Flyers

Questionable hit on Oskar Lindblom should be added frustration for Flyers

Questionable hit on Oskar Lindblom should be added frustration for Flyers

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Through two home games, the Flyers have already dealt with two different levels of frustration.

The first was obvious. An 8-2 loss in the home opener explains it quite clearly. The Flyers were incensed by the result and wanted to make certain their next showing at the Wells Fargo Center was, at the least, acceptable.

The frustration Saturday wasn't just from playing a "hell of game," as head coach Dave Hakstol put it, to only lose in the final minute and half of regulation, 1-0 (see observations).

What should have ticked off the Flyers just as much was the hit on Oskar Lindblom midway through the third period. 

While the Flyers were in the offensive zone, Lindblom lost the puck along the side boards with Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb in coverage. As Lindblom stopped to retreat, McNabb slammed him face-first into the boards and appeared to use his forearm up against Lindblom's head.

The 22-year-old winger stayed down on the ice as play eventually stopped. He was helped off and never returned over the final 9:20 of regulation. No penalty was called on the hit and as the replay was shown on the Jumbroton, Flyers fans went berserk.

The play certainly could have been whistled a penalty. These types of hits, in which the head is impacted, have been penalized before by NHL officials. At the same time, Lindblom is 6-foot-1 and not fully upright on the play, compared to the 6-foot-4 McNabb (see video).

Hakstol had a good take on the play:

The ref was in a good spot on it. I haven't looked at it on tape. That's a big guy hitting a smaller … Oskar's not as big as he is. From my vantage point, was it a high hit? Yeah. Was it a penalty? I don't know, [the officials are] standing right there. They're in a spot to make the call. I can go back and ref by video, I'll go back and take a look at it. It looked like it could have been a high hit, they were right there in position, so defer to their call.

It's a tough play all the way around and a non-call that hurt the Flyers. If it's whistled, the Flyers go on the power play with a chance at the game's first goal and all the momentum. Instead, their second-line left winger exits and doesn't return. 

And the Flyers can ill-afford more injuries up front. 

They're already without James van Riemsdyk (lower-body injury) for five to six weeks and Nolan Patrick (upper-body injury) for seven to 10 days. Travis Konecny left practice Friday after taking a puck to the skate but was able to play, albeit only 11:50, while Scott Laughton took a spill into the boards Saturday and departed momentarily.

After two power plays in the first period, the Flyers never went on the man advantage again. They didn't get the call in the third, nor could they crack Marc-Andre Fleury, who made four highlight-reel saves, simply adding to the Flyers' frustration.

Sometimes, these losses sting just as bad as the embarrassing ones.

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Could this be the end of the road for Dave Hakstol as Flyers head coach?

Could this be the end of the road for Dave Hakstol as Flyers head coach?

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Dave Hakstol coached his 277th game behind the Flyers' bench Saturday night, and quite possibly his last one.

The third-longest tenured coach in franchise history is well aware of what’s being whispered and what’s flying around on social media and message boards after losing the final four games of this road trip. 

Now it appears Hakstol’s time in Philadelphia is coming to the end of the road.

“I know everything that is out there,” Hakstol said before the Flyers' 5-1 loss to the Canucks (see observations). “You know me well enough by now. I know everything in terms of the rumors and what’s going on out there. My only concern is what we do, and the rest, I have no real comment on.”

Sportsnet Canada’s Chris Johnston reported on Hockey Night in Canada, “With the Flyers wrapping up their road trip in Vancouver, it could be one where Chuck Fletcher is forced to make a change.”

Fletcher is at a crossroads. He turned down media requests and wouldn’t comment on any rumors regarding the status of his head coach, but the pressure to make moves only intensifies.

The week started with speculation that Fletcher was looking to upgrade the roster before the holiday freeze that goes into effect next week (see story), but that doesn’t address a more immediate concern.

Even if upper management feels as if Hakstol isn’t to blame for the myriad of problems, most notably the revolving door of injuries surrounding the goaltenders, how can you put the same coach behind the bench when the Flyers return home Tuesday against the Red Wings and face a passionate fan base demanding changes?

