Robert Hagg

With Carter Hart, new coach, Flyers finally playing with heart

With Carter Hart, new coach, Flyers finally playing with heart

Playing with Hart suddenly has the Flyers now playing with heart.

If the small details matter in the game of hockey, consider Thursday’s 2-1 win over the Predators actually started Wednesday morning when newly-hired head coach Scott Gordon canceled practice, giving his players a much needed “mental break.”

Gordon still hasn’t had a full practice since he was named interim coach Monday morning, but recognizing something more important than implementing his system was a big step in the team’s preparation. 

“It was kinda cool, because he mentioned it wasn’t really physical rest is what we needed,” Travis Konecny said. “Just a lot went on the road trip, all the changes going on, like a mental thing to just go home and relax and not put on the gear that extra time. It was a smart play.”

Jakub Voracek thought the Flyers had a lot of energy as a result of the time away.

It has provided the Flyers newfound confidence to win the close, defensive-minded games they simply let slip through the fingertips under Dave Hakstol. Prior to Tuesday, the Flyers were 1-15-2 in their first 31 games when scoring three goals or fewer. In the past three days, they’ve doubled that win total. Konecny believes players are buying in after it seemed obvious they were tuned out on the trip to Western Canada.

“It just wasn’t working at the time,” Konecny said. "(Gordon) has done a great of coming in and kinda adapting to how our team plays and changing a few things and we did a good job listening. I just think everyone’s buying in right now and doing the little things.”

Konecny’s play was proof of that. After blocking a second-period shot that left him in dire pain on the bench, he came back out a few shifts later and stripped defenseman Anthony Bitetto in the neutral zone that led to Claude Giroux’s game-winning goal.

Or the human dartboard defenseman Robert Hagg performed during the Flyers' two-minute 5-on-3 penalty kill when he blocked a pair of shots that left a resounding thud. In all, Hagg blocked five shots and earned the player of the game helmet handed down by his goaltender Carter Hart.

Hagg also took a shot off his hand that left his fingers trembling afterward when he spoke to the media.

“Yeah, it’s hurting but it’s worth it,” Hagg said. “I don’t how many PKs we had, but every single guy that was on the ice did a hell of a good job.”

The Flyers were a perfect 6 for 6, with Hart shutting the door when the guys in front of him couldn’t block those shots. It was a much more demanding test than his victory Tuesday over the Red Wings.

“Like night and day better,” Hart said. “I could feel it in warmups. I wasn’t as anxious. I had a good chat with my sports psychologist last night. I was a bit overwhelmed on Tuesday and had to bring things back to reality."

If you’re wondering if Hart is merely holding down the fort until Brian Elliott or Anthony Stolarz return to full health, Chuck Fletcher suggested that’s not necessarily the case. The Flyers' GM spoke on The Power Play show on SiriusXM radio just hours before Thursday’s game.

“It’s hard to predict, but as long as he’s playing, I’ll be happy and winning games up here that’s great,” Fletcher said. “We won’t put any limits on him.”

Makes it sound like the GM is buying into this new Hartbeat as well.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers hope to give the fans 'what they deserve' in return home

Flyers hope to give the fans 'what they deserve' in return home

Will the brief melee at the end of Monday's game in Arizona spill into Thursday night's puck drop between the Flyers and Coyotes at the Wells Fargo Center?

“I hope so,” Robert Hagg, who's currently fourth in the NHL in hits, said. "It's going to be a fun game. We will see what happens."

With 20 seconds left in the game, Shayne Gostisbehere nudged Lawson Crouse in the back, which fueled a chain reaction of events that saw Christian Folin come to Gostisbehere’s defense and cross check Crouse into the boards. The Coyotes' forward was the biggest culprit as he trucked Nicolas Aube-Kubel and was slapped for a roughing minor and interference minor against Folin.

Then, just as time expired, Dale Weise fired a meaningless wrist shot on goaltender Darcy Kuemper that defenseman Kevin Connauton found unacceptable, and that led to an all-out skirmish between the remaining players on the ice. Wayne Simmonds jumped in and eventually Radko Gudas and Connauton wrestled each other to the ice without actually exchanging punches.

