It’s gameday, everybody, and it’s make or break time. We’re back to Pittsburgh for Game 5, and the Flyers are on the edge of elimination.
We at BSH previewed the series with a round table discussion, so it only seems appropriate to revisit the format as we near the end. Let’s check in with our esteemed panel, to see how they’re all feeling, and what they’re thinking about this series.
First of all, I feel like I have to check in with everybody. How are we doing? Like, emotionally? Are we all hanging in there? Does anyone need a hug?
Steph: I need a lot of things, hugs included.
Kelly: I literally always need a hug. If you see me on the street, hug me.
Kyle: Hugs are very much needed, and probably alcohol.
Mike: I want to die.
Craig: Bury me alive and tell my family I hated them.
Kurt: Hungry. And sad. But mostly hungry.
Okay. I don’t really know where to start here, but the first thing that comes to mind is goalies. It’s been rough. Have we seen any improvement from Elliott since he came back? Who do you start on Friday?
Brad: I wouldn’t say I’ve seen any improvement, no, but the other two goalies seem to be facing the wrong direction when the puck goes in the net so I guess I’d start Elliott again.
Maddie: Facing the right direction seems like good metric for starter competency!
Steph: He’s the best of the bad imo. Is he actually bad? No. He can’t win games for the team if no one is scoring goals. But none of them are performing particularly well. I’d keep rolling with him because I have the most faith in him to figure it out, which is more commentary on how I feel about he other two than Elliott himself.
Kelly: Elliott hasn’t been as good as we’ve seen him be this season but like...I don’t care. The team isn’t scoring goals. That said, I echo Steph’s sentiments. Elliott is the best option we’ve got and we need to keep him in.
Kyle: Elliott has struggled for sure, but I’m not sure going away from him will solve anything, especially if his replacement is Neuvirth. May as well keep riding him.
Mike: Neuvirth should get the nod. He was great with his back against the wall against the Caps two years ago and has the best shot to so-called steal a game. He had some time to get back in game speed on Wednesday and Elliott had been awful outside of a few periods in Game 2.
Craig: I’m kind of leaning with Mike here. At the same time I feel like this is exactly the type of game where we’d expect Neuvirth to come in and save us, but instead he pulls his groin missing on the first shot of the game and Elliott comes in down 1-0. Also, like Kelly said, does it matter if they don’t score?
Kurt: I mean, sure, why not start Neuvirth. What’s the worst that happens, he gets hurt for three weeks? There’s essentially nothing to lose here.
It’s too soon to say how long Couturier will be out for, but how did we like Patrick bumped up in his place? Are we comfortable seeing more of it, if it comes down to it?
Steph: I liked it! And I think he took it on particularly well, but got no support from the rest of the team. I’m comfortable with Nolan Patrick at 1C, but I am not comfortable with all of the other things that have either caused it or follow from it. Mainly Jori Lehtera and Valterri Filppula both playing big roles and the 1C from the past century being utilized as a winger.
Maddie: He did well, for sure, and it would’ve been nice to see what he could’ve done with a bit more support. I agree.
Kelly: If I’m being honest I was very nervous about the idea of Patrick being bumped up to 1C. But he was one of the best players on the ice Wednesday night (low bar, I know, but still) and looked very confident with his increased role. Bodes well for the future for sure.
Brad: I liked it as well, but now it looks like we’re gonna have to suffer through top line Filppula, so I guess that experiment is over. For now.
Kyle: Patrick was essentially the only bright side from the forwards in game four, so it definitely eases my mind for him seeing that role in the future if need be. Dave Hakstol hates fun though, and probably won’t go back to him for game five, cue the sad trombone.
Mike: I’d rather Nolan slide in his usual No. 2 spot down the middle with Giroux at 1C if Couturier misses the game since that makes them less one line heavy but hey I don’t make the lineups.
Maddie: Boy are you going to like one of our upcoming questions...
Craig: Patrick as 1C was great. The problem is everything else was terrible. If Couturier is out, I feel like Giroux has to play center. Filppula can’t be the 2C.
Maddie: I want to say there was a shift or two where Giroux was moved back to center during Game 4. If the Filppula at 1C experiment goes horribly, horribly wrong, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try that out again as another in-game adjustment.
I worry we may be getting too sad and grumbly by now. Maybe time for a bit of levity? Who have you been most impressed with so far? Let’s say some nice things. Please.
Steph: I’ve been most impressed with the kids. I was going to only say Travis Sanheim but Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny are having themselves a series. I’m glad our youths are not feeling the pressure the vets seem to be.
Kelly: Travis Sanheim for sure, which is depressing given that he’s been pulled from the lineup. Patrick has looked great as well, which is great to see. Also Ivan Provorov has been our best defenseman, as always.
Brad: Ivan Provorov has been great this series. At 5-on-5 his 56.14% CF is 3rd behind only Claude Giroux and Jordan Weal, and his 61.67% SCF leads all Flyers. Stud.
Kyle: Going into this series I was probably most excited to see Nolan Patrick play playoff hockey, and he hasn’t disappointed. He’s played physical and put pressure on the Penguins seemingly every time he touches the puck, kid’s gonna be a star.
Mike: Nolan is the obvious answer here, he’s done just about everything right but find the back of the net more. Outside of him it’s been sort of a tire fire all over the rest of the roster IMO.
