Hak My Life – Thoughts on Finding a Way to Win at Home After Flyers 5, Coyotes 4

Dave Hakstol called a timeout. Asked about it later, he said he wished he would have taken it sooner. But the timeout, itself, was irrelevant.

The Flyers had just allowed two shorthanded goals – on the same power play. Their two-goal lead from a quick start was gone and replaced by a sudden two-goal deficit.

Hakstol didn’t want to say much. His players knew the gravity of the situation.

Here they were, melting down on home ice, in front of their fans… again.

Twitter was ablaze. The calls for Joel Quenneville to be the new coach were fever pitched.

But there was one message from the coach. One that apparently has to be reiterated to this team whenever they play in front of their fans:

“It’s a matter of getting back together. Getting your brains settled down. Calm down. Worry about the next shift. Don’t worry about everything else going on on the other side of the glass. We’ve had some struggles in this building, so get the focus on the ice. That’s the only message.”

The Flyers were able to block out everything else and find a way back to win the game. They scored third period goals with the fourth line and the third line on the ice. Scott Laughton (two goals) and Dale Weise were the guys who tied it and Shayne Gostisbehere won it with an overtime goal.

That’s good and all, but I want to get back to what Hakstol said for a minute…

“Don’t worry about what’s going on on the other side of the glass. We’ve had some struggles in this building so get the focus on the ice.”

Sure as hell sounds like he’s saying his team is frequently unnerved on home ice by the fans being a bit negative.

Am I crazy? Please tell me I’m crazy.

I’m not crazy. It’s absolutely why the Flyers seem to play much better hockey on the road than they do at home. It’s the antithesis of everything you expect in professional sports. Flyers home games used to be the greatest home game advantage in professional sports.

Opposing players would often get the “Philly flu” when coming to play the Flyers. They dominated games at the old Spectrum.

Now, home ice has turned into a house of horrors for the Flyers, and it sounds like they crack under fan pressure.

The good thing is, they didn’t completely crumble against the Coyotes and found the gumption to come back and win the game.

“The bottom line is sometimes you just got to sack up and get a character win,” Hakstol said. “That’s what tonight was. … Having success [on the recent road trip] helps. It helps you believe in what you are doing. That was a big part of tonight. We didn’t start cheating on things. We didn’t start pressing. We went out and played. We played a little harder. We played a little better. We didn’t start winging it out there and cheating the game – and that’s real important in a situation like that.”

As a side note, candid Dave Hakstol has been the most pleasant surprise of this season.

The fact of the matter is, the Flyers used their recent run of success to trump whatever bad mojo they seem to think hovers over them like a perennial rain cloud at home. But there has to remain a modicum of concern that there is a mental block with this team when it comes to playing in front of their fans.

Candid Dave elaborated further:

“We have to do that [get the fans back on our side]. That onus is on us. Our effort. Our intensity. Our play. You saw what the place was like in the third period.”

But is this team the confident team that we saw in the third period pull a victory from the jaws of defeat? Or are they still a fragile collective, who have rabbit ears when it comes to fans in their own building?

“We’re a confident team,” Hakstol said. “I believe it. Whatever word you want to put on it, the guys in the room are tight. You either blow apart when you go through some tough situations or you come together. And we’ve come a little closer together.”

As for the game, it was like three games in one. The fast start. The epic collapse. The unexpected comeback.

Here are the characters who played a huge part in those three stories:

1. Dale Weise

Russ spent a good amount of time talking to Weise, who had the play of the game – a breakaway goal late in the third period to complete the comeback.

It was surely an unexpected hero for the Flyers – and I’ll let Russ dive into the details, but I wanted to say one thing about it…

Weise has been one of the most consistent Flyers this season. He’s been really good and a moment like this has been on the horizon for some time.

Good for Weise, who five weeks ago wasn’t even sure if he’d have an NHL job this season, and now is contributing at a level far beyond anyone else’s expectations.

2. Scott Laughton

Laughton admitted after the game that while his team was playing well on the recent road trip, he wasn’t at his best.

