for being dramatic after last Saturday's loss to the Islanders. There were real reasons to consider going nuclear, no matter what history tells us.

Are the Flyers back? No.

Was their season in jeopardy after 11 games? No, that's even sillier.

Front office officials are not like fans. They don't react on emotion or make inflammatory decisions. 

And sports is such a what-have-you-done-for-me-now world. It's why so many live and die on every game. Fans love their team one day, then hate it the next. But they care, they're passionate, and it's great — I totally get it. They're just as important to the whole operation as anyone else. Fans make it go.

But sometimes, it's important to sit back, digest a game and then remember the bigger picture. The Flyers won back-to-back games against stumbling teams out West and suddenly there's some calmness to the storm. That's what a few victories can do.

But you don't see the Flyers acting like they won the Stanley Cup. Hakstol didn't crack a smile once in his postgame interviews. That's because they don't live and die with every game. They value every game, absolutely, but understand a deep breath and a glance at the long view is good.

So Saturday's matchup is important, just like the rest. I wouldn't treat it as this massive measuring stick or challenge, though. Because, really, the Flyers could lose to the Sharks, beat the Coyotes Monday and we'd consider a three-win four-game road trip a success.

And don't forget, a five-game homestand awaits and 36-goal scorer James van Riemsdyk is nearing a return. Maybe that got lost in the day-to-day, hour-by-hour panic.

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Flyers weekly observations: A serious concern, a roster decision, more

Flyers weekly observations: A serious concern, a roster decision, more

The Flyers are .500 entering next week after a 2-1-0 week.

Let's look at some observations from the week that was, which saw some goaltending issues, a defensive pair breaking up and a rookie potentially on the brink of demotion.

• Ron Hextall might be forced to do something about his goaltending situation — I know, obviously. But Brian Elliott has allowed too many soft goals, been too unreliable. The team defense has been porous, yes, but you need the goalie to make some saves. The Devils' second goal Saturday was just not a good one to give up. The four goals he yielded Tuesday weren't great, either.

Cal Pickard is a fringe NHL backup and Michal Neuvirth can't stay healthy. I don't think it's time to rush Carter Hart up, but the Phantoms have three goalies with Alex Lyon healthy. I think we'll see Lyon with the Flyers at some point. I think he would be here now if he hadn't suffered an injury himself. But the Flyers simply need better goaltending. Elliott was better Saturday, but the goaltending simply has to improve.

- Dougherty

• You have to wonder if the Flyers are contemplating a decision with Mikhail Vorobyev.

The decision being on whether to send him to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

With Nolan Patrick's return and Jordan Weal's showing, Vorobyev has become the odd man out down the middle. Weal is producing alongside Travis Konecny while displaying the blend of skill and all-around effort at center.

The Flyers won't move Jori Lehtera out of his fourth-line center role and playing Vorobyev on the wing doesn't make a ton of sense for his development. With 28-year-old Corban Knight here to be an extra center, having a 21-year-old rookie sit doesn't jive with the Flyers' ways.

Lineups can change after one or two games. Vorobyev was the preseason darling and started fast before a quiet four-game stretch put him out. He'll need some help to get back in the lineup. If not, playing with the Phantoms could be the course of action. 

- Hall

• Dave Hakstol's decision to break up Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere Saturday afternoon was an underrated excellent coaching decision. Provorov has had a worrisome start to the season and while I like the potential of a Provorov-Ghost pair, I just don't think it's a good fit. Provorov had his best game yet Saturday but still had two concerning turnovers (see story). While I have full confidence that he'll get back to the player we've come to expect, it is concerning to see him make the uncharacteristic mistakes he's made.

I think he'll perform better away from Gostisbehere. It also spreads out the defense, which with this group, they need. It was too top-heavy with Provorov-Gostisbehere.

- Dougherty

• Radko Gudas typically gets blown up for his mistakes but he's been quietly good.

He doesn't try to do too much, he just plays his game and understands his role.

When he's not being realized, that's a good thing. And he hasn't been the Flyers' problem on defense thus far. He's a team-best plus-4, he's blocking shots and he's not committing penalties.

Good stuff from Gudas so far as a bottom-pair defenseman.

- Hall

• Your Robert Hagg observation: Yes, the Flyers' second-year defenseman has more goals and points than Steven Stamkos. It won't last for long, so we'll savor it for now.

Jokes aside, Hagg has looked so much better this season with the puck, showing that offensive flash he had as a prospect in Sweden. He still needs to improve his 1-on-1 coverage and Thursday in Columbus, we saw some blips. Hagg's exit-zone passes still need improvement and he certainly can tighten up his defensive coverage this season, but overall, Hagg is evolving a bit.

- Dougherty

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End to End: Should we be concerned with Flyers' Nolan Patrick?

End to End: Should we be concerned with Flyers' Nolan Patrick?

Updated: 4:45 p.m.

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The question: Should there be concern over Nolan Patrick?

With the Flyers off today, we didn't expect an update on Patrick's status, but here we are. The Flyers revealed that Patrick will miss seven to 10 days with an "upper-body injury."

But it’s safe to speculate that Patrick could have a concussion. He left Wednesday’s game in Ottawa after this innocent collision where his head made contact with the boards.

Patrick suffered a concussion last season. It doesn’t take much to get one. But Patrick will be out seven to 10 days, which is a very specific timeline. That could mean it's another "upper-body injury" for Patrick, who was also whacked with a high stick in the first period Wednesday. Still, we won't know exactly what his “upper-body injury” is because being transparent about injuries isn’t in the Flyers’ nature. Losing Patrick for any significant time period would be devastating.

Already without James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers’ forward group is basically the same as last season except for Mikhail Vorobyev replacing Valtteri Filppula as the third-line center. Take Patrick out of the equation and the Flyers are in deep trouble.

The 20-year-old hasn’t found the scoresheet yet this season, but he’s shown flashes. I haven’t been discouraged by his play. Slow start, sure, but that’s it. But without him, the Flyers’ center group is depleted. If Patrick is out for a lengthy period, moving Claude Giroux back to the middle would likely be the team’s best card to play.

And that’s not ideal, either, because the top line finally clicked Wednesday.

We had to wait and see about the severity of Patrick's upper-body injury suffered in the first period of Wednesday night's 7-4 win over the Senators.

It could have been a possible concussion as head trainer Jim McCrossin was examining the area of Patrick's head on the bench. Patrick missed nine games last season because of a concussion, so there's a recent history there.

As for Patrick's somewhat slow start, don't be too concerned. In our Fearless Forecast predictions piece, I wrote how Patrick has more of a steady growth to his game than one crazy jump. Patrick just turned 20 years old last month and he's going to get more comfortable in the NHL, but that could still be developing.

Here's what his uncle James Patrick said to NBC Sports Philadelphia in June 2017.

He almost always wants to be comfortable and then he really starts to exert himself. I felt like every playoff round in three years that he played with Brandon, the first game it was always like, 'Come on, let's get going.' He had to feel out who's good on their team, who he might be intimidated by, whatever, and then by Game 4, he was the best player on the ice. 

It's almost like, 'OK, I have to feel it out first,' but then, 'OK, now I know what this guy is about, now I'm going to run him, I'm going to play hard, I'm going to be hard on him.' He will play that way.

He's just always been when he feels comfortable, then he starts to really excel.

So, Patrick might be a natural slow starter.

Is his production worth watching? Absolutely, but I wouldn't be overly concerned with zero points through three games and 3:30 of a period thus far. 

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