Flyers-Maple Leafs observations: The win streak travels

Flyers-Maple Leafs observations: The win streak travels


The Flyers brought their recent road success back to the Wells Fargo Center, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, 4-2, for their fourth consecutive victory.

Sean Couturier scored the game-winner with 2:55 remaining in regulation when he beat Frederik Andersen glove side top shelf.

Couturier matched a career high with his 15th goal of the season.

Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton also scored for the Flyers, who trailed, 2-1, entering the third period.

After surrendering the first goal of the game, Brian Elliott settled in and stopped 20 of 22 shots for his fourth straight win. Elliott has allowed two or fewer goals in each of those four starts.

The Maple Leafs were forced to play without superstar Auston Matthews, who was out with an upper-body injury. Prior to Tuesday night, the Leafs were a perfect 5-0 in games Matthews had missed. 

• In the opening minutes of the first period, Leo Komarov got behind Radko Gudas. William Nylander’s pass was a little too far in front of Komarov, who would have had a wide-open look at Elliott. 

Gudas, who returned to the lineup after a 10-game suspension, had some early mixups with defensive partner Travis Sanheim. That is to be expected after a long layoff.

“It’s unbelievable, it feels great,” Gudas said at the first intermission. “I’ve had this date circled on the calendar. I’m looking forward to getting the two points and doing everything I can to help the boys out.”

• The Leafs had another excellent scoring chance after Nolan Patrick won a defensive faceoff. The Flyers got caught up along the boards when the Leafs gained control of the puck and James van Riemsdyk was able to maneuver in front of Patrick for a dangerous chance that went just wide of the net. If Patrick isn’t contributing offensively, he can still be responsible and protect the ice in his own end.

• Jordan Weal’s been playing better than Konecny lately and has been bumped up to the third line with Patrick and Dale Weise. Early on, Weal had a nice move but couldn’t extend his backhand shot around Andersen for the goal. Weal had an early burst in the first period.

• The Flyers ran a set play off the faceoff as Couturier backhanded the puck to the top of the circle and Giroux one-timed for a shot. It looked like Andersen wasn’t anticipating it and was slow to react. The goal was Giroux’s 13th of the season and he is now one shy of his 2016-17 total.

• Just 27 seconds later, the Leafs scored in transition when Patrick Marleau came down the left wing and snapped a shot past Elliott. The puck seemed to catch Elliott under his right arm. Elliott was square to the shot but it somehow trickled underneath his blocker for a goal he would certainly like to have back. 

• The Maple Leafs got away with a clear tripping as Komarov got his stick in the skates of Shayne Gostisbehere, who stumbled and then fell to the ice. Not sure what the referee was looking at, but if called the Flyers would have had a 5-on-3 power play for about 1:25. It was Komarov with a wicked boarding play on “Ghost” the last time these two teams faced each other on Oct. 28.    

• It’s always interesting to see the different methods that Ivan Provorov utilizes to play defense in his zone. Late in the opening period, Provorov dug his left shoulder into the rib cage of high-flying Mitch Marner in an effort to slow him down and separate him from the puck. 

• The Flyers opened up the second period with a sustained shift of around a minute with the line of Michael Raffl, Valtteri Filppula and Jakub Voracek doing the dirty work down low. The Flyers were able to generate four shots on Andersen. In fact, the Flyers outshot the Leafs, 7-0, in just the first three minutes of the second period.

• Elliott flashed some quick reflexes off a double deflection after Dominic Moore got a stick on the slap shot that went off Provorov. Elliott was quick to snag it with his glove. Minutes earlier, Nazem Kadri’s snap shot deflected off the left post.

• Gudas made a poor pass to Couturier, which led to a turnover. As the Leafs regrouped, Josh Leivo got behind Gudas on a clear breakaway when Elliott made his best save of the night to get enough of the glove on the puck and keep the game tied at 1-1. Gudas struggled in his first game back.

• Following a Voracek tripping penalty, the Leafs capitalized on their first power play of the game. Defenseman Morgan Reilly wristed a shot that JVR was able to deflect up and over Elliott. That was the first power-play goal allowed in five games after the Flyers’ PK was a perfect 6 for 6 on the recent three-game road trip.

• In the opening minute of the third period, Giroux had a grade-A opportunity. Couturier took a shot low that Andersen extended his pad on to create a perfect rebound opportunity for Giroux, who cut across the crease. Andersen was able to turn aside Giroux’s chance as well.

• After outshooting the Leafs by a wide margin, the Flyers finally tied the game up at 2-2 on a sequence that all started when Andersen hesitated on what he wanted to do with the puck from his net. As he tried to pass it out, the puck hit off Konecny and stayed in the offensive zone. Eventually, Konecny launched a shot that went off two Leafs players and past Andersen. For Konecny, he’ll take any goal he can get with just two over his last 20 games.

