It may have been Christmas week for the Philadelphia Flyers, but the team was still busy before the break, playing three games in four days. Both general manager Ron Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol kept things interesting with lineup choices, confirming Oskar Lindblom wasn’t getting recalled and riding Brian Elliott.
New Lines Vs. Blue Jackets
Hakstol changed up his offensive lines in the biggest way since he broke up the first line before the Flyers’ game against the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night. Travis Konecny moved up to the first line and Nolan Patrick into the second line, while Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula dropped to the third.
Philly had a lackadaisical effort against the Buffalo Sabres the night before, but it may not have been the only reason for the lineup switches. Konecny has been one of the better forwards lately, though not on the scoresheet. Patrick’s also improved his timing and has been finding space much better over the past couple of weeks.
Simmonds had been his usual self on the top line, but Filppula’s contributions have continued to slip throughout the year. He looks slow and indifferent to loose pucks.
Moving Konecny to the top line still kept it dangerous, Patrick should be able to influence the game more than Filppula and Simmonds is an offensive weapon on the third line. It worked out well against the Blue Jackets, where the Flyers kept up against a superior opponent and earned a point.
Overall it’s a good move by Hakstol, but Jordan Weal sat out in favor for Jori Lehtera in the past two games, which needs to change.
Oskar Lindblom Staying in AHL
One of the more surprising and discussed moves in training camp was the demotion of Oskar Lindblom. The 21-year-old Swede was assumed by analysts and fans to be on the Flyers’ opening night roster, replacing Brayden Schenn in the top nine and on the power play.
Lindblom, though, didn’t do enough to impress Hextall, and the GM sent him to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms two days before the start of the season.
At first, Hextall was vindicated. Lindblom had issues scoring on the smaller ice to start the year, but Phantoms beat writers also reported that the left winger was getting chances, but couldn’t score.
Lindblom pointless thru 5 games. But has hit 3 posts thus far. He'll settle in and be fine.
— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) October 16, 2017
If it was bad luck ailing Lindblom, it’s not bothering him anymore. According to Meltzer, the Gavle native had 20 points in his past 25 games before Saturday night. Lindblom then scored a goal and two assists to lead the team to a 3-2 win over rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
But before that performance, Hextall confirmed to reporters that Lindblom wasn’t likely to get a recall too soon:
Based on this answer from Hextall today (and acknowledging that GMs try not to give away valuable info), I wouldn't hold your breath about an imminent recall of Oskar Lindblom despite his strong recent play. pic.twitter.com/VvVzqDnh4K
— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) December 21, 2017
Though most won’t like it, Hextall sent Lindblom to the AHL for a reason. Lindblom needed to acclimate himself to the North American style and get his timing and skating down.
As a prospect, there’s no reason to recall Lindblom simply because the points are now flowing. If this was Matt Read or another veteran, it may be a different story. Lindblom has over a decade of NHL future ahead of him. Rushing him for 40 games this season isn’t worth hurting any development down the road.
Still Riding Elliott
I wrote about this last week, so I won’t go into too much detail, but some thought Hakstol may decide to sit Elliott for the first time in nine games when the Flyers played the Buffalo Sabres Friday night. The coach decided to still ride his veteran, though.
On paper, it made the most sense to have one goalie play Friday and the other Saturday when the team played Metro-Division foe Columbus Blue Jackets. The Sabres are an easier opponent and a much less important game.
Maybe Hakstol didn’t view the two points against the Sabres loseable or didn’t think Lyon was ready. Either way, he probably didn’t envision the lackluster performance he got from every player except for Elliott.
The Flyers were sluggish to start and didn’t mount any type of scoring pressure until the dying minutes of the game. It took all of Elliott’s effort to keep the contest even close for Philly, so maybe it was a good thing that Hakstol went with the former St. Louis Blue on Friday. It would not have been a good outing for Lyon in his first NHL game.
But just like last week, fans have to wonder what this means toward the end of the year for Elliott. Last season saw Steve Mason tire near the end of the year as Hakstol rode him during February. Now that Michal Neuvirth’s back, maybe it won’t be an issue. Either way, it’s something to watch as the season goes on.