On Sunday, November 4th, 2017, the Philadelphia Flyers took on the Colorado Avalanche. Due to injuries on the blue line, the Flyers were forced to dress a mostly rookie defense corp, a continuation on what they have had to do for the past few games.
The already-young blue liners were headed up by veteran defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and Brandon Manning, both of which are playing in their third full NHL season. Ivan Provorov, along with Robert Hagg, were the top pairing against Colorado, collecting the most Time on Ice (TOI). Travis Sanheim and Mark Alt rounded out the Flyers’ defense.
The youth movement in Philadelphia has one of the youngest teams in the NHL, but don’t let their age fool you – the kids have been playing well.
Ivan Provorov continued his great play from last season by locking up tough minutes. His play has been especially great as of late; he seems to know where to be in almost every situation. His ice-cold demeanor and apparent inability to crack under pressure has made the sophomore defenseman an instant fan-favorite.
Provorov skated a total of 28 minutes against Colorado, racking up tons of time against their top line. He also ate up a ton of minutes on the Flyers’ penalty kill, as per usual. He and the big-bodied Robert Hagg are a winning combination. Head coach Dave Hakstol thinks that Hagg is smart player, saying, “He’s heavy-bodied, that’s how he defends. He is very smart positionally. He uses his stick well. And he uses his body well to separate people from the puck.”
While Hagg isn’t likely to lay a crushing hits, he was in the correct position to make good plays all night. However, he did have one bad bounce, which came in the second period.
Mikko Rantanen’s goal at 16:13 minutes came off this unlucky play. The puck came across the crease and, as Hagg was laying his stick on the ice to block the pass, the puck stuck his stick and went straight into his net. Hagg didn’t appear to let it bother him, as he bounced back shortly after.
In Gostisbehere’s return to the lineup, he was second overall with 26:28 TOI. Gostisbehere is now just one point shy of his 100th career NHL point after picking up an assist on Claude Giroux’s second period goal.
Against Colorado, “Ghost” was excellent; he looked like he had never gotten hurt. He managed to be visible and played to the current standard he has set for himself. I expect him to continue to play tough minutes, especially during a time where many defensemen on the Flyers are injured, and be a long-time player on the Flyers blue line.
The pair that showed the need for a veteran presence and some more experience, however, was Travis Sanheim and Mark Alt. Appearing to be rushed and forced to move the puck quickly, the pair, while skilled, seemed to be pushed around. When paired with the currently-injured Radko Gudas, Sanheim was making less noticeable mistakes – the Flyers are certainly missing Gudas.
With all of the recent injuries to the blue line, the Flyers are leaning on the rookies to step up and make smart plays. The young group has mostly been up to the task, with experience and talent growing as games pass by. Provorov and Gostisbehere are leading the charge, with Hagg, Manning, and Sanheim following close behind.
The Flyers’ play against Colorado was up and down and, unfortunately, the defense also suffered at times. But when the Flyers were pressuring, the defense was pressuring. Sneaking up to the slot on multiple occasions, they just couldn’t find the back of the net.
Ultimately, the Flyers’ young defense has been playing well and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. By pressuring when needed, keeping the puck in the zone, and making good breakout passes, the youth group on the blue line is poised to remain a threat as the season progresses.