• After giving up that first goal, Elliott was locked in. The Leafs had a centering pass from behind the goal line right to Connor Brown, who got off a point-blank shot. Elliott seemed to read it perfectly and made a dangerous play look rather easy.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Travis Konecny

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Forward Jori Lehtera (healthy) and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).

A timeline of the Flyers' massive shake-up with more to come

A timeline of the Flyers' massive shake-up with more to come

Did anyone envision this sort of drama 31 games into the Flyers' 2018-19 season?

It's Dec. 17 and the Flyers have already fired a general manager, assistant general manager, head coach and assistant coach, while naming a new GM, assistant GM, interim head coach and starting the search for a long-term bench boss. 

And that's not to mention this is a team with a blend of veterans and youth stuck in last place of the Metropolitan Division.

A lot has happened in the past three weeks, even 24 hours.

Let's break it all down:

Monday, Nov. 26 — Hextall's process cut short

This was the first shoe to drop as the Flyers stunned many by firing general manager Ron Hextall. 

The move was a massive shift in the organization's direction because it created a chain reaction of inevitable — and significant — changes to follow.

Flyers president Paul Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott wanted more progress and action in Year 5 under Hextall — and maybe a little more openness to ideas, as well.

Wednesday, Nov. 28 — Two more get the door

Just two days later, the Flyers fired assistant general manager Chris Pryor and assistant coach Gord Murphy. 

Pryor's axing wasn't a surprise after Hextall was let go, but it was quite notable given Pryor had spent the last 20 years in the organization and was integral to the team's renewed scouting efforts.

He was considered Hextall's right-hand man, while Murphy was on staff prior to Dave Hakstol's arrival. Ironically, as Hakstol's job was put in serious jeopardy with Hextall's firing, the head coach actually gained some pull, being consulted by Holmgren on the decision to relieve Murphy of his duties.

Monday, Dec. 3 — New sheriff in town

A different era of Flyers hockey begun when the team named Chuck Fletcher its new executive vice president and general manager a week after firing Hextall.

Scott was eyeing a candidate with a "bias for action" and the Flyers found their guy in Fletcher. Scott commended Fletcher for his "deep experience" and "easy, open management style, leadership style."

Fletcher came from outside the organization, an emphasis made by Holmgren, and with a track record of making things happen, specifically in his last stop as general manager of the Wild from 2009 to 2018 (see story).

With Fletcher's introduction, Hakstol and the Flyers were essentially put on the clock.

"I want it to work, I want to be successful with this group," Fletcher said Dec. 5. "It's not threats or anything, but if we don't have the solutions in-house, we'll look outside. There's no timetable for any of that, other than we're just trying to get better."

A day after Fletcher was named GM, Rick Wilson was brought on board as the new assistant coach, a North Dakota product and Hakstol guy.

Wednesday, Dec. 12 — Fletcher's sidekick

Brent Flahr, who oversaw scouting and the NHL draft with the Wild from 2010 to 2018, was reunited with Fletcher last week when named Flyers vice president and assistant general manager.

“He has a good eye for talent and Brent is very familiar with many of the Flyers' [scouts],” Fletcher said. "They’ve already been communicating and I think it will be a seamless transition, where there’s a lot of mutual respect. I think it will work very well with the guys that are currently on our staff.”

Monday, Dec. 17 — Hakstol era ends

A chaotic and confusing 24 hours commenced following a 1-3-1 road trip in which the Flyers allowed 22 goals over four straight losses.

A report came out Sunday that Hakstol was being fired but two team sources confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia that no decision had been made.

Eighteen hours later, the Flyers announced Hakstol had been fired and was being replaced by Scott Gordon on an interim basis.

A crazy three weeks — and really, it's just the beginning.

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Flyers fire Dave Hakstol: 5 takeaways from Chuck Fletcher's press conference

Flyers fire Dave Hakstol: 5 takeaways from Chuck Fletcher's press conference

The Dave Hakstol era ended Monday when the Flyers fired the head coach 31 games into the 2018-19 season (see story).

General manager Chuck Fletcher discussed the decision and much more during a press conference at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.

Here are the top five takeaways from the 17-minute session:

1. Not so fast on Quenneville

Joel Quenneville has been the sexy name to become the Flyers' new head coach ever since he was fired by the Blackhawks on Nov. 6.

Yes, nearly six weeks before Hakstol's firing, Quenneville was on everyone's radar and understandably so — the Flyers were off to yet another slow start in Year 4 under Hakstol and a three-time Stanley Cup champion head coach was put on the market.

According to a report Sunday by Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post, Quenneville was offered the Flyers' position and had accepted.

Fletcher refuted that report.

