Flyers

Dave Hakstol's unconventional decisions do the trick for Flyers

Dave Hakstol's unconventional decisions do the trick for Flyers

PITTSBURGH — When Dave Hakstol decided to push a few buttons prior to Game 5, the initial reaction was the noise that rings out when a toddler sits down at a piano for the first time.

Valtteri Filppula centering Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek? Dale Weise back in the lineup for the first time in 23 days? Starting a goalie that many feared would pull up with a groin injury midway through the second period? And of course, the only defense pairing that’s remained intact is Brandon Manning with Radko Gudas. 

None of it sounded all that good, but desperate times apparently call for unconventional coaching decisions. Hakstol found a way to string a few notes on a sheet of music, and while he may not be considered the NHL’s Beethoven behind the bench, Friday's game at least left you tapping your foot to the beat.

And somehow it all came together.

Consider: How may teams can cycle through three different goaltenders and three different No. 1 centers five games into a playoff series against the two-time champions and still live to see another day?

Even Claude Giroux, the franchise’s No. 1 center for most of the past decade, was singing Filppula’s praises. 

“He’s a smart player and he’s in great position all the time,” Giroux said. “We did some nice plays. I think it’s probably the first time I’ve played with him. He’s easy to play with. It was fun.”

But ultimately the Flyers needed a showstopper in net. General manager Ron Hextall pointed that out Thursday before the team charter departed for Pittsburgh. 

Brian Elliott had been pulled in two of his four starts in this series, and while it was a mere footnote of a dreadful 5-0 shutout loss in Game 4, the decision to give Michal Neuvirth the nod over Petr Mrazek as Elliott’s backup could very well be the single biggest reason the Wells Fargo Center is hosting a Game 6 Sunday.

“We just felt Neuvy looked sharp in practice,” Hakstol said. “He went in the other night and got some game action. Just talking it through with Kim Dillabaugh, our goaltending coach, he was the right choice.”

Sidney Crosby would agree. The Penguins superstar had scored at will in this series, and the only time he had been denied on the doorstep was the result of some sort of stick malfunction in Game 2 that saw his shot miss the net completely.

But with 50 seconds remaining Neuvirth’s glove was better than Crosby’s stick. He not only saved the game but the Flyers' season as well.

“He made some huge saves the end of the third period there to able to go across (robbing Crosby)," Giroux said. "When he plays cocky, he’s pretty good.”

Neuvirth now has a 3-1 record with a .960 save percentage in five career postseason games with the Flyers.

Giroux also referred to the Flyers' Game 5 win as the team’s best overall game in this series.

Of course, this time of the season it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, it just has to be good enough that it doesn’t leave your ears bleeding.

NHL draft 2018: Preview, start time, pick order, live stream and how to watch Round 1

NHL draft 2018: Preview, start time, pick order, live stream and how to watch Round 1

The 2018 NHL draft has arrived and the Flyers are about to get busy.

The team owns nine picks, including two in Friday night's first round.

Day 2 of the draft kicks off Saturday morning with Rounds 2-7. We'll have everything you need to know for then, but first, let's get you set for Day 1.

Essentials, Day 1

When: June 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: American Airlines Center (Dallas)
Network: NBCSN
Live stream: NBCSports
Social media: @NBCSPhilly 

Order

1. Buffalo Sabres
2. Carolina Hurricanes
3. Montreal Canadiens
4. Ottawa Senators
5. Arizona Coyotes
6. Detroit Red Wings
7. Vancouver Canucks
8. Chicago Blackhawks
9. New York Rangers
10. Edmonton Oilers
11. New York Islanders
12. New York Islanders
13. Dallas Stars
14. Philadelphia Flyers
15. Florida Panthers
16. Colorado Avalanche
17. New Jersey Devils
18. Columbus Blue Jackets
19. Philadelphia Flyers
20. Los Angeles Kings
21. San Jose Sharks
22. Ottawa Senators
23. Anaheim Ducks
24. Minnesota Wild
25. Toronto Maple Leafs
26. New York Rangers
27. Chicago Blackhawks
28. New York Rangers
29. St. Louis Blues
30. Detroit Red Wings
31. Washington Capitals

Targets

The Flyers would like to add more pure goal-scoring wingers to their system, while general manager Ron Hextall said last week they need to "restock a little bit" on defense, preferably with a right-handed shot. And, the GM also likes to build down the middle with versatile centers, which he's done early the previous two drafts.

