Brayden Schenn

Flyers Weekly Observations: Lumps, bruises aplenty for rookie D-men

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Flyers Weekly Observations: Lumps, bruises aplenty for rookie D-men

Well, that was a busy week for the Flyers, now wasn’t it?

Seven days filled to the brim with four games, each with unique elements that turned into a 1-1-2 week with four points. The Flyers could have ended the week with more than four points. But they also had every reason to finish the week with less than four points.

It started with a mostly ugly 4-3 loss to the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Monday, continued with a 3-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Wednesday and a scrappy 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center on Thursday, and it ended back home with a 5-4 shootout loss to Colorado Avalanche on Saturday evening.

Four games left us with plenty to get down to, so let’s hop right into this week’s Flyers observations.

And let’s begin on the blue line with the young defensemen.

• It was a week of bumps and bruises, both figuratively and literally for the Flyers’ defensemen. Much of the week was played without the injured Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas, the latter of whom left the game in Chicago early and hasn’t seen the ice since. But for the younger D-men, there were booby traps all over the learning curve this week.

Let’s start with Travis Sanheim, who made a costly mistake Monday against Arizona. And by costly I mean lethal, as it led to the goal that lost the game for the Flyers. During a rush late on the 3-on-3 OT, Sanheim turned his back to the Coyotes' net instead of getting the puck toward the net. His pocket was easily picked and the Coyotes converted on the ensuing 3-on-1 rush. Game. Set. Match. It was an odd decision for a smooth, offensively gifted defenseman, especially at that stage of OT. But you get the sense it was an example of a rookie just a month or so into his career trying to do too much. Those bumps are anticipated, but, man, that was just the wrong time for that move.

Robert Hagg had two similar experiences this week that left a pit in his stomach. First in Chicago on Wednesday, a puck bounced right over his stick after a faceoff win and Jonathan Toews was off to leave Brian Elliott out to dry on a Windy City clothesline. Then Saturday night while on the PK, a Mikko Rantanen pass attempt went right off Hagg’s stick, which was in good position on the ice, and into the net for an Avalanche goal. And to boot, he took a slapper to the kidney area later in the game. Ouch.

Again, these are all lumps that come with being a rookie in the NHL, especially in a high-pressure position such as defenseman. Remember that awful game Ivan Provorov endured early last year in Chicago? Yes, he’s a special talent, but he bounced back almost immediately. The key is not letting one or a couple plays stick in your mind and change the way you play. One good play, no matter how big or small, reinforces all the confidence in the world.

• Speaking of Provorov, that guy is just a machine. Let’s take a look at his ice time this week: 28:07 vs. Arizona, 29:51 vs. Chicago, 27:08 vs. St. Louis, 28:00 vs. Colorado. That’s an average of 28:17 over the last week. What more can he do? A lot. He added three assists vs. the Coyotes and then 10 blocked shots against the Blues. He was a monster in that game in St. Louis, helping keep Russian countryman and sniper Vladamir Tarasenko at bay. It’s hard to remember sometimes that Provorov is just the ripe, old age of 20. At 20, he’s the unquestioned leader of the Flyers’ defense, and rightfully so.  

• The first 50 minutes of the loss to the previously winless Coyotes on Monday was some of the ugliest hockey we’ve seen the Flyers play in a long, long time. No one on the same page. Absolutely nothing in sync. Passes all over the place. Breakdowns aplenty. The list could go on and on and on. To say the effort was lifeless would be quite the understatement. Of course, it’s harder to get up and get motivated for a winless, less-than-sexy team like Arizona. But still, that was inexcusable.

• We all watched Brayden Schenn play for five seasons here in Philadelphia. We know he’s not a dirty player. A physical player always looking to drop a hit whenever he can? Absolutely. But not dirty. But that hit in St. Louis on Sean Couturier was unacceptable.

Fortunately, Couturier only had the wind knocked out of him and came back later in the game, but that hit was late, high and incredibly dangerous. Schenn was given a two-minute minor for interference on the play, which speaks to a more general issue around the league.

That’s exactly the type of hit the NHL wants to eradicate from the game, yet only a two-minute penalty is given? What message does that send? You can knock another player out, but it’s OK, you didn’t do that much wrong? Stiffer penalties, both during and following games, are steps to getting rid of those hits.

• Captain Claude Giroux said it best following the shootout loss the Avs (see video) — The Flyers could really use the upcoming four days off after playing a stretch of seven games in 11 days that included a visit to Canada and a journey to Chicago and St. Louis on back-to-back nights. The stretch of four games in six days this past week was especially grueling. And to top it all off, it seemed like a Flyer was getting nicked up at every turn Saturday night against the Avs. These four days off will be refreshing for a team that’s already been ravaged by injuries at different points this season. We may not like having four days without Flyers hockey to watch, but the Flyers will certainly take it.

Coming up this week: Thursday vs. Chicago (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday vs. Minnesota (7 p.m. on NBCSP+)

Brayden Schenn opens up about being traded to Blues

Brayden Schenn opens up about being traded to Blues

ST. LOUIS — Brayden Schenn could read the writing on Ron Hextall’s wall — the one with the organizational depth chart on it.

“I probably talked with my agent a month before the draft, and there wasn’t even talk about me getting traded because I had no idea that this was going to happen," Schenn said after Thursday's morning skate. "I looked right around at St. Louis and saw that the Blues might need a centerman. It was one day we talked about it, and I never talked about it again until I got traded.”

