Claude Giroux stood in front of a gaggle of reporters inside the locker room after the Flyers’ 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday downright giddy while answering questions about the team’s four-game winning streak, his no-look, between the legs pass that led to the go-ahead goal late in the third period and the offensive breakout season from Sean Couturier.
It was a stark contrast from the last time he faced the media in Philadelphia. On December 2, following a listless 3-0 loss at home to the Bruins that extended the Flyers’ winless skid to 10, a clearly-frustrated Giroux dealt with calls by fans and the media to fire coach Dave Hakstol and what was wrong with the team.
Apparently, the cure to all the Flyers ills was a challenging three-game road trip to Western Canada.
“We were playing some good hockey, and I think our identity kind of changed a little bit with that road trip,” Giroux said of the three wins over Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. “We’re excited right now in the room. … We gotta keep building on this.”
Playing a couple thousand miles away as well as a couple of lineup and system changes may have saved the season.
In the first game against Calgary, Hakstol moved Jakub Voracek off the first line to play with Valtterri Filppula and Michael Raffl and bumped Wayne Simmonds from the second line to the first with Giroux and Couturier. The moves paid off handsomely as Raffl, who had just one goal all season, scored the game-winning goal in each game, while Simmonds, who had scored just once in 18 games, also found the back of the net in each contest.
Hakstol also instructed players to dump the puck into the zone instead of trying to make the fancy pass to get over the blue line. Then, he had one player enter the offensive zone to forecheck while the remaining players clogged the neutral zone to try and creat turnovers.
The new style is not an exciting brand of hockey, but it has worked so far and been a key component to the turnaround.
“The difference has been that we’ve taken advantage of our good play,” Hakstol said. “We’ve taken advantage of a break or two. I think most importantly, guys have just kept their foot on the gas and found ways to win games.”
The Flyers have won four straight in regulation for the first time in nearly four years, their first game at home since Nov. 9 and despite being tied with the Hurricanes for last place in the division sit just four points out of a wild card berth.
“We’re working hard and we haven’t stopped working hard – even through that tough stretch of games,” said Travis Konecney. “Now, it is finally paying off for us.”