It actually goes back further than that.

Yes, Laughton has been scoring goals, but his advanced metrics have been pretty meager.

His CorsiFor% is 43.17, worst on the team (not counting Andrew MacDonald, who has been rooted to the press box for most of the past month). It’s one of the reasons Laughton was demoted from the third line and replaced by Weise.

But Laughton had great jump and energy from his first shift against Arizona. He only ended up playing 9:17 in the game, but it sure as hell seemed like he was on the ice for a lot more than that.

That’s because he was a noticeable player every time he stepped on the ice.

He did this:

… and this:

It was his second two-goal game this season, and believe it or not, the fourth line Flyer is now tied for second on the team in goals with six this season.

“I think from the first shift you can feel your legs going,” Laughton said. “I don’t think I had the best West Coast trip. The team played well but I feel like I could have played better and help this team. So, good effort by the team tonight, but the biggest thing is we have to follow it up on Saturday.”

3. Shayne Gostisbehere

What a crazy game for Ghost. He had a run-in with an official when things were falling apart for the Flyers, but then bounces back to set up Weise with the tying goal and score the game-winner.

First the bad:

We’ll get to the linesman being in the way in a second, but what you don’t see here is Ghost failing to keep the puck in at the point. That was a shocker because he’s probably the best in the league at keeps.

It’s gotten to a point where plays like this are the surprise and great keeps by Ghost are the norm. This was on a Flyers power play and the Arizona penalty kill is the best in the NHL and came into the game with seven shorthanded goals already. That’s a remarkable number.

So, they definitely pressure the puck at the point on the power play and force you to make mistakes.

Ghost also fumbled the puck initially in the neutral zone before corralling it for a brief second when the video above starts.

Now, the linesman, Michel Cormier, who is a veteran and has worked more than 1,000 games in his 10-year career, absolutely got in the way. Maybe he too was expecting a Gostisbehere keep and was surprised that the play suddenly was coming at him. Still, he’s got to get out of the way, and the effort he made, while valiant, definitely had him in the wrong position on the ice.

Linesmen used to hop up and sit on the end boards to get out of the way. Not sure what happened there, but they no longer do that. They try and skate out of the way and, well, plays like this happen more frequently than ever before.

Anyway, Gostisbehere was pissed after the goal. So much so that he immediately wet over to Cormier and started barking at him. Cormier was none too pleased and chirped back. It stuck in Ghost’s craw all night. He was even a little feisty about it after the game, albeit he did take a second to bring some needed levity to the situation:

Question: On a play like that where it gets caught in the [official’s] skates, what do you do on something like that?

“Aww man, It’s hard not to get mad right now, but it happened. Thankfully we came back and we won. We definitely made it a little harder, but we won.”

Question: It’s hard not to react at that point too?

“Yes, definitely. I have a weapon in my hand. … I’m just kidding. (Lots of laughter). It is what it is. It’s part of the game. I definitely got heated. He got heated. It is what it is.”

They won the game because Jake Voracek finally decided to have a good shift in overtime.

Kind of lost in the shuffle of the game (Voracek had the turnover that lead to the other shorthanded goal the Flyers allowed seconds later), Voracek made the game-winning goal happen, first with a great play to get a high-percentage shot on goal that Darcy Kuemper actually made a really nice stop against, before Voracek corralled the rebound and fed Gostisbehere for the game winner:

That’s two games in a row where the Flyers didn’t play great hockey and still found a way to win. Another big part of that was this guy:

4. Brian Elliott

He didn’t even start the game as he was still recovering from a minor injury. The Flyers really didn’t want him to have to play but Calvin Pickard had a rough night. He allowed four goals on 18 shots, and although his teammates hung him out to dry allowing successive short-handed goals (Arizona now has nine… that’s usually among the league leader in April, not November. It’s an insane number), he didn’t make the big stop.

Not to mention, he really should have had this one:

Yeah, there was a bad change by the Flyers that created this opportunity, but that’s a shot your goalie has to save.

