Hak­stol im­plor­ing .500 club ‘to get over the hump’

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Rob Par­ent rpar­ent @21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Reluc­tan­tSE on Twit­ter

PHILADELPHIA >> The Fly­ers had some­thing in com­mon with their old ri­val Bos­ton Bru­ins prior to the teams’ meet­ing at Wells Fargo Cen­ter Tues­day night. While nei­ther felt the need to pull a Pan­thers panic act and start fir­ing peo­ple, their re­spec­tive sea­son starts haven’t been much to shout about, ei­ther.

The Fly­ers en­tered this game 10-10-3, about a month re­moved from last win­ning as many as three straight games. The Bru­ins came in at 12-10-0 ... but with­out in­jured mid­dle-aged teen Zdeno Chara. The Bru­ins, play­ing in an At­lantic Di­vi­sion that so far has largely been Mon­treal and ev­ery­body else, are at least within sniff­ing distance of play­off po­si­tion­ing.

The Fly­ers are hav­ing a hard time in the Metro stand­ings stay­ing as high as sixth. But of course it’s early, the Fly­ers hav­ing just re­cently passed the quar­ter-pole point of their sea­son.

What’s wor­ri­some, how­ever, is that they have played more games than all East­ern Con­fer­nce teams ex­cept the Rangers and Tampa Bay. So this .500ish start of theirs comes with an ex­tra layer of doubts.

Not so in their locker room, though.

“I think we are play­ing way bet­ter than we did last year,” Jake Vo­racek said Tues­day. “Still, we are .500. But I’ve said it so many times, through so many games ... if we came out with one or two points (in some games), we could be in the play­offs. But that’s a big if. I think we have a lot of char­ac­ter in this room. I think we’ve played mostly good hockey.”

For a team that trails only the Rangers in goals scored, yet is sec­ond to no­body in goals-al­lowed in the league, well, .500 seems at least justified. Then again...

“I think we’re im­prov­ing,” Claude Giroux said. “I think ev­ery game we’re work­ing on some­thing dif­fer­ent. We’re im­prov­ing as a team. We have to re­ally buy in to what we’re try­ing to do here. I think we still have a lot of things to work on, but I think we’re go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

Still, it’s pretty ob­vi­ous there’s been some­thing miss­ing through the first quar­ter of the sea­son. Not that it’s any­thing new for these tra­di­tion­ally slow-start­ing Fly­ers. Heck, to be .500 af­ter 23 games isn’t bad for this team.

“We’re play­ing pretty good hockey but we’ve got to make a push to get over the hump to win games con­sis­tently,” coach Dave Hak­stol said. “In or­der to do that we have to be a lit­tle bit more com­plete through the 60-minute (game) . ... We’re play­ing pretty well, but play­ing pretty well is not what it’s about. You have to find ways to get points on a con­sis­tent ba­sis.”

••• Not only were the Bru­ins miss­ing the 39-yearold Chara, but also standup de­fender John-Michael Liles, leav­ing them a lit­tle prone on the blue line. Chara was miss­ing his fourth straight game with a lower body in­jury.

Hard to deny that was a stroke of luck for the Fly­ers.

“He’s Chara, so ... he moves the puck well, (has) a good stick; he has a big body,” Giroux said. “I think he’s kind of their quar­ter­back back there. But they have a lot of young (de­fense­men) that can play some pretty good hockey. So you can’t un­der­es­ti­mate their de­fense if Chara is out.”

••• The Fly­ers in­tro­duced the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in­duc­tion class at the first in­ter­mis­sion Tues­day night. The group in­cluded the mem­bers of the 1996 World Cup of Hockey cham­pi­onship Team USA.

Most or all team mem­bers were at this cer­e­mony at Wells Fargo Cen­ter, in­clud­ing Flour­town na­tive Mike Richter, then-as­sis­tant coach Paul Holm­gren and for­mer Fly­ers De­rian Hatcher, John LeClair and Joel Otto. Also here was Chris Che­lios ... who got booed.

That tour­na­ment essen­tially opened the then-CoreS­tates Cen­ter for busi­ness that year.

NOTES >> Those three straight wins for the Fly­ers were at Carolina Oct. 30, then home over Detroit Nov. 2 and at the Is­landers the next night. That was the only time they had won as many as two in a row, too . ... Bran­don Man­ning, likely suf­fer­ing from the ef­fects of a likely con­cus­sion, was an­nounced as being day to day with an “up­per body in­jury.”

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