If the Philadelphia Flyers have been anything this year, it’s streaky. Unfortunately for the team, they’re in one of the bad ones right now suffering four losses in a row and three last week.
Despite that, coach Dave Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall didn’t make many bad moves over that stretch. Swapping centers, goalie usage and Tyrell Goulbourne’s demotion are all included in this week’s grading of Hakstol and Hextall.
Filppula Demoted Twice, Patrick & Laughton promoted
On Wednesday, against the Washington Capitals, Hakstol demoted Filppula to the third line and promoted Nolan Patrick to the top six in a move that I loved.
Patrick has improved greatly over the past few weeks now, improving defensive play and board work. Filppula, though, has regressed hard from a solid start to the year with just six points in the 20 games before the demotion.
Besides the on-ice play, it shows some positive development evaluation from Hakstol. He recognized Patrick was ready for tougher minutes and acted accordingly. The 49 year old has surprisingly handled the rookie well this year, never scratching Patrick when he was healthy and playing him decent minutes.
But Hakstol wasn’t done there for the week. For the second night in a row, he moved Filppula down a line and this time promoted Scott Laughton to the third line. Again, it’s a good move.
Laughton has been playing at a top-nine level for most of the season. He’s been good defensively and can probably blame linemates for his lack of offensive production. Filppula may be surprised by his new fourth-line role, but it should make his responsibilities easier and still gives Philadelphia strong center depth.
Although the Flyers don’t have a win in the three games since the first swap, statistics-wise things have worked out pretty well.
Patrick scored two goals, including the game-tying one in the dying seconds against the Senators, and added an assist. Laughton scored against the Sens too and Filppula even recorded an assist against the Devils.
All around, it’s some solid choices for Hakstol. You just have to hope the team’s inability to win doesn’t change his mind.
Tyrell Goulbourne Sent to Phantoms
Looking back at the promotion of Goulbourne and how things played out, it looks like the team was trying to find a replacement on the fourth line for Taylor Leier. The two never played together and Leier had been a healthy scratch casualty before Goulbourne was recalled.
But there’s conflicting thoughts with the promotion and the process.
When Goulbourne was drafted in the third round in 2013, his future as an NHLer looked like a longshot. Things never got brighter in the years since then and may have even darkened in 2016-17 when the now-24 year old played 36 games with the Reading Royals in the ECHL.
The choice to recall Goulbourne this season was an odd one. My only guess is that the team didn’t want a winger with top six potential like Oskar Lindblom on the fourth line and already knew what they had in Colin McDonald and Matt Read. Still, there were options like Corban Knight, Mike Vecchione and Nic Aube-Kubel that could have made more sense.
But Goulbourne was the one recalled and that’s where the process gets a little funky. In nine games, the Edmonton native never played more than 7:52 in a single game.
He also never saw any penalty kill time, a ridiculously sore area on the Flyers that desperately needs help. Goulbourne, who is a regular penalty killer for the Phantoms this year, may have helped.
Regardless of who the player is or what role they’re playing, it’s nearly impossible to get into a groove and make a positive impact in such little ice time.
That can probably be blamed on Hakstol and assistant coach Ian Laperriere, who runs the penalty kill, but the promotion was a confusing one itself and that falls more on Hextall.
Alex Lyon First Start
After Michal Neuvirth was pulled early against the Washington Capitals Wednesday and admitted he felt ill during the second period, turning to Alex Lyon for Thursday’s game made the most sense. Neuvirth had a bad game against the Caps and putting him in a second straight game couldn’t have turned out well.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, neither did the alternative. Lyon was shaky to begin the game against the Devils and had his own admittance to that after the game. The Flyers were able to climb back in it, but fell victim to their own conservative play and New Jersey’s ramped-up third period offense.
But you can’t blame Hakstol for making the logical choice in net and not knowing Neuvirth was sick when he didn’t tell the team.
Saturday, against the Senators, Lyon had an even worse game in his second start. However, Hakstol was between a rock and a hard place since Neuvirth was still ill. The Czech netminder ended up playing in relief, but that was just unfortunate timing for the team and the coach.