Anyway, after the two shorties, Hakstol pulled Pickard and put in Elliott.

There was no margin for error for Moose, and he didn’t have any.

“You’re not thinking about letting in goals, you just want to get in front of pucks,” Elliott said. “The heartbeat gets going pretty quickly. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to just get thrown in and watch the pucks into your body. I had a couple shots right away and was able to get the feel of things and it makes it easier when guys are pressing down the other end and we got good energy and some goals.”

Elliott made 16 saves in 31:34 of ice time to earn the win in relief. And while none of those saves were highlight-worthy, there were more than a couple sneaky tough saves in there that often handcuff goalies, and Elliott did his part to keep the Flyers in the game when one more goal would have easily ended the night differently.

5. Penalty kill

This wasn’t good – again.

Something really has to change here. I don’t know what. The fans have been screaming for Ian Laperriere to lose his job as an assistant coach because the PK has gotten progressively worse. And it’s an understandable reaction – although I think Laperriere probably brings more to the coaching staff than just managing the PK – although that is what his top priority should be.

But the Flyers PK simply is terrible in front of it’s own net. They know it. The other team knows it. And it seems like every goal allowed by the PK is identical:

There’s a lot of standing around here. The most noticeable is Christian Folin. He basically just lets the screen set up shop right in front of Pickard and makes no effort to clear it away. I’m not sure what Ivan Provorov is doing here either. And Jori Lehtera’s attempt to block Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s shot was pretty lame.

Only Laughton looks like he was working here, and that’s a problem for the Flyers that never gets fixed. Successful penalty kills are all about effort, will and selflessness. It’s grunt work, but it’s important.

The Flyers penalty kill percentage is now 68.4%, 30th in the NHL. Only the Ottawa Senators are worse at 67.3% (You may have seen the Uber video).

Here’s the thing, the worst season in NHL history, since power plays and penalty kills have been tracked, was by the 1979-80 Los Angeles Kings. Their PK that season was 68.2%. So the Flyers (and Sens) are in rarefied air here with some of the worst units ever.

The fact that the organization continues to let this fester, now into a fourth year, is the most damning thing you can point out. It’s been bad for so long and nothing tangible has been done in an attempt to fix it.

6. Crazy Stats

Just some stuff for you….

  • The Flyers have now allowed a power play goal in nine straight games. This is the longest successive streak of that kind of futility since 2005-06 when they had a 10-game streak of bad penalty killing (Remember those halcyon days of Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje? Good times!) The franchise record is 12 straight games, which has happened four times, most recently in 1993-94.
  • The Flyers had never won a game where they allowed two shorthanded goals on the same penalty – until Thursday. Granted, it had only happened twice before – in a 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh in 2012 and a 12-0 drubbing by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1969.
  • Claude Giroux played his 754th career game to move past Chris Therien into fourth place all-time in franchise history. He also recorded his second consecutive multi-point game (2A) after posting two goals and an assist on Monday night. It’s his seventh multi-point game of the season. He has had an understated start to the season. He has 19 points in 16 games, which has him in the top 10 in the NHL in scoring (tied for ninth) and only five points behind league leader Mikko Rantanen of Colorado.
  • The Flyers continue to dominate in the faceoff circle. They won 63% of draws against Arizona and are second-best in the NHL in faceoff wins at 55.4%.

7. Getting Gritty with it

Maybe the best moment of a Dave Hakstol press conference ever occurred after the game. When talking about what the fans expect out of his team he had this stream-of-conscience gem:

“I really believe that the people that are in the seats and are fans of the Flyers, they want effort. They want compete. And when they see that, it’s not just about the result. They want that gritty… I can’t believe I just used that word. (Laughter). Check please! I need to go home.”

It’s official, the Flyers mascot has forever impacted coach speak.

 

The post Hak My Life – Thoughts on Finding a Way to Win at Home After Flyers 5, Coyotes 4 appeared first on Crossing Broad.

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