Flyers

Dave Hakstol's situation gets even weirder … and better?

Dave Hakstol's situation gets even weirder … and better?

What a bizarre and uneasy time for Dave Hakstol.

First, he finds out his future will be a can kicked down the road to a complete outsider after the axing of his previous boss.

Then, a day later, he's actually in consultation with Paul Holmgren about another shake-up, this one involving assistant coach Gord Murphy, who was fired Wednesday along with assistant general manager Chris Pryor.

With that, you wonder if Hakstol would have ever been in consultation over such a personnel move when Ron Hextall was running the show as general manager.

When the Flyers stumbled through the first two months of the season and saw glaring struggles in specific areas — special teams, goaltending, defensive play — the coaching staff of Hakstol, Murphy (defensemen), Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill) and Kim Dillabaugh (goalies) remained untouched.

Another slow start with a core group expected to make bigger strides this season would have suggested some sort of change, which often comes to a coaching staff.

Just two days after Hextall was removed from his GM chair, the Flyers made a change within their coaching group and Hakstol was consulted.

That says a lot.

Would Hakstol have made a switch earlier if consulted? It's fair to question.

Murphy and Laperriere were on staff prior to Hakstol's arrival. Fewer than two months after Hakstol was named head coach, Dillabaugh came to the Flyers from the Kings, where Hextall won a Stanley Cup as an assistant general manager. Knoblauch was brought on board in June 2017, a move Hakstol at least had discussions about with Hextall.

The defense has been one of many sore spots in 2018-19. The Flyers have allowed the NHL's third-most goals per game at 3.59. They've allowed 86 goals through 24 contests compared to 73 in the first 24 last season.

Obviously, this doesn't fall on just the blueliners; it's on the forwards and goalies, too. But the defensemen haven't been great, while Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere have experienced some surprising lumps after stud performances in 2017-18.

Holmgren on Tuesday sounded like he wanted to hear from Hakstol.

"I said if there was anything I could to help you do your job better, please feel free to come and talk to me about it," the Flyers' president said. "Talked a little bit about his staff moving forward, that was about it. He knows, we have the players know, the coaches know, we all know it's about winning. We haven't been winning enough games lately and we need to get back to work."

Ironically, with no GM in place, Hakstol has pull right now while his future is kicked like a can down the road.

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Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

BOX SCORE

The Flyers didn't bring their A-game to a game they needed it.

There would be no giant killing Saturday as the Flyers lost to the Lightning, 5-3, at Amalie Arena.

Goals from Ivan Provorov, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux weren't enough for the Flyers (32-20-7), who are 6-3-2 against the Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Penguins and Blues, the league's top five clubs.

Tampa Bay is the only one the Flyers haven't beaten. They'll get a final crack at the Lightning on March 12 in the same building.

The Lightning (39-15-5) have won 10 straight games.

• This really wasn't a bad loss for the Flyers.

They were at the end of a road trip and playing the NHL's hottest team. Tampa Bay is 22-2-1 over its last 25 games and hasn't lost at home since Dec. 19.

The Flyers entered Saturday with a 66.9 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com, and still hold an Eastern Conference wild-card spot (see standings).

Alain Vigneault's team just needs to recharge and be ready for a big home-and-home set against the Blue Jackets next week.

• Things got chippy in the second period. Travis Konecny was right in the middle of it all.

Steven Stamkos appeared to trip Giroux before a faceoff. Giroux didn't even look to be that mad about it.

During the final 6:09 of the middle frame, 22 penalty minutes were accrued.

• Brayden Point (10-game point streak) is good at hockey.

• Carter Hart, who was coming off his first road victory since Nov. 10, allowed four goals on 23 shots.

The 21-year-old wasn't the problem.

The first goal was a fluky one by Alex Killorn. On the second, Provorov was sloppy with the puck in the defensive zone and Tampa Bay capitalized to take a 2-0 lead into first intermission.

In the middle stanza, the Lightning beat Hart on a 3-on-2 to grab a commanding 3-0 advantage. Tampa Bay improved to 33-4-3 when it scores three or more goals.

Not only are the Lightning really good, but the Flyers also didn't play their typical forechecking, possession-based game until it was too late.

• Outside of the van Riemsdyk's third-period goal, Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy was strong with 30 saves, 15 of which came in the final stanza. 

Vasilevskiy improved to 18-0-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average and .940 save percentage over his last 19 starts.

• Provorov was far from his best against Tampa Bay but he did score the Flyers' first goal to trim the Lightning's lead to 3-1 in the second period. He also had an assist.

The 23-year-old has grown into a power play quarterback this season. He leads all NHL defensemen with seven man advantage goals after scoring only two over his first three NHL seasons.

• Travis Sanheim played 19:43 minutes Saturday after missing almost the entire third period of Thursday's 6-2 win over the Panthers because of a lower-body issue.

• The Flyers are off Sunday, practice at 11:30 a.m. Monday in Voorhees, New Jersey and host the Blue Jackets Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Saturday's game should be a good one.

The Flyers and Lightning are two of the hottest teams in the NHL. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers have the league's most goals (52) and only one team has more points (21) — the Lightning (27).

Tampa Bay is also on a nine-game winning streak and 21-2-1 over its last 24 games.

The big showdown comes a little earlier than usual. Puck drop will be shortly after 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, with Flyers Pregame Live set for 3:30 p.m. ET.

The matchup finishes off a three-game road trip for the Flyers, who then play four of their next five games at the Wells Fargo Center.

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