Craig: I like how Provorov, Patrick, and Konecny have looked all series. Provorov had a monster Game 2, Patrick has shown something in every game (minus Game 1, but... I mean), and Konecny had the great goal in Game 2 and actually showed some life early in Game 4.
Kurt: I feel obligated to note that multiple Pittsburgh-based writers that I follow have, in between various dunks on the Flyers, pointed out how good Nolan Patrick has been in this series. So that’s nice. And the moment certainly hasn’t been too big for Provorov. Cool.
How are we feeling about the lineup/personnel, at this point? You’re the coach now—do you make any changes?
Steph: Well, Maddie, lemme tell you how smart I am. I make all of the changes. The best changes. I suspend Radko Gudas for crimes against humanity, welcome back Robert Hagg! I would reunite Ghost and Provorov, pair Sanheim and Hagg, and limit the minutes of AMac and Manning. Forwards are slightly more complicated because there’s so much dead weight and without Couturier I think you need to move everyone.
Konecny - Giroux - Voracek
Lindblom - Patrick - Simmonds
Raffl - Laughton - Weal
Lehtera - Filppula - Read I guess
Kelly: I am not happy with the lineup right now. Not even a little bit. Slotting Val Filppula into the 1C spot is insane. It’s literally insane. I’d rather see Scott Laughton at 1C. Steph’s lines are also my idea, but unfortunately we have a coach who values nonsense like size and glue over actual talent. And here we are.
Brad: I guess if was making the lines I’d go back to an old first line that worked very well together back in ‘15-’16. I know a lot of fans are down on Michael Raffl at the moment, mainly because he happened to be the guy that took Travis Konecny’s spot on the top line, and I get it, that was a bad decision, but this line has good history:
Raffl - Giroux - Voracek
Lindblom - Patrick - Konecny
Weal - Laughton - Simmonds
Leier - Lehtera - Read
Defense I’d go Provy-Ghost, Hagg-Amac, Sanheim-Gudas. Hm, actually let’s scratch Gudas too. Go with Provy-Ghost, Hagg-Sanheim, Oduya-Amac. Yes, Oduya-Amac. Why not?
Maddie: Brad, I am very much in support of your kid line and your committment to wanting to watch the world burn. Oduya-AMac? Insane. I love it.
Kyle: Wait...I’m the coach now? OH HECK YES SEE YA HAK...I mean...what was the question again? Overall I’d probably go similar to what Brad has except switch Konecny and Voracek. Normally I would say “oh dear god, please no Johnny Oduya” but...drastic times call for drastic measures. Let’s watch the world burn.
Mike: I have nothing to add, you all have done this question justice.
Craig: I’m not completely sure what the optimal lineup is, but I can tell you it’s not what Hakstol put together for Tuesday’s practice. Also, hell yeah Kyle, let’s get Oduya in here. I guess I’ll be the only adult here who points out that Dale Weise was so good in the playoffs one year he got an opponent to threaten to take his life, so yeah, I’d like to see what he can do (Dave, if you read this and put Dale in, I will hunt you down).
Maddie: Dave, please do not actually do this.
Kurt: This is honestly the first time I’ve thought about Johnny “John Hockey” Oduya since, like, early March. Wonder how he’s doing up there. Anywho, I have nothing to add here because attempting to plot out competitive lines sans-Couturier is a task that will any reasonable person sad and upset.
Steph: I’m about to fire everyone who said the word Oh DO Ya
And, last, our biggest question: what do you even do from here? How can they fix this? Do we have any of that optimism left?
Brad: I don’t know. Fire the coach? It won’t fix everything but I’m fully convinced that it’s a step in the right direction. I picked the Penguins to win this series but yeesh, I thought it’d at least be somewhat competitive. I know Nolan scoffed at this when a reporter said it, but to me they really have only played one good period - the first period of game 3.
Steph: I’ve found that apathy deceptively looks like optimism in these trying times.
Maddie: You start to feel a little helpless, right? Like you’re thinking about how you can right the ship in this series and it’s a whole lot of “I have no idea how to fix this.” And you’re stuck looking way forward.
Kelly: I have come to firmly believe that this team will never reach its full potential with Dave Hakstol as its coach. And if he remains, which is believe he will, then Ron needs to take away his toys. Again. I know that the team will be better than this, and soon, but I worry that it won’t be as soon as it could be with a coach that is afraid of icing rookies.
Mike: The Eagles’ recent Super Bowl win has made me more optimistic about enjoying sports as a whole in Philadelphia. But then there’s the Flyers. I have little faith Dave Hakstol can make manage the young players this team needs to succeed in the future and Ron Hextall is going to realize this fact far too late it appears.
Kyle: Alright everyone let’s get the chants going in 3...2...1... FIRE HAKSTOL...FIRE HAKSTOL. It’s not going to fix everything, but without a coach who can judge talent better than this, I’m not sure any other steps truly matter. Players like Jori Lehtera and Brandon Manning probably shouldn’t really be at the coach’s disposal, but it also rests upon the coach’s shoulders to realize these guys should probably not be starting. If someone just so happens to ask why people or you yourself believe Dave Hakstol is a bad coach, just show them how he’s managed this series.
Craig: Sign John Tavares.
Kurt: Aw, come on, can we wait until Saturday to get to offseason #content? We’re almost there.