BOSTON — Flyers coach Dave Hakstol is careful about what he says about his players. He’s less so when it comes to what his actions say about them.
Benching Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere at times last season, benching and ultimately demoting Travis Sanheim this year — he’s less the nurturing teacher many perceived when he was hired three years ago as he is an NHL coach in search of the two points available that night.
So starting rookie goaltender Alex Lyon on Thursday against the third-best team in the NHL was interesting, even given that it was the second game of a back-to-back, or that the Flyers arrived in Boston early Thursday morning amid the latest nor’easter, or even that the Bruins were missing three of their best players.
Faced with a similar situation a few days before, Hakstol had opted to start Petr Mrazek against both Tampa Bay and Florida. “This back-to-back is different,’’ he said. “In Florida you had a 26-hour time difference. This one presents a little bit of a challenge with an 8 p.m. start and a 7 p.m. start after travel the previous night.’’
So much for a vote of confidence for Lyon who, after backstopping consecutive victories against the Rangers and Canadiens, played well enough in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Bruins to make some headway with his coach. Especially since Mrazek has certainly come back to earth after that strong initial three-game stretch, allowing 20 goals over the four straight losses that preceded last night’s fifth.
“It’s not for me to speculate on that,” Lyon said after Thursday’s game. “Any energy spent on that is totally wasted. I just come to the rink, practice, and have a good attitude and get better.”
Until last night’s spirited loss, the Flyers were beginning to resemble the team that lost 10 straight games in November and early December, and not the one that recently completed a stretch in which they won 10 of 12 games and gained points in each.
“I think bluntly, being honest, that happens in a stretch where you don’t lose a game,’’ Hakstol said earlier this week. “We went through a dozen games without losing, and you see little signs along the way. Not a lot. I think our group stayed pretty accountable. But we saw a little of that slide in …
“I was disappointed with our game … against Carolina. But I loved the intensity level that we came out with and the purpose that we came out with in Tampa. … The detail of our game, some of the awareness in our game, slipped on the back half in Florida. And as well as they transitioned, they got us on it.’’
So too, did Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, flipping a game the Flyers seemed to be gaining control of with three goals off some mistakes by the home team.
With a game Saturday afternoon against Winnipeg and Monday’s only Philadelphia appearance by the surprising Vegas Golden Knights, Hakstol doesn’t have the kind of time he was afforded in college to fix things.
Then again, these players aren’t all kids, either.
“I find with our group just to be simple and direct,’’ said Hakstol. “This group is pretty sharp, pretty accountable among themselves. Not a whole lot needs to be said. Especially at this time of the year. We know what type of team that we are. We know what we have to do to give ourselves a chance to be successful.
“We’re not looking for any measuring sticks. We’re looking to get two points.’’