Flyers

Where is Dave Hakstol's sixth sense?

Where is Dave Hakstol's sixth sense?

VOORHEES, N.J. — Movie director M. Night Shyamalan may have created the sixth sense, and some of the more successful coaches in the NHL actually possess it. 

No, not the ability to see dead people, but rather, the recognition of assessing in-game situations and taking an immediate and proactive course of action before the team and the game itself begins to unravel.

Predators coach and former Flyers bench boss Peter Laviolette had an uncanny ability to utilize his only timeout at a moment when the team needed desperately to refocus during a stretch of poor hockey. Laviolette may have signaled for one during a lackluster first period or at the first sign of trouble in the third period.

He’d rip the gum out of his mouth and begin the process of chewing out his guys. His face would turn red and his temperature would rise as if it was measured by the red liquid in a thermometer. More often than not, Laviolette’s teams responded swiftly and appropriately to his message. He had an ability to seize the moment when others may not have seen it coming.

It’s a club Hakstol simply doesn’t have in his bag.

Hakstol prefers to hold onto his timeout predictably when the Flyers are down a goal late in the third period to draw up a play on the dry-erase board or to give his players a breather following an icing call. Rarely, if ever, is that timeout taken in an effort to overcome the opposition’s surge of momentum.

Same can be said for Hakstol’s decision to make a goaltending change.

In the Flyers' two most recent lopsided losses, both 5-1 setbacks to the Penguins and Rangers, Hakstol chose to pull Elliott after two periods with the outcomes pretty much decided heading into the third period. 

Regarding the Flyers' loss to New York Tuesday night: "We put [Elliott] in a pretty tough spot," Hakstol said postgame (see story). "Looking back on it, I could make the change after the fourth goal, but I felt like we put him in pretty tough spots tonight with the opportunities that we gave up in the first 30 minutes of the game."

While every coach seems to possess hindsight, not every coach has the appropriate sense of foresight. Goaltending changes can be the result of poor play in net and Elliott wasn’t great Tuesday night, but the decision can also take on a dual-purpose. Give the backup playing time while also attempting to ignite a spark up and down the bench.

Send a message that it’s not the goaltender’s responsibility alone for digging this hole, but since he can’t bench all 18 skaters, bench the goalie as a result of everyone else’s poor play. 

In both losses to the Penguins and Rangers, once Hakstol decided to replace Elliott with Neuvirth, the Flyers were facing a 4-1 and 5-1 deficit, respectively, heading into the third period. The coach would have had better success creating a spark by rubbing two sticks together.

Over the course of an 82-game season, it’s important for a coach to remain consistent with his message. Over the duration of a 60-minute game, that message is tailored around the team’s performance. Moments and situations elicit when a coach should be bold with his words or more reserved.

Judging by his manner and behavior behind the bench, Hakstol’s barometer rarely tilts one way or the other, and the team has seemingly taken on the personality of its coach, especially at times when urgency is required.

“It’s got to be the same this time of year,” Hakstol said when asked about the team’s mindset following a 5-1 loss. “It’s never as bad you think and it’s never as good as you think. Address the issues, be direct about it, fix them and move forward.”

However, the Flyers are now 27th in the league when trailing after the first period and 25th when trailing after two periods. Against the Penguins and Rangers, the Flyers gave themselves no chance at forcing overtime when every single point matters right now, especially against the two teams they’re chasing in the wild-card standings.      

Hakstol can attempt to correct X's and O’s, but at some point, his decision-making and ability to put his finger on the pulse of his team will become an X-factor.

Flyers goalie prospect Carter Hart added to Phantoms playoff roster

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Zack Hill - Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers goalie prospect Carter Hart added to Phantoms playoff roster

Carter Hart is joining the Phantoms but don’t expect him to play just yet.

Hart on Tuesday joined Lehigh Valley for the remainder of the playoffs since his junior career ended with the Everett Silvertips losing in the WHL Final.

The 19-year-old will be behind Alex Lyon, Dustin Tokarski, Anthony Stolarz and John Muse on the Phantoms’ depth chart. This is strictly for experience — just like last year when he joined the Phantoms after Everett’s season ended.

In his final season of major junior, Hart led all WHL goalies with a 1.60 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and seven shutouts. He won the Del Wilson Trophy (WHL top goalie) and Four Broncos Trophy (WHL MVP).

Hart is expected to win the CHL Goaltender of the Year award for the second time, becoming the first goalie to accomplish that.

The Phantoms, down 2-0 to Toronto in the Eastern Conference Finals, will host the Marlies Wednesday night in Game 3 on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ at 7:05 p.m. 

Rob's Rants — Golden Knights' success is a good thing

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USA Today Images

Rob's Rants — Golden Knights' success is a good thing

My latest installment of Rob Rant’s focuses on things I just don’t get.

Knight time
I don’t grasp the sentiment that the expansion Vegas Golden Knights' advancement to the NHL Stanley Cup Final is a black eye for the NHL. Maybe I’m a glass half-full guy but I think it’s the best national sports story of the year. They played their first home game just nine days after the horrific shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Vegas Strip that left 59 dead. And their season served not only as a distraction from the incident but as a galvanizer for the city. 

They had the fifth-most points in the regular season. And beat the Kings, Sharks and Jets in the postseason. Not an easy task. General manager George McPhee made smart selections in the expansion draft, including landing a Stanley Cup champion goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury and nabbing a quality winger in James Neal, among other transactions throughout the season. They showed through a smart front office, good coaching and players buying in, you can speed up the process. I love that unlike the NBA where a super team like Golden State is basically a lock to win it again, hockey has a great storyline. Vegas’ success proves that if you do the right thing in the offseason, next year could be your team’s year.           

Style over substance
On the heels of last week’s NBA combine, it’s always puzzled me how much stock organizations in various leagues put on workouts rather than game tape. I get it that to play any sport professionally there is a level of athleticism needed. But I’d much rather see how said prospect did against real game competition instead of a stopwatch or tape measure. How do they think about the game? How do they react when their team is down? What kind of teammate are they? You need look no further than Tom Brady’s 40-yard dash at his combine workout. His career turned out pretty well.    

Off base?
So Odubel Herrera got on base Sunday versus the Cardinals but his 45-game on-base streak was still snapped. Herrera struck out in his last at-bat but because of a wild pitch, he reached first base. The strikeout nullified the act of reaching base and keeping the streak alive, according to MLB rules. But if it’s not an out, and he gets on base, shouldn’t that count toward the streak?     

Loyal royal
The wedding of Price Harry and Meghan Markle this past weekend seemed like a lovely affair. My evite must have went right to my spam. Don’t get me wrong, Harry comes off as a sincere, caring dude who is genuinely concerned with using his platform to better the world. And his new bride is beautiful and an accomplished actress. They seem like a great couple. And I get that the new Duchess of Sussex’s biracial ancestry is of interest to folks.