VANCOUVER, British Columbia – "Hey I know everything that’s out there,’’ Flyers coach Dave Hakstol was saying before his Flyers lost 5-1 to the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night for their fourth consecutive loss on this road trip. "I know absolutely everything in terms of rumors and what’s going on out there.
"You know me well enough by now. My only concern is what we do tonight. The rest I really have no comment on.’’
Actually, it’s what they did last night, and on all but one of the nights of this disastrous five-game road trip, that has raised calls for his ouster to a deafening level. There was the early surge that netted nil. There was the obligatory opponents’ first goal. There was the lack of response, another goal, then another, a tepid power play before Scott Laughton broke through with a great individual effort against a Vancouver defense that entered the game with more goals allowed than the Flyers – albeit in four more games.
Canucks defenseman Christopher Tanev scored the game’s first goal and his first of the season weaving through the extended sticks of Wayne Simmonds and Ivan Provorov as if he was Bobby Orr. Just under four minutes later, Jordan Weal interfered with Shayne Gostisbehere (that’s legal unfortunately when it’s teammate-on-teammate crime), allowing Loui Eriksson to walk down the middle of the slot just as Tanek had and fire a puck past Anthony Stolarz.
That forced out Stolarz, who was starting for a second night in a row despite his recent history of knee surgery. The Flyers said he suffered a lower body injury and would be evaluated when the team returns to Philadelphia.
So why was he started?
"He’s played pretty well,’’ Hakstol said of Stolarz, who entered the game with a 3.70 goals against average and .887 save percentage. "So he’s going back. He didn’t have a ton of work (Friday) night… So I think he’s fresh. And he continually gives us a chance to win.’’
Truth is, as his replacement Alex Lyon quickly proved, goaltending has dropped precipitously down the list of Flyers troubles.
Anyone who wants Carter Hart to enter this mess – well they must really not like the kid.
Vancouver made it 3-0 when Josh Leivo banked a shot off the pads of Andrew MacDonald and past Lyon at 11:12. Laughton’s goal at 16:29 cut it to 3-1. But it provided little spark. The Flyers took 10 shots in the first period. When Brock Boeser’s shot from up top seeped through bodies and leaked past Lyon to make it 4-1 at 12:07 of the second, the Flyers had amassed just five more shots.
So to sum up this road trip, of which new General Manager Chuck Fletcher accompanied the team for the purpose of evaluation: There was a hopeful win in Buffalo followed by an ugly loss in Winnipeg. There was a last-minute meltdown in their overtime loss in Calgary; A tepid response in Friday’s 4-1 loss to an Edmonton team that played into overtime the night before in Winnipeg.
And then this. In his fourth year, Hakstol was Hextall’s hire, not Fletcher’s, and when the new GM was hired, Comcast chairman Dave Scott lauded his "bias for action.’’
Fletcher was unavailable for comment on Hakstol’s status before Saturday’s game, saying through a team spokesman that he does not comment on rumors.
But this is real, not rumor.
And Hakstol didn’t do himself any favors Friday and Saturday night, when he again spoke of "chasing the game’’ after Edmonton and then Vancouver scored the first goal, as though a one-goal deficit with 50 minutes left to play against a tired Oilers team was tantamount to a climb up Mount Rainier.
It’s a common refrain that has even exhausted some of his players.
"It’s tiring, always having to say we didn’t play that bad but we deserved better,’’ Jake Voracek had said after Friday’s lifeless 4-1 loss to Edmonton. "It’s tiring to go through that every single year. Every year, you’re not going to go through a stretch winning so many games like we did last year, or two years ago -- no, three years, four years -- I don’t even know. Jesus, it’s happened so many times since I’ve been here.’’
So many times they have even run out of clichés. And answers.
If you’re Dave Hakstol, maybe out of time too.
``I have no control of that,'' said Laughton. ``We have to focus on what we can do in this locker room. I’ve said it before: we have a tight group off the ice but it’s got to translate on the ice and it’s got to happen quick here. It’s a (lousy) feeling.''