So, the Flyers could go a number of ways at picks Nos. 14 and 19.

Let's take a look at their potential first-round targets:

Profile: RW Oliver Wahlstrom

• Profile: C Jack McBain

• Profile: D Rasmus Sandin

• Profile: D Ryan Merkley

• Profile: RW Dominik Bokk

• Profile: D Noah Dobson

• Profile: C Rasmus Kupari

• Profile: RW Martin Kaut

• Profile: LW Grigori Denisenko

• Profile: C Jesperi Kotkaniemi

• Profile: RW Serron Noel

• Profile: LW Joel Farabee

• Profile: C Barrett Hayton

• Profile: C/LW Isac Lundestrom

• Profile: C Joseph Veleno

• Profile: RW Vitali Kravtso

Trades?

With two first-round spots and nine selections overall, the Flyers will certainly be open to trade talks, whether it's moving up, back or even a player.

Last year, Hextall made quite a bang on Day 1 shortly after 9:30 p.m. and swapped picks twice on Day 2.

What should we expect this time around?

• Will the Flyers make both of their 1st-round picks?

Trade talks or contract talks? The latest on Simmonds

Hextall doesn't plan on trading up in draft, but ...

Moving up has been Hextall's draft strategy

Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2

Other recommended reading

• Prospects Flyers could select with 14th overall pick

• Prospects Flyers could select with 19th overall pick

Ty Smith, with little bit of Gostisbehere and Provorov, should attract Flyers

• History of the 14th overall pick

• History of the 19th overall pick

• NHL draft position preview: Center

• NHL draft position preview: Left wing

• NHL draft position preview: Right wing

• NHL draft position preview: Defensemen

Full breakdown of Flyers' 2018-19 schedule

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USA Today Images

Full breakdown of Flyers' 2018-19 schedule

The NHL released the 2018-19 82-game regular-season schedule for all 31 teams Thursday night as the Flyers will open up in Las Vegas Oct. 4 before continuing on to Colorado Oct. 6 and then hosting the San Jose Sharks Oct. 9.

The Flyers' entire schedule can be found here.

Month-by-month breakdown

• October —12 (six home, six away, one back-to-back)
• November — 12 (seven home, five away, one back-to-back)
• December — 14 (four home, 10 away, three back-to-backs)
• January —13 (seven home, six away, two back-to-backs)
• February —13 (nine home, four away, two back-to-backs)
• March — 15 (seven home, eight away, three back-to-backs)
• April — 3 (one home, two away, no back-to-backs)

The Flyers have just 12 games on back-to-back nights, which is typically on the low end of a team’s schedule — they’ve had at least 15 back-to-backs in each of the past three seasons. Last season, the Edmonton Oilers had the fewest back-to-backs with just nine. 

Home-and-homes

The Flyers have a pair of home-and-home dates on their schedule — Nov. 5-8 against the Arizona Coyotes and a true home-and-home with the Detroit Red Wings Feb. 16-17.

December road tripping

The Flyers have two separate five-game road trips within the month of December. Last season, the Flyers' longest road trip was four games to begin their 82-game schedule. From Dec. 8-15, the Flyers will hit all four time zones starting in Buffalo before wrapping up the trip in Vancouver.  

Much less travel over second half

The midway point of the Flyers' season comes after Jan. 5 at home against the Calgary Flames. Over their final 41 games, they will leave the Eastern time zone just three times in a span of four games (Feb. 12 at Minnesota, March 21 at Chicago, April 2-4 at Dallas and St. Louis).

Waiting for the champs

Alex Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals come to South Broad for the first time on March 6 and again eight days later on March 14 in their only two games at the Wells Fargo Center.

The rival Pittsburgh Penguins don’t come to Philadelphia until Feb. 11 and the Flyers will host them one final time just 12 days later when they face off at Lincoln Financial Field as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

November is easiest

The Flyers' easiest month comes in November with just 12 games over 30 days, including a five-game homestand from Nov. 8-17. Of their 12 opponents, only five made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

A kind finish?

The Flyers close out the regular season with eight non-playoff contenders over their final 10 games, including their last five games.  

Other games of interest

• Friday after Thanksgiving — vs. New York Rangers at 1 p.m. 

• New Year's Day — at Nashville Predators at 8:30 p.m.