It’s a scene and situation that could turn ugly rather quickly.

“I have no control over that,” Scott Laughton, who scored the Flyers' only goal, said. “We’ve got to focus on what we can do to bring this locker room together and help our team win. It’s a sh---y feeling. That’s not my decision or anything to do with me. We've got to get back home and fix this quickly.”

“I’m not the one to judge,” Radko Gudas said. “We let our goalies down, we let our fans down, we let everybody down. It’s not on [Hakstol’s] shoulders entirely. It’s the fault of ours.” 

There’s faulty defense for starters. From the final 30 minutes in Winnipeg to the final 90 seconds in Calgary to the opening 12 minutes in Vancouver. The Flyers have seen games unravel in various forms lately.

“I don’t know what hockey gods we pissed off, but we’re getting some tough bounces and some untimely situations,” Jordan Weal said. “It’s tough sledding right now and we’re going to have to stick together.”

Which has been the oft-repeated message from the head coach. 

At this stage, how can you not find a new messenger?

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Canucks 5, Flyers 1: Could this be the end for Dave Hakstol?

Canucks 5, Flyers 1: Could this be the end for Dave Hakstol?

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — A year after the Flyers turned around their season in Western Canada, this trip may have cost Dave Hakstol his job (see story).

The Flyers turned in another dreadful effort Saturday night in a 5-1 loss to the Canucks at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The Canucks scored three times in the first 11-plus minutes.

The Flyers were swept in Western Canada, losing three games in four days.

Can you believe the Flyers lost yet another goalie to an injury and what should we make of Hakstol’s line combinations?

• I’m not sure what Hakstol’s thought process was with these new-look lines. Nolan Patrick goes from fourth-line checking center back to the second line, where he has just one point in his last 13 games. Jordan Weal and Jori Lehtera, two healthy scratches for the majority of this trip, are your third- and-fourth-line centers. James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny on a third line. It’s as if the coach threw darts on a dartboard. That third line was a big head-scratcher with no real defensive presence and very little time in the offensive zone.

• The Flyers had some real jump in the first three minutes but all of that was zapped once the Canucks scored the opening goal. As Shayne Gostisbehere stated after the Oilers' loss, the Flyers get “down on themselves” when trailing and they turn into a “negative bunch.”

• Somehow, the Flyers made Chris Tanev look like the next coming of Erik Karlsson as he took the puck from just inside the blue line and weaved his way through the Flyers' defense from the high slot and roofed a backhand shot over the shoulder of Anthony Stolarz. Tanev hadn’t scored a goal in his first 29 games, and yet Wayne Simmonds simply can’t allow that play to happen and his feeble attempt at defense was unacceptable.

• The Flyers pulled Stolarz after allowing two goals on four shots. Loui Eriksson’s goal was one Stolarz should have stopped as he was slow to react, perhaps the result of an injury. However, there were breakdowns galore leading up to that point. Gostisbehere was busy chasing and skating in circles during that entire sequence with the puck in the Flyers' zone and Weal completely overskated the rebound. 

• As for Weal, he could have had both loose puck opportunities on the Canucks' second and third goals. On the 2-0 goal, it appeared Weal completely overskated the puck and ran into Gostisbehere. On the 3-0 goal, Weal took a bad angle and wasn’t positioned between the puck and Josh Leivo, who fired a sharp-angled shot that certainly Alex Lyon should have stopped. Right now, there are very few forwards I trust to do their job in the defensive end of the ice.

• Apparently, Stolarz suffered some type of lower-body injury and was not on the bench for the Flyers to begin the second period. The Flyers resorted to having Rylan Toth on standby, an emergency backup goaltender supplied by Vancouver’s hockey ops department. The 22-year-old Toth plays for the University of British Columbia and was only on hand in the event something happened to Lyon.

• As for Tuesday’s game against the Red Wings, right now it appears Michal Neuvirth is in line to make the start after leaving Thursday to be with his wife, who’s expecting the birth of their child.

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