VOORHEES, N.J. – Yeah, he heard the “Fire Hakstol!’’ chants after a playoff Game 4, all right, but Dave Hakstol knew coming in that heckling came with the job.
The fact of the matter is, Hakstol isn’t about to be fired any time soon, not as long as Ron Hextall is general manager of the Flyers.
So, Hak-haters, get over it.
He did get the Flyers into the playoffs for the second time in his three seasons here.
“Is it (fans’ jeering) something you love hearing? No,’’ Hakstol said during Thursday’s press conference at the Skate Zone. “But you know what, I love being part of the Philadelphia Flyers.
“We’ve got unbelievable fans. We have some of the best fans, they’re hard-working people, they’re honest, they’re passionate. I’m here for a reason, with a real goal in mind. We’re pretty fortunate (to have these fans) here.’’
Hakstol was satisfied with the way his team battled back from a 10-game winless streak in November-December to make the postseason.
But the coach does admit that the playoff failure against the Pittsburgh Penguins left a bad taste.
That said, he’s a man of his own beliefs and that conviction will be what pushes him ahead through the final two years of his five-year contract and possibly beyond.
“I think the end result of the regular season is a good result,’’ he said. “Our No. 1 goal is to be a playoff team – how we got there I think we have to take a close look at and evaluate the good and the bad of that.
“We have to be a little more consistent. We put ourselves at big risk. I loved the way our guys fought out of an early hole. The push that we made to get in. That showed an awful lot about the character of our team.’’
There was no shame bowing out to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions but the galling part was the Flyers were leading 4-2 late in Game 6 and possibly let an opportunity get away.
“I think we have to recognize the failure of our playoffs. We have to find a way to learn from it. The fact that it went to six games for me, kind of covers up a lot of things we didn’t do well, we weren’t good enough.’’
Another thing which Hakstol has worked on is the emotional temperament of his team.
He’s been chastised by fans for not showing enough emotion on the bench. Some of that is almost by design.
“I felt like when I came here three years ago, one of the things (he learned) just by listening, watching some things, I felt like on our bench, there was some wasted, misdirected emotion,’’ Hakstol said.
“I felt that was one thing that we needed to work at correcting early on. I’m not out there to put on a show. I felt like we had to reel in some of the wasted emotion.’’
Hakstol believes most of the negative emotion has been replaced by something more positive.
Later, he was asked if he believes the Flyers, as presently constituted, have enough talent to challenge for a Stanley Cup.
“Yeah,’’ he said. “We have to keep doing what we’re doing. That’s hard to say – I use the word ‘fail’ for these playoffs – so that’s probably a hard one for people to buy.
“I like our group compete. We’re going to continue to improve.’’
Hakstol said he’s OK coming back with the goaltending tandem of Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott, even though both were banged up this year. “The real key there is the change he (Neuvirth) is changing his preparation over the summer.’’. . .Taylor Leier started the season on the penalty kill, but made some mistakes and saw very little time after that. “He got himself on the outside of the PK and I think he needed a break from the PK because he was struggling with it,’’ Hakstol said. “It’s not a young or old thing. We took Wayne Simmonds off the PK, too.’’ . . .The coach said he had no second thoughts about Simmonds not getting surgery before the season for a torn pelvic muscle. “Those things are evaluated by the player and the medical staff.’’ . . .Hakstol liked the way his 29th-ranked PK woke up the final month or two of the season. “Those improvements we have to show over an entire 82-game schedule as well as a full playoff season.’’
Second round playoff picks
After going a rather mediocre 5-3 in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs (we were wrong on Vegas, Washington and San Jose), it’s on to Round 2.
Here’s how we see things shaping up:
Tampa Bay vs. Boston: As good as the Lightning were during the regular season, Boston will be a much tougher test than N.J. *Bruins in seven games.*
Washington vs. Pittsburgh: Penguins looking to become first team since Islanders (1981-83) to three-peat. Crosby at top of his game. *Penguins in six.*
Nashville vs. Winnipeg: This might be the best series of this round. The Jets are playing crazy-good defense. *Jets in six.*
Las Vegas vs. San Jose: Starting to come around to the idea that the Golden Knights are pretty good. *Knights in seven.*