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