Flyers

The Ron Hextall-Dave Hakstol era ended with an unexpected restart the Flyers needed

The Ron Hextall-Dave Hakstol era ended with an unexpected restart the Flyers needed

Back in April, Ron Hextall spoke about pressure.

At the time, the Flyers weren't facing any overwhelming feeling of now or never.

They had just come off 42 wins and 98 points, both highs under Dave Hakstol in Year 3 of his tenure, took the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins to six games in the first round of the playoffs, and many of their core pieces experienced career years to coincide with the team's growing youthfulness.

The expectation for a bigger step, though, was starting to build and became magnified when the Flyers signed James van Riemsdyk on Day 1 of free agency. 

"We all have pressure," Hextall, now the Flyers' former general manager, said after the 2017-18 season. "Pro sports is pressure. There's pressure on all of us. Now how you handle that pressure, you better handle it right."

The Flyers couldn't get past it through two and a half months of this season as the pressure morphed into an unstoppable force.

Seeing how freely and crisply the Flyers played Tuesday night during a 3-2 win over the Red Wings, it became increasingly clear that the stresses and drama brewing off the ice were weighing down the players who dictate the whole show on the ice.

Can you fault them for feeling it? In just two weeks, their GM, assistant GM and an assistant coach were fired, setting up for three replacements to take over all while their head coach was in this weird limbo but squarely on the chopping block.

Yes, they are professionals and making good money to play this sport at a high level.

But they are also human beings.

The Flyers may not be Stanley Cup contenders, but they possess too much talent to be wallowing in last place of the Metropolitan Division and ranking among the league's bottom three in goals allowed, power-play percentage and penalty-kill percentage.

The Wells Fargo Center had a different aura Tuesday night.

The Flyers were a different team.

The walls no longer felt like they were falling in, so the Flyers didn't try to do too much and instead just played the game the way they should.

Fans were engaged with a positive outlook. The goalie of the future was making his NHL debut and a new voice was behind the bench. The fans weren't looking to jump all over the first mistake or call for Hakstol's head the second the opposition scored. 

That's not to blame the fans. It's simply pressure in pro sports, like Hextall said.

As the Flyers tried to save their coach's job after already seeing a significant shake-up atop the totem pole, that pressure would creep in and then pounce.

On Tuesday, a reset was felt — not pressure. The Flyers took control of the game. Carter Hart, at 20 years old, was in net. Scott Gordon, on an interim basis, was head coach.

"It has been a while since we've heard some 'Let's Go Flyers' chants, so it's pretty nice," Shayne Gostisbehere said at second intermission. "The kid is giving us something right now. He's giving us some energy, a jolt, something this team desperately needed."

The Hextall-Hakstol era ended Monday when the head coach was fired three weeks after the general manager who brought him here suffered the same fate.

It happened sooner than anyone saw coming, shockingly 31 games into this season.

And you can't help but wonder how much pressure played in finishing it off.

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Morgan Frost provides a highlight but Flyers are left looking for more answers following 4th straight loss

Morgan Frost provides a highlight but Flyers are left looking for more answers following 4th straight loss

BOX SCORE

Morgan Frost offered a snapshot of what the Flyers hope is a prosperous future for the skillful playmaker.

The present on Tuesday night did not depict as pretty of a picture.

The Flyers fell behind 4-1 during the second period, Carter Hart was yanked and a 5-2 loss to the Panthers at BB&T Center marked the final result.

Frost gave the Flyers a highlight on a night that didn't feature many for Alain Vigneault's club. The 2017 first-round pick deposited a dazzling goal in his NHL debut but the Flyers (10-7-4) dropped their fourth straight game, a losing skid that has come directly after a season-best four-game winning streak.

The Panthers (11-5-5) can score goals with the best teams in the NHL. They were also allowing 3.55 per game, fourth worst in the league, but kept the Flyers at bay.

• Hart had been so good in November. When he's not on his game, the Flyers can be exposed, which is exactly what happened against Florida.

The 21-year-old goalie entered 4-1-1 with a 1.77 goals-against average and .934 save percentage this month. He wasn't good Tuesday, the Flyers didn't help him and things unraveled.

The first period set the tone when the Panthers' first goal went off Andy Andreoff's stick. Then Hart allowed Brett Connolly to score from a crazy angle off the netminder's back.

Hart had allowed only one first-period goal over his previous five starts. Florida got him twice in the opening frame and ended his night midway through the second period with its fourth goal.

• The Flyers have now allowed more goals (61) than they've scored (60). During the four-game losing streak, they've scored 1.75 goals per game.

Vigneault continues to plead for more from his veterans. They simply have not answered his call and the Flyers are more than a quarter way into the season. The Flyers' record is very indicative of what they've received from their big boys.

Kevin Hayes recorded his first point in 10 games with a first-period assist on Travis Sanheim's goal. He played 19:01 minutes, four-plus at shorthanded. James van Riemsdyk went scoreless and played 12:56, his second-lowest ice time of the season. Jakub Voracek went scoreless, as well, in 15:31 minutes.

That trio has combined for 30 points in 21 games. The Flyers have to find a way to spark those three, along with Claude Giroux.

• Frost was a nice positive. He played with pace, he was active and was consistently a threat. His goal was very Frost-like.

Expect Vigneault to give him another game with Giroux and Travis Konecny.

• Joel Farabee made a costly turnover that led to Aleksander Barkov's second-period goal, which put the Flyers in a 3-1 hole. The Flyers were also slow to get back on the play. Bad all the way around (see highlights).

The 19-year-old was a minus-2 with three giveaways. He's a kid and there will be growing pains. Farabee snapped his stick in frustration when he went to the bench. Now it's a matter of seeing if he can play his way out of some struggles.

• Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen were a combined minus-5. Shayne Gostisbehere played only 14:33. While the Panthers pounced on mistakes, the Flyers couldn't fend them off or get much going at 5-on-5.

The Flyers went 0 for 2 on the power play.

• The Flyers stay on the road and visit the Hurricanes Thursday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

 

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Flyers' Morgan Frost scores first career NHL goal in filthy fashion

Flyers' Morgan Frost scores first career NHL goal in filthy fashion

When he received the news on Sunday that he was being called up to the Flyers, Morgan Frost thought about the hard work it took to make the NHL.

The kid scored 106 goals and 310 points in 257 junior hockey games for the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Over his final two seasons, he erupted for 221 points (79 goals, 142 assists) in 125 games.

That's a lot of scoring, which got him noticed.

“It’s obviously cliché, but it’s every kid’s dream, you dream about it growing up," Frost said Monday of being called up to make his NHL debut. "Honestly, after I got that call, I didn’t really know what to do for like an hour. So much joy, just so many things running through your head and everything you’ve worked for. Great feeling.”

Now he has the feeling of scoring his first career NHL goal. And, boy, did he show his skill while doing it Tuesday night against the Panthers at BB&T Center.

When the 20-year-old center gets in deep, he can make these types of plays on a goalie, even Sergei Bobrovsky.

Frost will always remember that one.

 

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