Matt Read

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers

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Who can I trust?

That’s the underlying question Dave Hakstol is attempting to answer almost nightly as the Flyers inch their way toward a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was no different in the Flyers' frantic 4-3 win over the Rangers Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

“We were sporadic. The first three or four minutes of the game, we weren’t sharp or crisp,” Hakstol said. “Honestly, we got back on our heels in the last part of the third period. There are things that we obviously have to clean up.”

The cleanup crew Hakstol is looking for must possess a trustworthiness factor that makes each player dependable during crunch time. Against the Rangers, the Flyers' coach was forced to lean heavily on a handful of guys who weren’t even on Hakstol’s roster during the first half of the season.

Matt Read replaced Travis Konecny (who scored two goals) on the top line, and was counted on defensively where Konecny came up short in the previous two periods. Read played 13:52 to Konecny’s 12:29.

“He wasn’t taking care of the puck very well,” Hakstol said of Konecny. “Individuals have got to be better at this time of year and how we manage the puck and the mentality that we’re going to do things with.”

“It’s just part of buying in and doing things for the team” Konecny said. “I have no problem with it. It’s a matter of getting the two points. If that’s the way we’ve got to win, then we’ve got to do that every time.”

The 21-year-old Oskar Lindblom scored the eventual game-winning goal on the opening shift of the third period, and the second-line winger was consistently shifted until the final four minutes of regulation.  

“Everybody’s different. It depends on the player,” Hakstol said. “Oskar is a guy that has come in and fit into the structural part of our game very well if you watch Oskar’s game. He’s just very intelligent in terms of playing within a system. He always finds a way to be on the right side of the puck.”

And then there’s goaltender Alex Lyon, who stepped up following his strong performance in relief of Petr Mrazek Tuesday night in Detroit. 

When the defense in front of him broke down, Lyon answered the call and preserved the Flyers' lead throughout times in the second period and even during a spotty third period.

“I was actually thinking about it before the game today,” Lyon said. “Every game is so different, and you feel different. Circumstances are different, the team is different every day, so I think the best guys are those who can adjust to that, so I try and take a page out of their book.”

And with his 33-save performance, Lyon has put himself in position to start Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.

If there’s a doghouse for those who perform poorly, then consider this to be Hakstol’s safe house. They may not be the Flyers' best guys, but as of now, they’re the reliable ones.

Or as Hakstol is looking for — those who play on the right side of the puck. 

Flyers drop back into top wild-card spot with SO loss

Flyers drop back into top wild-card spot with SO loss

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DETROIT — It took awhile for the Flyers to get their motors running in the Motor City. Once they did, they rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit to earn a point before losing to the Red Wings, 5-4, in a shootout.

Shootout specialist Frans Nielsen scored the only goal during the skill competition.

The loss dropped the Flyers into the top wild-card spot in the playoff race (see standings).

On the other end, the win snapped Detroit’s 10-game losing streak with its first win since Feb. 25.

• In his first return to Detroit since being traded to the Flyers, Petr Mrazek was pulled after allowing three goals on 19 shots in the opening 30 minutes.

• Alex Lyon stopped 11 of 12 shots in relief, including two buzzer-beaters and the final save that forced a shootout.

• Matt Read scored his first goal of the season, Sean Couturier reached the 30-goal mark for the first time and Travis Konecny continued his brilliant second half with his 20th goal of the season. And with three assists, Claude Giroux became the Flyers' fifth all-time leading scorer at 662 points.

• The Red Wings were able to strike first as they caught four Flyers in deep and unable to retreat in transition. Dylan Larkin slowed down Konecny and snapped a shot far post on Mrazek to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. 

• On the Flyers’ second power play, catastrophe struck again as they surrendered their 10th shorthanded goal of the season and a 2-0 Red Wings’ lead. Luke Glendening fired a shot top shelf, near side post over Mrazek’s glove hand. Mrazek appeared somewhat surprised as he usually comes out a little farther in his crease to cut down the angle. 

• The Flyers were in a complete defensive disarray on Detroit’s third goal, and I would love to know what Wayne Simmonds was doing during this sequence. He reached unsuccessfully for the puck, peeled off and then didn’t help out on the coverage down low. With the Flyers in complete scramble mode, it set up perfectly for Evgeny Svechnikov, who banged home an easy rebound.

• Mrazek was pulled after allowing three goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period and replaced by Lyon. You have to wonder where Dave Hakstol’s trust in Mrazek is after his night was cut short for the second time in three games. However, the Flyers let down Mrazek defensively and the goalie appeared to have said something to the coaching staff as he raced off to the dressing room.

• The Flyers finally woke up in the third period as Hakstol performed the four-line shuffle they needed to get that first one to wake up the sleeping bear. Surprisingly, it came from Read, who scored his first of the season. Scott Laughton’s shot deflected off of Read and angled upward past Jimmy Howard as the Flyers cut the deficit to 3-2.

• The Red Wings’ penalty kill sat back and let the Flyers’ power play drive to the net. Giroux did a solid job of settling the puck down and moving it over to Jakub Voracek. Voracek’s cross-ice pass allowed Shayne Gostisbehere to snipe the puck from close range. Howard had no chance as the Flyers tied it at 3-3.

