As Flyers stumble to finish line, where does responsibility fall?

As Flyers stumble to finish line, where does responsibility fall?

NEWARK, N.J. -- Dave Hakstol has never hidden from responsibility.
 
He didn't on Monday after his team's third straight loss.
 
"Starting with me, we've got to do better," he said.
 
On Thursday, the Flyers were arguably their worst -- an unjustifiable 6-2 loss to the lowly Devils, who had dropped 10 consecutive games before having their way with Hakstol's bunch.
 
Such a performance begs for responsibility, right? It's getting to that point and time in the Flyers' season, as the playoffs look farther out of sight.
 
Ultimately, the players have to perform, but can the coach do more?
 
Can he push a few different buttons?
 
Can he send a message through the locker room?
 
Can he still motivate his players?
 
Hakstol, in just his second NHL season, is already facing trying times and questions.
 
"I'm going to work -- work to prepare and fight and battle every single night," Hakstol said Thursday when asked if he feels his seat getting warmer. "That part of it doesn't even enter my mind. I'm worried about wins and losses and the performance of our team."
 
After his team's third loss in as many games against New Jersey, which has outscored the orange and black, 14-3, Hakstol wouldn't address the Flyers' bewildering problems with the Devils, who they play twice more this season.
 
"I haven't given much thought to that," Hakstol said. "Tonight, we lost a hockey game. I'll get into that at another time after the season when I have some time to think about it. Right now, I'm worried about this one tonight and the next one coming up."
 
The Flyers still have fire in their bellies, according to captain Claude Giroux.
 
"Yeah, we're angry," he said (see story). "We know we're a better team, we know we can be in a better position. That's not the case and we need to keep working, keep working to be a better team."
 
Brayden Schenn, on the other hand, wasn't having it when asked about his coach's job security.
 
"It's not my job to start worrying about the coaches and stuff like that," Schenn said. "It's on us players to go out and play better. I'm not even going to start commenting on that. Us players have got to be better and we know it. We've been inconsistent all year and that's on the players."
 
The Flyers are 7-10-2 since the start of February and have scored the NHL's second-fewest goals since the start of December (102 in 46 games). Inconsistency has been general manager Ron Hextall's biggest gripe, oftentimes having him feel at a loss.
 
"It does sometimes because you're sitting there going, 'It's the same team every night, right?'" Hextall said pregame Thursday. "You're going to have peaks and valleys, that's reality. You're dealing with human beings, not robots. We understand that. But our valleys have been a little too low for me."
 
Hextall said he wants to see growth every season. In the points column, that will not be the case with 2015-16 to 2016-17. The Flyers would have to win their final 12 games to match last season's point total of 96.
 
"We want to get better every year, get younger every year," Hextall said. "That's the goal. If we can get better this year … we've got a few games to let that play out.
 
"You learn lessons as players and I think the lessons for us is, if you're not going to be consistent, it's hard to stay in a playoff spot. We're good enough. You look at a lot of nights, we're good enough."
 
Can the leadership group be better?
 
"I think there's responsibility for [the whole team]," Hextall said.
 
That goes for the coach and his staff, too.
 
Going the college route?
NCAA free-agent players often sign with NHL teams around this time of year as their collegiate seasons come to a close.
 
Last season, the Flyers signed Yale goalie Alex Lyon in early April. Lyon is currently playing for AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.
 
Will the Flyers make a signing this season?
 
"Yeah, it would be nice," Hextall said. "We'll see."
 
The decision is heavily dictated by the college player finding his best fit.
 
"You can never have enough depth," Hextall said. "Offensively, I think we do have some good players coming and I don't think they're that far away, but you can never have enough. You can never have enough young players. You can never have enough guys that can score or make plays. If we can add to our pool, that would be great. Unfortunately, when you have a lot in your pool, sometimes they're looking and going, 'Hmm, is this the right spot?'
 
"In the end, college free agents, they typically get the best fit for themselves and typically it's with an organization that's a little bit thin. Not always."

NHL Playoffs: Penguins chase Holtby, beat Capitals to take 2-0 series lead

NHL Playoffs: Penguins chase Holtby, beat Capitals to take 2-0 series lead

WASHINGTON -- Phil Kessel scored twice, Sidney Crosby set up more goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins chased Braden Holtby on the way to a 6-2 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 2 Saturday night that gave them a commanding 2-0 lead in their second-round series.

Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant again in stopping 34 of the 36 shots he faced for Pittsburgh, which also got goals by Matt Cullen, Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins scored three goals on 14 shots on Holtby, who was pulled in favor of Philipp Grubauer after the second period.

