Hakstol: Flyers’ execution with puck must improve

Dave Hakstol

The problem with taking a puckbag full of penalties isn’t only about letting the other team score.

It’s about getting so tired from killing power plays that there isn’t much energy left to score goals of your own.

Such was the case in Game 3 of the first-round playoff series between the Flyers and the Penguins.

While Pittsburgh did score three goals on seven chances with the man advantage, it was clear Flyers star players such as Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov were a little gassed from pinballing around the ice trying to stop Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are dangerous enough at even strength.

The Flyers had a league-mandated day off on Monday (Game 4 isn’t until Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center).

But coach Dave Hakstol was available to break down what went wrong in Game 3, and much of it centered on the penalty situation.

The bottom line is this: The Flyers, who trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, have scored a total of just six goals in the three games and only five of them with goaltender Matt Murray tending his post.

Those numbers will have to change if the Flyers have any hope of making some kind of miracle comeback against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

The Flyers played a solid first 20 minutes in Game 3 but then the discipline began to break down in the second period.

“Last night we just never got ourselves back on track, and I think a lot of that has to do with the energy we spent on the PK (penalty kill), and we never did re-establish our game,’’ Hakstol said.

“There were a couple of spurts in the second period, especially once we made it 4-1, if we’re able to have a good five-minute push there and get one more, you never know what could have happened.  But I didn’t think we really re-established last night. I don’t think that’s characteristic of our team, but we did not do it last night.’’

Hakstol left the door open for possible line-up changes but it’s not like he’s got Peter Forsberg or John LeClair waiting in the wings.

Up front, Jordan Weal could make his first appearance of the playoffs. On defense, the only options are rookie Robert Hagg and veteran Johnny Oduya.

Regardless of who plays, it’s clear the Flyers have to stay out of the box. If the officials are going to call games a bit tighter in the playoffs, so be it.

“In last night’s game, I said it after the game – I thought the call on G (Claude Giroux, for slashing, leading to a Malkin goal to make it 3-0), and that was a critical power play goal for them — I still don’t think that was a penalty, but at the speed of the game, things get called,’’ Hakstol said.

“G tapped his stick, the stick comes out of his hand and that’s one that when that happens a lot of times it gets called. But my point is, beyond that, I thought they were penalties. We had our sticks where they shouldn’t be and we took a too many men on the ice penalty. Again, that is what it is, whether it’s regular season or three games into the playoffs.’’

Hakstol was asked how the Flyers can generate more offense, at least if the game is played for the most part at even strength.

“We have to be better with our play with the puck,’’ Hakstol said. “You saw a small sample of that in the first period. It’s one thing to do it for 20 minutes, but we really have to challenge ourselves to do that over a 60-minute period.

According to Hakstol, getting bodies to the net isn’t the key issue. It’s what the Flyers are doing (or not doing) with the puck; that’s the element that has to improve.

“We’ve consistently been at the net,’’ he said. “I don’t think that’s been the issue. It’s more so possession in the offensive zone. They defend quick. They get five guys around the puck defensively really quick and they do a good job, so you’ve got to be sharp there.

“For me it hasn’t been getting traffic to net front. I think we’ve been there, but we haven’t consistently gotten enough pucks there when we have the traffic.’’



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About Wayne Fish 2473 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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