• Just 28 seconds after Larkin made it 4-3 for the Red Wings, the Flyers struck back as a hard-charging Konecny got his body in the way of Couturier’s shot. Credit the Flyers, who weren’t ready for the start of this game, but had a never-say-die mentality in the final 10 minutes of regulation. 

• Interesting to see how the Red Wings attacked Mrazek with knowledge of his tendencies. Early on in the first period, Detroit elected to test Mrazek on wide-angle shots whether to generate a rebound or catch him leaving the near-side post unprotected. 

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Connor McDavid comes to town; Matt Read to play?

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Connor McDavid comes to town; Matt Read to play?

VOORHEES, N.J. — Believe it or not, the Flyers are aware of 20-year-old Oilers phenom Connor McDavid. That doesn't make preparing for the 2017 Art Ross Trophy (most points in NHL) winner any easier, let alone slow him down.

“You have to be understated a little bit and say you're going to be aware when he's on the ice, but obviously there's more to it," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said Friday. "He's a heck of a player and a guy that can make something happen at any time.”

McDavid has picked up right where he left off last season when he led the NHL with 100 points and 70 assists. Six games into the 2017-18 campaign, the third-year centerman already has three goals and five assists, and he's doing it in style. His two helpers helped lift Edmonton over the Blackhawks on Thursday, one of which led to the game-winner in overtime, the other — a no-look, behind-the-back pass — making highlight reels everywhere.

So, yeah, the Flyers are well aware of McDavid and what he's capable of. That doesn't mean he'll be easy to stop.

"We just have to take time and space away from him," defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. "That's the biggest thing. You just can't give him space out there. He's going to wind it up and wheel.

“We're aware of it. We're going to stick to our game plan, nothing special, but obviously be aware when he's on the ice.”

The Flyers knew all about McDavid last season, too. He still managed to find the back of the net twice and rack up three assists in those two meetings.

McDavid has also experienced success against both of the Flyers netminders. As a member of the Flames, probable starter Brian Elliott posted an 0-3-1 record with a .870 save percentage in four appearances against the Oilers in 2016-17. Michal Neuvirth was 0-1 and allowed six goals in his only meeting.

It seems all the Flyers can do is be aware of the challenges McDavid presents.

"Probably everywhere they go, they have reporters asking the other team what their plan is against him," Elliott said.

“He's just a unique talent that you have to be aware of at all times. He's able to make plays that a lot of other guys aren't. You just have to be on your toes. You have to respect him, but you have to play your game and make sure you're tough no matter who it is out there.”

Laughton confident
Brandon Manning isn't the only member of the Flyers who has experience with McDavid. Scott Laughton has been up close and personal with the budding superstar, having played against him in junior and in some camps.

With Laughton centering the Flyers' fourth line, he should have some opportunities to put his familiarity of McDavid to the test. The Flyers are going to need any advantage they can get — no matter how small or insignificant it might seem.

"I went to a pro camp with McDavid in Toronto in the summer, and he's special," Laughton said. "He's got the best hands I've seen. He's a world-class talent.

“At the same time, tomorrow I'm going to try to limit his space, get in his face and make it hard for him to get going and get speed. I think I can try to keep up with him once I get my speed going.”

Laughton seemed confident about potentially matching up against McDavid. At least he has a plan, anyway.

“There's not much you can do," Laughton said. "You just have to be hard to play against, be in his face all night and kind of get him off his game that way.”

Injury report
Flyers forwards Wayne Simmonds and Taylor Leier both missed Friday's skate with what the club termed as maintenance days.

Simmonds was already dealing with a lower-body injury before he was clipped in the face by a stick during Thursday's 1-0 loss to the Predators. It doesn't sound like anything that should prevent the 10-year veteran from suiting up against the Oilers, but clearly, he's banged up right now.

Leier's absence was a bit more of a mystery, and given the 23-year-old rookie's inexperience, missing practice would seem to point to an injury of some kind.

In a bit of good news on the injury front, Jordan Weal returned to practice for the Flyers. However, he refused to let on as to whether he'll be on the ice Saturday.

“Just got out there, went for a twirl," Weal said. "It's day to day right now, so just taking it day by day.”

Matt Read replaced Simmonds during the skate and could be preparing to make his regular-season debut. Read joined Weal and Valtteri Filppula on Simmonds' unit, while Jori Lehtera took Leier's place on the fourth line.

Don't read too much into those combinations, however, as the availability of Simmonds, Weal and Leier will no doubt play a role.

Sanheim sticks in the lineup
Following his strong showing against Nashville on Thursday, it appears rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim will suit up for his second game in a row.

Sanheim was a healthy scratch for the Flyers' previous two contests but drew rave reviews for his performance against the Predators. He was paired with Radko Gudas at practice, while Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg continued their partnership.

Manning may be the odd man out Saturday, despite his history with McDavid. Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald remained a unit at practice, with Manning getting some work in MacDonald's spot.

Manning was hopeful he would be in uniform. Hakstol, on the other hand, downplayed Manning's personal rivalry with McDavid as it pertains to any decision about which defensemen will skate.

“It's a situation for us every game where we have that tough decision," Hakstol said. "Regardless of whether it's one particular team, we'll look at it situationally and consider all of those factors as to who the six are that dress tomorrow. There's a lot of different factors involved."