First of all, he remains under contract to the Chicago Blackhawks. I can confirm I have not asked for permission from Chicago to speak with Joel for the reasons I just mentioned. I have not spoken with Joel, I haven't spoken with Joel in probably over two years. I shot him a text a few months ago after he was let go, just wishing him well.

I'm not trying to be coy, I'm being as honest as I can — 100 percent, I've never spoken with Chicago to ask for permission.

This doesn't mean Quenneville isn't in the Flyers' picture — he should be and it would be shocking if he wasn't.

But naming a new head coach is not in the works for this season, because …

2. 'Until I know what I'm looking for, I can't find it'

The Flyers are moving forward with Scott Gordon on an interim basis for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.

"My expectation is that Scott will be the coach for the rest of the year," Fletcher said.

Why is that? Well, Fletcher is only two weeks on the job and is still learning about the players on the current roster and how they'll best respond to a certain type of coach. Fletcher likes Gordon because he has been in the organization as the head coach of AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and also brings NHL coaching experience. 

"People I respect rave about his character, his preparation, his intellect," Fletcher said.

"I'm trying to identify what characteristics we need in a head coach to make this team successful and, in all honesty, I'm not sure how long that will take. Until I know what I'm looking for, I can't find it. At this point, everybody's a candidate going forward."

This is a good idea. At this point, the 2018-19 season might even be a wash (although Fletcher and the players won't agree with that belief because, ultimately, the playoffs are the goal).

But why rush the decision? Allow Fletcher to perform an extensive search and process in finding the right fit. Also, at the end of the season, the landscape of available coaches will be much broader and clearer, so patience is wise in this situation.

3. Why Hakstol is out

The player-coach relationship is an important one for Fletcher.

There was obviously a breakdown in that regard with Hakstol and the roster — or at least the head coach's message and methods were no longer resonating with the players.

"I came away tremendously impressed with Dave as a human being, but to my eyes, there was a disconnect between what he was preaching and how the players were playing," Fletcher said. "As the leader of the team, that responsibility falls on him and I felt at this point, we needed a new voice.

"There's obviously an onus on the players to buy into what the coach is saying and I addressed that with the players today before practice."

All of which is why Fletcher has to be as precise as possible in his search and new hire.

While some would debate if Hakstol lost his players, Fletcher said he wasn't concerned about effort and heart.

"Dave tried, Dave was prepared, Dave's smart, Dave's a good coach," Fletcher said.

"When the message wasn't received, you just get to a point where this is what happens — you make a change.

"I recognize our inconsistencies, but I recognize our talent. They believe in each other, they compete hard. Our compete isn't the issue. … We have to find a way not to make the game so hard some nights. And that's our challenge."

On a separate note, Fletcher said the team has no intention right now to replace assistant coaches Rick Wilson (defensemen), Kris Knoblauch (power play), Ian Laperriere (penalty kill) and Kim Dillabaugh (goalies).

4. Hart here to stay?

About two hours before the Flyers fired Hakstol, they recalled 20-year-old goalie Carter Hart, which created a social media storm of mixed reactions (see video). But reading between the lines, it doesn't necessarily sound as if Fletcher plans on keeping Hart with the Flyers long term.

We have some injuries in goal. Honestly, we've tried every goalie in our organization. It's probably not the ideal time to give Carter a game, but Carter's playing really well and he's a professional hockey player. He's a strong kid mentally. He'll go in and give his best. He'll go in and give his best. I have no worries about Carter Hart long term. He's going to be a very good goalie for this franchise.

The Flyers' goaltending situation is, in a word, wacky. Between injuries and strictly abysmal netminding, they've already used five goalies. If Hart plays a game, it will be a franchise-record six.

Fletcher provided an injury update on Brian Elliott, who's been out since Nov. 16 with a lower-body injury, and it certainly doesn't sound promising.

"It's more than week to week," Fletcher said. "I don't want to characterize it as month to month, so how about we say I don't expect him prior to Jan. 1, and we'll see after that."

When asked if Hart would be here for the meantime or for a game or two, Fletcher said, "That will remain to be seen."

The door remains open that Fletcher adds a veteran goalie before the roster freeze goes into effect Wednesday at midnight. Until then, Hart is here, but that very well could change too.

5. Let's make a deal?

It's no secret that Fletcher has had a busy two weeks on the job and it's certainly not slowing down any time soon. No one would be surprised if the Flyers made a trade before midnight Wednesday.

But Fletcher didn't sound like a GM who's going to make a move before Dec. 19 for the sake of making a move. He said he's identified areas the Flyers need to improve but the "timing is difficult."

"You have to be careful sometimes with sample size," Fletcher said. "You watch five, six games and you know, you see guys get six goals in six games and then the next six they get zero, so I want to be a little bit careful about what I've seen is really how the players are."

The Flyers are expected to be major players in the trade market this season, but while Fletcher reportedly would like to make a move before the roster freeze, it didn't sound like something was imminent.

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