Philadelphia Flyers’ Hakstol Still Searching for Spark

Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol will tweak the lineup again to try and spark a team that has lost 5 of its last 7 games

Last week, Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol outraged fans by scratching Shayne Gostisbehere. This decision was hard to defend from an individual-player, objective perspective, but was perhaps better interpreted as a coach desperately searching for buttons to push on a stalling team.

Ghost returned to the lineup in the Flyers next game, but the results weren’t better. Instead, the Flyers were stifled by Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-0.

On the one hand, the Flyers defense and goaltending has been marginally improving in recent games. On the other hand, the Flyers are currently 6th in their division and are 12th in the Conference. This puts them several spots out of playoff position.

Hakstol will continue to search for a spark to change the Flyers’ fortunes tonight against the Florida Panthers. Tonight, Jakub Voracek will re-join Claude Giroux on the top line.

Giroux and Voracek have had great success together in the past. That’s probably because they’re the two best players on the team, playing at the peak of their careers. Loading up the top line like this is always a tempting move, and a go-to maneuver to spark and offense.

This move, however, requires breaking up what has been the Flyers top line this season. Voracek has been playing with Travis Konecny and Sean Couturier all season, and they have been the Flyers most consistent line. The line is a perfect balance of youth, experience, playmakers, and a defensively responsible center who scores a bit in Sean Couturier.

I’m not sure the benefit of putting Voracek with Giroux outweighs the costs of taking him away from Konecny and Couturier. Still, the status quo of the Flyers’ recent performances is unacceptable. It’s hard to defend any forward as playing particularly well recently.

One of the big reasons for the Flyers recent slide has actually been the power play. The Flyers power play is still 3rd in the NHL, but they’re 0-10 over the last 3 games. Shuffling Voracek and Simmonds at 5v5 won’t make any difference there.

At the other end of the ice, the Florida Panthers have won 4 of their last 5, and will be tough to crack defensively. The Flyers will have to be patient to find success tonight, and tomorrow in their rematch with the Lightning.