Flyers

Flyers blank lowly Avalanche in final game before trade deadline

Flyers blank lowly Avalanche in final game before trade deadline

BOX SCORE

If only every game for the Flyers down the stretch could serve up the Colorado Avalanche. Were that to transpire, Dave Hakstol's club would be a lock to make the playoffs.
 
Tuesday was the final time the Flyers will see Colorado this season. Too bad for the Flyers because they threw snowballs at the Avs to the tune of a 4-0 win at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
 
The Flyers finished February with just four wins in 11 games. Now the team gets set for the post-trade deadline portion of its schedule, which features 20 games in 40 days to end the regular season.
 
How the Flyers fare will determine their playoff fate.
 
Amid this rout, general manager Ron Hextall was spending a lot of time on the phone while assistant GM Barry Hanrahan, his capologist, was on his computer much of the night as the deadline hits Wednesday.
 
According to a report by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, the Flyers had contract talks with pending unrestricted free agent Michal Neuvirth. Sources said Neuvirth did not agree to a contract. His agent, Patrik Stefan, did not comment.

Hextall is apparently trying to work a deal, and you would have to think it was something larger (see story).
 
The opening period was all Wayne Simmonds on Tuesday, who briefly appeared to have a natural hat trick midway into the first period before it was determined the Flyers' third goal went off an Avs player and was credited to Jakub Voracek (see feature highlight).
 
"I hope it's the first and last time I get booed for scoring a goal," Voracek said after it was taken away from Simmonds.
 
The Avs are the worst team in the NHL. This win was certainly welcome news for the Flyers, who played a fast and energetic game in which they seemed relaxed.
 
"Twenty games left … a good step but the thing is not to get too high," said goalie Steve Mason, who picked up his first win this month. "It's one win, but we have a lot of work to do."
 
It gets harder immediately with Florida and Washington up next.
 
"We had the same type of start tonight we had the last couple nights and tonight we had some reward for it," coach Dave Hakstol said. 
 
Simmonds came into this game with one of the club's two shorthanded goals this season. He now has two himself after Matt Duchene coughed up a puck to Andrew MacDonald to start a rush that ended with Simmonds scoring on goalie Jeremy Smith.
 
His next goal was a redirect on the power play off a point blast from Shayne Gostisbehere. Voracek's goal was actually a pass intended for Simmonds on the power play when it glanced off of Francois Beauchemin to make it 3-0 at 10:35.
 
"It was good for us. We need that," Simmonds said. "It was a good win. I thought we played well. We didn't play perfect but well enough to get the win."
 
Asked about losing a natural hat trick, Simmonds didn't want any part of taking credit for the goal. 

"No, not a chance," he said. "I knew it was Jake's goal."
 
All those hats on the ice went to no good, too. Feel any responsibility to return them to their rightful owners?
 
"What am I supposed to do?" Simmonds said. "Go give every single one their hat back? It's not my fault, sorry."
 
Simmonds is on pace to score 35 goals this season. Of his 27 so far -- most of which have come in the crease -- he has 13 on the power play, which places him second behind Brayden Schenn (14) for the NHL lead.
 
"I'm lucky, I'm getting some bounces right now," Simmonds said. "But the whole idea is to try to disrupt the goalie's flow and to take his eyes away and get some rebounds.
 
"Whether I am scoring goals or not scoring goals, I am doing the same thing. I got a good bounce on the first one and G (Claude Giroux) and Ghost made a great play on top of the second one."
 
Now Mason, who sat six straight games, certainly wasn't going to be in game shape. Yet he had several good stops and finished with 33 saves. His last win, Jan. 25, was a shutout, as well.
 
He also had to handle a penalty shot from Mikko Rantanen, who was hooked from behind by Radko Gudas early in the second period. Mason knocked Rantanen's penalty shot away into the corner with his stick. 

This was Mason's 216th game played, third most of any Flyers goalie all-time.
 
"It's been a tough month, a lot of practice," he said of being benched in favor of Neuvirth. "When you're practicing, you're not getting game action and practices become tedious. … Pretty much every game now is must-win.
 
"It's hard to make up ground with three- and four-point games and people playing each other. For us, we have to focus on one game at a time and understand the importance of each."
 
Jordan Weal's first NHL goal early in the second made it 4-0. The Flyers had not scored four goals since Jan. 12 when they came from behind to stun Vancouver, 5-4, in a shootout.
 
"It felt really good," Weal said. "It was a long time coming. I'm just trying to work as hard as I can and create as many chances when I'm out there."
 
He again played on the top line with Giroux and Simmonds.
 
"It's awesome when you get to play with guys like that," Weal said. "First couple games, I was playing with Coots (Sean Couturier) and Jake and when you play with guys like that, you play your own game and work with them.
 
"If you can get your give and go and cycle game going with them, you'll create a lot of offense. When you get to play with guys like G and Simmer, you just have to get open and good things will happen."

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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