Grubauer didn't fare much better, allowing two goals on nine shots. Matt Niskanen and Nicklas Backstrom scored for the Capitals, who outshot the Penguins 36-23 but still face an uphill task of trying to become just the 19th team to win a series after losing the first two games at home.

Guentzel added an empty-net goal to seal it for the Penguins, his playoff-best seventh (see full recap).

Pageau gets 4th goal in 2OT to lift Sens over Rangers
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Jean-Gabriel Pageau got his fourth goal of the game in the second overtime after scoring twice late in regulation, lifting the Ottawa Senators over the New York Rangers 6-5 Saturday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Ottawa leads the series 2-0 despite trailing by two goals after Brady Skjei's score with 14:50 left in the third. Pageau cut it to 5-4 with 3:19 left in the period, then tied it with 1:02 remaining.

Pageau scored again 2:54 into the second OT, snapping in a shot during a 2-on-1 rush alongside Tommy Wingels. Pageau is the first Senator ever with four goals in a playoff game.

Marc Methot and Mark Stone also scored for Ottawa, and Craig Anderson had 43 saves.

Skjei had two goals for New York and Michael Grabner, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan also scored. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 28 shots.

The series heads to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday night (see full recap).

Ron Hextall on landing No. 2 overall pick: 'This is a big day for our franchise'

Ron Hextall on landing No. 2 overall pick: 'This is a big day for our franchise'

You remember the 2007 NHL draft?

The Flyers were robbed that year in the draft lottery and were forced to settle for the No. 2 overall pick later that June.

They chose James van Riemsdyk and the Chicago Blackhawks — drafting first — tabbed Patrick Kane.

Well, the Flyers got some needed payback Saturday night in Toronto at the 2017 draft lottery.
 
While the Flyers didn't win the top overall pick in this year's draft, they pretty much won the lottery just the same, moving from 13th overall to the No. 2 selection (see story).

"This is a big day for our franchise," said general manager Ron Hextall, who was an assistant general manager with Los Angeles in 2007 when it was Paul Holmgren's team in Philadelphia.

"When the 13th pick went by there and we knew we were one, two or three, that was a huge move for our franchise. We couldn't be more excited."

New Jersey will pick No. 1 and Dallas will pick third. Neither Colorado, the worst team in the NHL, nor Vegas, the newcomer to the NHL, made the top three.

The Flyers bucked enormous odds to advance from 13th to No. 2. They had a 2.4 percent chance of pulling it off. They were nearly 89 percent certain to remain at 13.

Maybe their luck is changing.

"We had a lot of bad luck this year," Hextall said. "I'm hoping this is a turning point for some of that to be turned around. This is a big point for our franchise. We're obviously going to get a very good player and hopefully in years, we'll look back on this as a turning point for us."

Depending on what the Devils do, the Flyers, who need offensive pop, are expected to select either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, both promising forwards who are considered impact players.

While this draft is nowhere near as deep as last year's with Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine, it still holds quality in the first round and the Flyers are guaranteed a player who should make a difference.

"This isn't as bad as a draft as people say it is," Hextall said. "We felt with the 13th pick, we would get a good player. It's probably an average draft.

"The last couple drafts have been bumper but this is a good draft. Obviously, moving up to No. 2, we're going to get an even better player."

Patrick, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, played for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League and was named the top skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau despite missing parts of the season with a lingering groin/abdominal injury.

The 6-foot-2, 198-pound center had 20 goals and 46 points in 33 games and still was a consensus No. 1 or 2 player by most scouts. His lineage is excellent, as his uncle, James Patrick, played 1,280 games.

Hischier is trying to become the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history. Nino Niederreiter was taken fifth overall by the New York Islanders in 2010.

The 6-foot, 176-pound Hischier led the QMJHL rookie class with 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games this season.

Can either Patrick or Hischier play right now?

"I don't know who that player is going to be," Hextall said. "Any player, as you know from my history, they've got to come in and earn it.

"If we draft a player at No. 2 and he comes in and earns it, then he'll be on our team. If he needs more time, he needs more time."

That said, Hextall admitted his scouting staff had paid attention to pick anywhere from No. 1 to 13th or worse, especially after things started going south for the Flyers in late winter and the playoffs began slipping away.

Hextall would not compare this year's draft-eligible players, talk about them individually or indicate which player he felt might be available at No. 2.

For now, Hextall envisions keeping the second pick but wouldn't rule out trading down if the right offer was there.

"You can't say no to anything because you don't know what will come your way," Hextall said.

The Avalanche, who had the best shot at winning the No. 1 pick, will draft fourth. Vancouver is fifth and Vegas will pick sixth.

Hextall watched the draft lottery on TV after returning home from Finland.

"Sometimes you get some good luck and sometimes you get some bad luck," Hextall said. "This was a fortunate day for our franchise. This was a big one."