By Annie Ross
Suddenly Flyers coach Dave Hakstol is looking like a visionary instead of a deer-in-the-headlights NHL wannabe.
The former coach of the University of North Dakota even sounds like a winner.
Two wins in two days against two of the league’s top teams will do that.
“It’s always easier coming back to work the next morning after you have a little bit of success,” Hakstol told NJ.com. “So that’s a nice feeling to have and one you want to build off of.”
Hakstol put the team through a Thanksgiving practice the morning after Wednesday’s 3-1 to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn, but beating Nashville 3-2 in overtime at home on Friday and then shutting out the Rangers 3-0 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday led to Sunday being a full day off for everyone.
“Guys went out and worked hard today,” Hakstol said on Monday. “Overall execution and focus was pretty good coming off a day off.”
With two wins in a row and three in their last four games, the Flyers are in the Eastern Conference playoff chase heading into tonight’s game in Ottawa. With a 9-10-5 record through 24 games, the Flyers trail Boston by four points for the conference’s second wild card spot and sit five points behind Pittsburgh for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
“I think you’ve got to know where you’re at and we know where we’re at standings-wise, performance-wise, growth-wise” Hakstol said. “I think we have a pretty clear picture of those things. Every next game we play is the biggest game of the year for us. That’s the case (Tuesday).
“The Nashville game … I thought we played a pretty complete hockey game even though we gave up the lead with a few seconds to go (in the third period),” Hakstol said. “That was a complete game for us against a team that’s hard to handle in terms of their speed of attack. I liked the way we were able to answer in overtime.
“Against the Rangers, that the probably the biggest thing I liked as well … reaction to any adversity we faced. Whether it was guys in the box, a little short on D, whatever it might have been, it seemed like we had a good answer for that adversity.”
Now the Flyers are hoping for a season-best three-game win streak in Ottawa. They were just there earlier in November and lost 4-0.
“We had a lot of good things in our game there. we were just very incomplete,” Hakstol said. “I think our biggest concern is the way we gave goals up. … Going in there against that team, as good as they are offensively, you have to play a complete game. That’s what we have to do better. Get off to a good start, but play a complete game.”