PITTSBURGH – True to his word, Dave Hakstol did exactly what he said he would do.
He went back to Brian Elliott to start Game 2, this despite coming off a game in which the veteran goalie allowed five goals on just 19 shots.
There was no morning skate on Friday, so Hakstol didn’t make public his decision until a 5:20 p.m. press briefing at PPG Paints Arena.
It really wasn’t a tough decision to make. While Petr Mrazek does have good career playoff numbers, Elliott was the guy who carried the Flyers through much of the season.
“I’ll tell you what, ‘Moose’ is a battler,’’ Hakstol said. “A great pro. He’s answered the bell for our team time and time again.
“Coming off an injury (core muscle surgery), he’s got three games under his belt. No question, he’s working to rebuild his game to the top level. There are no guarantees that come with that. But we’re not worried about guarantees – I’m confident in Brian as a person and an athlete.’’
The Flyers went into the game knowing that they pretty much needed a split here to have a real chance of winning the series.
That said, even if they were to lose, there’s always that 2000 playoff series to draw inspiration from.
That year, the Flyers lost the first two games of the series at home, then came back to win four straight, including a five-overtime decision in Pittsburgh – the longest game in modern hockey history.
Captain Claude Giroux, who was a minus-4 in Game 1, put some of the onus on himself, saying the Flyers had to play a little less “safer’’ style in order to have success.
“I feel like we were playing too safe (in Game 1,’’ he said. “We were a little too worried about them. We have to change our mindset. We have to play OUR game and make them worry about us a little more.’’
Answering a question about how young the Flyers are at several positions and the difficulty of a “refocus’’ might be, Elliott said the responsibility fell on everyone.
“It’s individual battles,’’ Elliott said. “It’s the little things (individually) that get done that makes this team great. As a group, I think we can talk about it but it’s up to each individual guy to do what they need to do.
“Everybody is key to this team. It’s not one or two guys that do everything on a day in, day out basis. It’s the whole team. That’s our strength and that’s what we have to play to.’’
The Flyers could not get a shot to Penguins goalie Matt Murray during four power plays in Game 1. Giroux knew that had to change.
“It’s something we’ll look at,’’ he said. “You want to get some traffic in front of that goalie. He’s a pretty good goalie. We have to do a better job of that, too.’’