Flyers

Breaking down why Sam Morin is Flyers' odd man out on defense

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Breaking down why Sam Morin is Flyers' odd man out on defense

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Through the first three games of the season, 21 of the 23 players on the Flyers' roster have seen action in at least one game so far.
 
Sam Morin and Jori Lehtera spent the West Coast portion of this four-game road trip either watching from the press box or working out in the bowels of the arena.
 
While few people may be questioning the Lehtera decision, Morin is the 6-foot-6 elephant in the Flyers' dressing room right now with a stick that measures nearly that same size. 
 
Morin clearly believes he earned his roster spot and was confident in his overall performance during the preseason to warrant a spot on one of the three defense pairings. A week ago, when his bags were packed for San Jose, Morin spoke of achieving a dream by making the opening night roster, but that he needed to keep going.
 
However, the latter part of that grand plan isn’t going well at all.
 
If Morin doesn’t crack the Flyers' lineup Tuesday in Nashville, management will have to seriously consider reassigning the 22-year-old defenseman to Lehigh Valley so he can continue his development, because sitting idle isn’t beneficial for the player or the organization (see weekly observations).
 
“I don’t have the answer,” general manager Ron Hextall said Thursday. “If you want a definite answer, I don’t have it. We’re not going to carry eight defensemen. It could be tomorrow, a week from now or two weeks from now, but we’re not going to carry eight for long."
 
The decision to carry eight defensemen from the outset was the result of an upper-body injury to Shayne Gostisbehere and the uncertainty of his status, but now, that’s no longer an issue.
 
While Hextall has stated how pleased he’s been with the effort of all three rookie defensemen following the preseason, it’s not a matter of which rookie deserves to be in the lineup, but the manner in which Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol prefer to construct their pairings.
 
Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald — Whether you like it or not, this pair isn’t going to change, at least, not anytime soon.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg — A stay-at-home defenseman combined with a mobile, offensive-minded defenseman. It’s a good blend and with Hagg’s comfort level playing the right side, that’s another key attribute to why he’s been a mainstay in the lineup. 
 
Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning/Travis Sanheim/Morin — Since Gudas is more of a physical force who doesn’t venture too far from the opponent’s blue line, Hakstol has shown a preference to pair him with Sanheim’s mobility and offensive upside.
 
Credit Sanheim, who has improved from his first game in Los Angeles to his second game in Anaheim. Moreover, Sanheim earned Hakstol’s trust, playing 4:53 in the third period of a tied game — the most ice time Sanheim has seen in his six periods of action.
 
“I thought he picked up where he left off in the third period in L.A.,” Hakstol said Saturday, “which was back to playing his game … moving his feet well. I thought he played a pretty confident game.”
 
Right now, it’s all about fit, and Sanheim appears to be the better choice playing alongside Gudas. I’d be surprised if Hakstol deviated from that against a very quick Predators team that prefers to get in hard and fast on their forecheck, and if he did, he very likely would revert back to Manning.
 
All of which has left Morin in an uncomfortable position, no matter how comfortable the press box seating is.

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Tyler Pitlick

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Tyler Pitlick

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October.

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Tyler Pitlick. 

Destra

After earning his first point with the Flyers in the opening game of the season, it took a little bit of time before Pitlick found a rhythm with his new team. Little did anyone know in those opening weeks, that he would soon become a huge asset to the bottom six on the roster. 

Much like the Radko Gudas for Matt Niskanen trade in the offseason, trading Ryan Hartman for Pitlick didn’t seem too significant at the time and created more questions than answers. It turns out, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher knew exactly what he was doing. While there were a handful of rookies like Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel adjusting to the pros, Pitlick added a level of solidification to the bottom lines. He, alongside players like Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl — who are well-known for their steady performance — made each of the Flyers’ four lines weapons. 

Through 63 contests, Pitlick tallied 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) and would be a valuable asset moving forward with the Flyers. 

Let’s give Pitlick a B for an overall solid season. 

Fordyce 

Early in the season, you didn’t notice Pitlick much and while sometimes for a player like Pitlick not hearing his name is a good thing (as it means he’s doing his job), that was not the case for Pitlick in the early going as he struggled. As the season wore on though, Pitlick carved out a nice role for himself with the team and began to flourish.