Not long after the Flyers fortuitously leaped all the way into the number two slot at the NHL’s Draft Lottery is when Schenn realized he needed to start dissecting the trickle-down effect of Philadelphia landing a franchise center, knowing at that time the pick would either be Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick. 

“The No. 2 pick, you knew it was going to be another center, right?" Schenn said. "Leading up to the draft, there was a lot of talk about Montreal and that’s what I was kinda hearing. I was just on a golf trip with a bunch of buddies and I looked at my phone, it happened to be on ringer and it happened to be Ron Hextall, and right away I knew I was gone.

“I always felt I could go play center and that was a natural position for me. I think Philly knew I could play the wing, but they also knew I wanted to play center as well. It just kinda helped that St. Louis was the landing spot.”

Schenn was dealt to the Blues for Jori Lehtera and a pair of first-round picks, plus a conditional third rounder. As Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic wrote Thursday morning, the Blues had even reached out to the expansion Golden Knights about taking Lehtera and his $4.7 million contract off their hands, but even they had no interest in the 29-year-old Finn.

Hextall realized with Patrick there was an organizational logjam at the center position that ultimately led to not only the Schenn trade, but the decision to transition the captain and arguably their most skilled player Claude Giroux to left wing. Watching Giroux’s almost seamless transition here in Philadelphia is similar to Schenn’s changeover in St. Louis, where he has clicked almost instantaneously with linemates Jaden Schwartz and superstar Vladimir Tarasenko.

“I think it’s just maybe having the confidence that you’re going to stay at center here, I guess,” said Schenn. “I played maybe ten games at right wing (in Philly), ten games at center, 20 games at left wing. I was kinda all over the place.

“I came here Day 1 and he (coach Mike Yeo) said ‘Do you want to play center? We’ll give you a shot there.’ I think here, you get in a rhythm and get in a groove of playing down the middle and being in situations where you’re counted on to be liable in your own end, playing against good players.” 

When asked about Schenn, Tarasenko and Schwartz both referred to him as a “smart” player, which never seemed to be the label he was attached with here in Philadelphia. It’s not that Schenn is unintelligent, but possessing a high hockey IQ wasn’t one of his known attributes. Perhaps there’s a confidence boost that has accompanied him to St. Louis, as well as being more committed to the defensive side of the game. 

“Playing in the middle and taking faceoffs, I find it gets you more involved in the game right away. It’s on you to win the faceoff and get the puck right away and it gets you a little bit more involved in the game,” Schenn said.

The trade of Schenn also came roughly a year and a half after the Flyers dealt his older brother, Luke, to Los Angeles as part of a deal to shed Vinny Lecavalier’s hefty contract and a center that was no longer in their future plans. 

“I guess Schenns aren’t wanted in Philadelphia. I don’t know what it is,” Brayden said. “I think it was a little bit tougher situation with your brother being on the team with you. I just remember sitting in a car taking off for a road trip near the trade deadline, there were talks about L.A. and him going there, and I think it’s tougher when your brother’s not hopping on that flight with you. So for me, I was the only guy in Philly. It’s always tough leaving teammates and buddies, but that’s the business. I’m not the first guy ever to get traded and I won’t be the last.”

And with Luke now in Arizona, the flow of Schennergy is now amping up here in St. Louis.

Best of NHL: Devils top Senators in shootout

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Best of NHL: Devils top Senators in shootout

NEWARK, N.J. — Jesper Bratt and Drew Stafford scored in the shootout, and the New Jersey Devils beat the Ottawa Senators 5-4 Friday night after blowing a two-goal lead in the final 1:15 of regulation.

Stafford kept the Devils in it by netting a backhand on their third shootout chance and then Bratt totally faked out Mike Condon on the fourth attempt for the game-winner. Tom Pyatt had scored for Ottawa on its second attempt.

Keith Kinkaid stopped Mike Hoffman on the Senators' last try to give the Devils their seventh win in nine games.

Jimmy Hayes, Adam Henrique, Brian Gibbons and Damon Severson scored for New Jersey, which rallied from a 2-0 deficit with four straight goals.

Trailing 4-2 with less than two minutes to play, the Senators pulled their goaltender and tied the game on goals by Mark Stone and Christopher DiDomenico (see full recap). 

Vegas moves to 8-1-0 after thumping Avs
LAS VEGAS — The Golden Knights hoped to give Las Vegas a reason to cheer when they opened their first ever homestand days after a mass shooting jarred the city.

Consider this a jackpot for Las Vegas' first major professional sports franchise.

Oscar Dansk got his third win in his third career game, and Vegas beat the Colorado Avalanche 7-0 Friday night to extend the best start ever by an NHL expansion team.

The Golden Knights won six of seven during their first string of home games. Their Oct. 10 home opener came nine days after 58 people were killed and nearly 550 were injured when authorities say Stephen Paddock rained gunfire from the windows of a 32nd-floor hotel suite into a crowd of country music concertgoers (see full recap).

Schenn's game-winner lifts Blues over Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. — Dmitri Jaskin had spent some important minutes in the press box during the first 10 games of the St. Louis Blues' season.

But he showed on Friday night he can be up for some ice time.

Jaskin scored his first goal of the season and Brayden Schenn added the game-winner, giving the Blues a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Jaskin had been a healthy scratch in three of St. Louis' first 10 games, with one assist over that span (see full recap).