By Jack Ryan
I know it’s early in the season, and things could turn around for the Flyers, whose offense is virtually non-existent.
But the question must be asked:
Does coach Dave Hakstol know what he’s doing?
He was brought in with lots of fanfare last May from the University of North Dakota — where he coached Flyers GM Ron Hextall’s son, as if that is a credential! — but so far college boy looks like dumb-o Craig Berube on steroids.
Tuesday marked the team’s second closed-door meeting of the season, following a 4-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, which was the Western Conference’s worst team to start the night.
“It’s not something we need to discuss here,” alternate captain Mark Streit said. “Everybody realizes what kind of performance we brought tonight. It’s unacceptable. Everybody’s got to be better and everybody’s got to be accountable. It was a really poor performance on our part.”
Things got off to a bad start from the first shot of the game. Avalanche defenseman Nick Holden dumped the puck in off the back boards and Jarome Iginla flubbed the shot. Somehow, the puck was a perfect fit as it slipped vertically between Michal Neuvirth’s pad and the goal post like a quarter in a coin slot of an arcade game.
“Yeah, bad goal. Bad angle,” said Neuvirth, who had the league’s best save percentage entering the night and made 36 saves Tuesday. “I’ve got to have those. No excuses.”
Most of the Flyers said the game shouldn’t have ended 57 seconds into the first period, but the body language suggested otherwise. After whistles the Flyers slammed their sticks in frustration, or in the case of Claude Giroux, snapped his stick in half over the boards when he got back to the bench.
The Flyers could get nothing going offensively, somehow sending 25 pucks the way of Reto Berra for his second shutout of the season.
“It’s definitely not that the guys don’t care here,” Giroux said. “Guys work hard and they come to the rink every day and they’re proud to be a Flyer. The day we’re going to come together and go game in and game out and play as a team, I think we’ll get our chemistry. We’ll start winning games.”
The Flyers have lost seven of their last eight games and as much as Hakstol wants to spin the positive that the team got three of a possible four points in the last two games of their five-game road trip, the effort didn’t come back with them from Winnipeg on Saturday.
“We should be ready to come back to our building and play a good game,” the captain said. “Our goalie played a good game. He gave us a chance to come back and we didn’t respond.”
There wasn’t much offensive pressure by the Flyers. They dumped the puck into the Colorado ice and tried to chase it, but often turned it over for an odd-man rush the other way. When they did have the puck, they missed the net 13 times on the night.
That’s not a system miscue or, as the Flyers have proven recently, the instance of one bad night. The answer is not in the game film.
“It has nothing to do with the tape. You can throw the tape out the window,” Ryan White said. “We’re not executing. We’re not playing well enough as a team. We’re not helping each other out there. Until we start getting back to basics and start helping each other out and getting simple and making those five-foot passes that are supposed to be standard every night, we’re going to be in trouble.”