Gudas and Connauton were handed double roughing minors while Jordan Oesterle was hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty. Those two sequences can be seen here:

It could create some interesting theater with a noticeable edge in the second half of a home-and-home series at the Wells Fargo Center.

“You know, why not?” Gudas said. “Playing back-to-back, it got a little chippy at the end. I think it was pretty chippy during the game too. It’s going to be a hard, physical game. They have some guys who play a big, physical game and so are we, and we want our fans to know what kind of team we were on the West Coast.”  

Typically, the first game back from an extended road trip can create some malaise for the home team, which is what the Flyers hope to avoid when they kick-start the first game of a five-game homestand.

“I would assume that would carry some emotion straight over into this game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “The energy level when you come off a four-game trip and turn around and play pretty quickly at home, that’s the area you have to focus on.” 

The Flyers will be anxious to carry the energy and momentum from a 3-0-1 Western Conference swing back onto home ice, where they haven’t been successful this season and have been outscored, 10-2, in their last two games on South Broad.

“We've just got to set that tone that we’re a winning hockey club,” Gostisbehere said. “Hopefully, we can put a good 60 minutes together and get this home crowd back into it and give them what they deserve — some hard-fought wins at home.”

Hard-fought wins on a team that hasn’t had a hard-fought scrap. Interestingly, the Flyers and Coyotes are the only two teams in the NHL officially without a fight this season. 

There’s reason to think that could all change tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers dominated by Avalanche as they continue to start games in slow motion

Flyers dominated by Avalanche as they continue to start games in slow motion

BOX SCORE

For those who still cut their own grass, the Flyers have all the signs of that old, cold, cranky mower that never fires up the first time you try to get it going.

They don’t seem to start the second, third or fourth time either.  

Here we are now five games into the home schedule and the Flyers have yet to establish a first-period lead at any point against any opponent. They fell behind by four goals to the Sharks in the home opener on Oct. 9 and they’ve been playing catchup ever since as they’ve been outscored 7-1 in the opening 20 minutes at the Wells Fargo Center.

They appear uninspired and unprepared, lacking the necessary urgency to put an opposing team on its heels.

If the Philly Flu was indeed an illness the opposition acquired during the days of the Spectrum, then apparently flu shots are administered from the moment teams arrive in the loading dock of the Wells Fargo Center.

“That’s not how we want to come out,” goaltender Brian Elliott said after the Flyers fell behind by three goals in an eventual 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche (see observations). “It just seems to happen right now. We have to get that turned around. We’re going to be talking about a few things in the coming days and try to get that turned around when we go on the road to Boston.”

Elliott didn’t elaborate on what needed to be said, but quick starts and playing better in Philadelphia have been hammered home more times than the Flyers care to remember. Surrendering that first goal has become its own epidemic.

The Flyers have trailed 1-0 in eight of the nine games they’ve played this season. Monday night against the Avalanche, it took just three minutes and 23 seconds to fall behind again, and zap the energy of the 19,326 fans in attendance.

They’ve followed the recipe for disaster step by step. On Monday, the Flyers committed a pointless tripping penalty two minutes into the game and gave the most lethal line combination a power-play opportunity against the 29th-ranked penalty kill. 

You see where this is heading.

“We’re working our balls off out there and trying as hard as we can,” defenseman Robert Hagg said. “If it’s one guy’s breakdown, then it’s going to be in the back of the net.”

Among the most unlikely culprits was the Flyers’ top two-way forward Sean Couturier, who left the Avalanche with an extra attacker down low. Mikko Rantanen’s slam dunk rebound goal gave Colorado an early lead it would never relinquish.

“We made a mistake on the broken play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Instead of collapsing to the net, our top PKer (Couturier) stayed out five to eight feet too high. That’s the difference.” 

The difference between the Flyers and Avalanche right now appears rather obvious. Colorado’s best players are carrying the team while the Flyers’ stars are the ones committing the mistakes. The Avalanche improved to 6-1-2 with one line doing almost all of the heavy lifting. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Rantanen have now scored 12 of Colorado’s last 14 goals.

For the Flyers, Couturier missed an assignment. Claude Giroux’s blocked shot led to a goal. Even leading goal scorer Wayne Simmonds said he’s not doing enough to help out.

It has to start somewhere and the opening drop of the puck is a good place to start.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers