Flyers

Flyers Film Study: Robert Hagg makes little things huge

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Flyers Film Study: Robert Hagg makes little things huge

Despite Tuesday night's 6-2 loss to the Ducks, the Flyers have enjoyed a solid start with five wins and 10 points in their first nine games. Nothing to write home about but many positives.

We're still in October, but the early signs are that the youth infusion has no doubt had a significant impact in the early going.

We’ve seen a tenacious fourth line, thanks to Taylor Leier’s chemistry with Scott Laughton, Nolan Patrick, while not making a huge impact yet, has allowed for more forward depth, and the two rookie defensemen have helped reshape a much-improved unit.

Robert Hagg is the subject of our second Flyers Rookie Report. Hagg has quietly become a rock on the blue line and has enabled Shayne Gostisbehere to be himself.

Because of an injury to Andrew MacDonald, Hagg has found himself promoted to the top pair, with 20-year-old Ivan Provorov, but we’re going to look Hagg’s previous work.

Enabling 'Ghost'
For the first eight games, Hagg had been partnered with Gostisbehere, playing on the right side. Hagg’s versatility to play either the left or right side is an added weapon.

What we've seen from Gostisbehere is a different player from last season. He's healthy, which is a factor. His struggles last season were overblown, but it wasn't a flawless sophomore campaign. We have to respect advanced stats because it has a place in the game, but the eye test didn’t do him any favors. This season has been different.

Gostisbehere is tied for second on the Flyers with 11 points, leads the NHL with seven power-play assists and looks like the player we saw in his rookie season. He’s even looked stronger defensively, too. Hagg deserves a lot of credit for Gostisbehere’s early-season success.

We’ll look at two plays from the Oct. 17 Panthers game and the Oct. 19 Predators game. Hagg picked up his first career point against Florida and mastered a 2-on-1 against Nashville. Let’s go to the film.

Hagg has three options here with the puck. One is Jordan Weal near the Panthers' bench. The second is Gostisbehere. The third is Valtteri Filppula at the bottom of the screen.

With one Panther around the blue line, Filppula was too risky of an option, so it was either Weal or Gostisbehere. Hagg quickly surveyed the ice before sending it to "Ghost," who then weighed his options before racing toward the red line with wide-open space.

It's worth noting Hagg's positioning as Gostisbehere began skating up ice. Hagg patiently stayed behind, allowing Gostisbehere to go.

Hagg's positioning allowed Gostisbehere to make a quick pass to Wayne Simmonds, who was stationed at the Florida blue line, and then continue to activate before scoring a goal.

A small but smart play by Hagg netted him his first career NHL point. It's not the most memorable one, but it also showed why the pair worked so well.

The second play is an example of having a sound two-way defenseman with Gostisbehere, who turned the puck over off an offensive-zone draw that led to a 2-on-1 Nashville rush.

Hagg aggressively attacks Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm and showcases incredible stick work, forcing Ekholm to attempt an unsuccessful saucer pass. Hagg breaks up the pass and stays with the play, drops to a knee and takes away the danger.

Coming out party
Hagg's most effective game of his young career came Saturday in the Flyers' 2-1 win over the Oilers. He blocked two shots, had five hits and started the game-winning goal.

He was physical and showed great stick work. We'll look at those, but his most impressive play came with 10 seconds left, the Flyers up 2-1 and Edmonton with an extra attacker.

With the puck in the corner, Hagg challenged Connor McDavid, Ryan Strome and Patrick Maroon to a battle and effectively killed about six seconds, essentially ending the game.

That was a 22-year-old defenseman in his eighth career game challenging McDavid, the best player in the world, Strome, the 2011 fifth overall pick, and Maroon to take the puck from him. They couldn't for six seconds.

Below is a great example of Hagg's stick work. We saw a little bit of it above on the 2-on-1. On this play, Hagg used his stick to eliminate Mark Letestu's options before stripping it from Letestu. 

Hagg didn't get an assist on Simmonds' game-winning goal Saturday, but he threaded a pass to Jori Lehtera that started the play.

Analysis
A lot of what Hagg does will not show up in the box score, but the highlighted plays above are samples of how he’s earned the trust of the coaching staff.

He’s an incredibly sound player with a high hockey IQ. Through the eight games, he seemed like a perfect match for Gostisbehere, a blueliner most effective in the offensive zone.

Tuesday was not a positive night for anyone. With MacDonald out, the Flyers’ pairs were new and there was a feeling out period. By the time that happened, the game was out of reach. The Hagg-Provorov pair has potential, but I would put Hagg back with Gostisbehere.

The two clicked and read off each other. Hagg allowed Gostisbehere to do what he does best without having to worry about his partner, and that gave the Flyers a dangerous pair.

If they’re not back together Thursday, I suspect we’ll see them together again once MacDonald comes back from his lower-body injury.

Hagg might not collect a ton of points, but as a buddy of mine said the other day, "he reminds me of a late-career Kimmo Timonen." Which, I'm sure, Flyers fans will take.

Flyers call up Danick Martel, Samuel Morin

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Flyers call up Danick Martel, Samuel Morin

Mired in a five-game losing streak and in last place in the Metropolitan Division, the Flyers on Wednesday recalled defenseman Samuel Morin and forward Danick Martel from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Both players are expected to be in the lineup Wednesday against the Islanders in New York. In corresponding moves, the Flyers sent forward Matt Read, who cleared waivers Tuesday, and defenseman Mark Alt to the Phantoms.

The 22-year-old Martel has been on fire with the Phantoms. He leads the AHL with 14 goals in 17 games this season, including a hat trick in the season opener to go along with a six-game scoring streak.

“He’s taken a step this year, for sure,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Tuesday. “He’s been a good player the last couple of years, but this year, he’s clearly taken a step. He’s a dangerous player when he’s on the ice. That’s a good thing. One game in Hershey he must have had six or seven chances. We’re happy with Danick.”

Morin started the season on the Flyers' roster and remained through their four-game road trip. He suffered an injury in an Oct. 28th game against Hartford and tried to play through it in the event he would be called up to rejoin the Flyers. Morin returned to the Phantoms' lineup last week.

“Mark has played well for us,” Hextall said before Tuesday's 5-2 loss to Vancouver. “We like Sam. We kept him on the opening road trip. People, I hope, know what we think of him. He certainly knows what we think of him and right now, he’s playing 20-plus minutes. That’s where he’s at.”

Wednesday’s game at the Barclays Center could mark the first time the Flyers have played much-heralded defensive prospects Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Morin in the same regular season game.

“It’s certainly not a perfect world, but as you get injured, you say, we don’t live in a perfect world,” Hextall said. “Is it necessarily what we want? No, not really. We’ve got five young guys, two last year that are pretty big pieces. We’re pretty young right now with some pretty important players. In saying that if a young guy’s ready to play and he’s our best option then that’s what we’re going to go with.”

Best of NHL: Vladimir Tarasenko records 4 points as Blues rip Oilers

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Best of NHL: Vladimir Tarasenko records 4 points as Blues rip Oilers

ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko had two goals and two assists and got in a rare fight Tuesday night, helping the St. Louis Blues to an 8-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Brayden Schenn also had two goals and two assists, and Jake Allen stopped 26 shots for the NHL-leading Blues.

Tarasenko's fight came in the second period. In just the third scrap of his six-year career, Tarasenko tangled with Matt Benning and landed a solid right hand much to the crowd's delight.

Tarasenko was reacting to Benning's near-collision with Schenn that was almost a knee-on-knee hit.

It was Tarasenko's second career Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game. The other one came on Nov. 13, 2014, against Nashville.

St. Louis (16-5-1) scored two goals in each of the first two periods before adding four in a wide-open third.

Tarasenko got his 11th goal 3:16 into the first period on two deflections. Shooting from the slot, he scored when his shot hit Connor McDavid's stick and then Adam Larsson's stick for a 1-0 lead.

Tarasenko has 14 points in his last 13 games (nine goals, five assists) against the Oilers (see full recap).

Stars rally for home win over Canadiens
DALLAS -- Devin Shore and Jason Spezza scored 59 seconds apart late in the second period to lift the Dallas Stars over the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Shore had no goals in the first 19 games this season, but scored for the second straight game to tie it 1-all at 18:22 of the second. Spezza, who also has scored in consecutive games after netting only one goal in the first 19, put in a rebound just less than a minute later.

Shore had an assist on Spezza's goal. So did Tyler Seguin, who scored into an empty net with 27 seconds to play.

Ben Bishop made 29 saves for Dallas on his 31st birthday. He allowed only a power-play goal by Brendan Gallagher at 12:04 of the second. Gallagher scored on a rebound after Charles Hudon sent a slap shot from the blue line.

After that, the Stars killed off all three Montreal power plays in the third period.

Canadiens goalie Charlie Lindgren had 26 saves.

Neither team scored in the first period. The best chance came with 2:15 remaining, when Mattias Janmark skated in alone on Lindgren, who stopped the shot with his glove and smothered the puck on the ice.

Montreal had a 4-on-3 power play to end the first period and start the second. The Stars killed off that penalty and finished 4 for 5 on the penalty kill.

The Canadiens had a scoring chance 4 minutes into the second when Brandon Davidson's wrist shot trickled past Bishop. Gemel Smith knocked the loose puck out of the crease for the Stars.

Gallagher had two close-in chances on rebounds after Hudon's shot and poked the second into the net for the game's first goal (see full recap).