A simple look at his game log in 2019 shows that Pitlick was a minus player 10 times, but after the calendar changed to 2020, Pitlick had a minus rating only three times. In addition, later in the season Pitlick developed more of an offensive game, chipping in with goals and assists from time to time. After struggling at the start, Pitlick overall turned into a reliable veteran down the stretch. 

He gets a B from me.

Hall

When the Flyers acquired Pitlick last summer, he explained his game:

"I'm a physical, north-skating player. I can score and make plays when I get the chance. I'm going to be physical and I'm going to create energy and compete as hard as I can."

Pitlick was a man of his word. He provided exactly that to the Flyers in the 2019-20 regular season. It's fair to say among the Flyers' other offseason acquisitions — Kevin Hayes, Niskanen and Justin Braun — Pitlick came with the least hype, but he became a pleasant surprise as a consistently effective bottom-six forward.

With each game, you never questioned Pitlick's effort because he was always noticeable by playing his active, north-south style. When you're constantly noticeable in limited minutes, you're doing something right.

Pitlick joined the club with an attractive $1 million cap hit and a contract set to expire this offseason. He then played his way into consideration to be re-signed by the Flyers. Good for him.

A well-earned B+ for Pitlick.

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More Flyers grades

NHL schedule 2020: Qualifying round to begin Aug. 1; Flyers vs. Bruins kicks off round robin Aug. 2

NHL schedule 2020: Qualifying round to begin Aug. 1; Flyers vs. Bruins kicks off round robin Aug. 2

Come Aug. 2, it will have been 145 days since the Flyers last played a game that counted.

If all goes as planned for the NHL, Aug. 2 will be when Flyers hockey officially returns — and when the team will start (or restart) its push for the 2020 Stanley Cup.

On Friday night, the NHL and NHLPA completed the ratification process of the league’s return-to-play plan and four-year CBA extension, setting up for a resumption and conclusion of the 2019-20 season in the anticipated 24-team tournament (see full details and new NHL calendar here). In the announcement, the schedule for the qualifying round/round robin was released.

As we know, the Flyers have a solid outlook in the round-robin tourney as the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed and with a chance to climb to improve their first-round matchup (see story).

Let's analyze the Flyers' round-robin slate and outline the full Eastern Conference schedule from Aug. 1-9 in Toronto:

No. 4 Flyers vs. No. 1 Bruins, Aug. 2

The Flyers will start things off against the NHL-best Bruins, who were the last team the orange and black played before the suspension of the regular season on March 12 (see story).

Alain Vigneault's club went 2-1-0 in three regular-season matchups with Boston. The Bruins finished the regular season with an NHL-high 100 points and a league-low 2.39 goals allowed per game.

Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, a candidate for the Vezina Trophy, is 15-2-4 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in 22 career games against the Flyers.

Interesting stat from the Flyers' perspective: Carter Hart has four career wins over the Bruins, tied for his most against any NHL club. The 21-year-old is 4-1-0 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in five lifetime matchups vs. Boston.


No. 4 Flyers vs. No. 3 Capitals, Aug. 6

When looking at the regular-season results, this is likely the most favorable matchup for the Flyers in the round robin.

The Flyers went 3-0-1 over four regular-season matchups with the Capitals, outscoring Washington 16-8 and earning a point in all four meetings.

The Capitals are the Capitals, though, a team that scored the NHL's second-most goals per game at 3.42 and has a guy named Alex Ovechkin (he went scoreless against the Flyers during the regular season for the first time in his 15-year career).

Interesting stat from the Flyers' perspective: Washington has the NHL's top power play percentage since 2000 but the Flyers held it to 1 for 17 on the man advantage during the four regular-season matchups.

No. 4 Flyers vs. No. 2 Lightning, Aug. 9

Among the round-robin teams, the second-seeded Lightning were the club that gave the Flyers the most trouble in the regular season. The Flyers dropped two games in regulation to Tampa Bay — albeit one was a 1-0 defeat and the other was a chippy 5-3 loss with an empty-netter during the final 22 seconds (see story).

The Lightning can flat-out score, putting up a league-best 3.47 goals per game.

However, the Flyers hung with Tampa Bay in other statistical categories.

Interesting stat from the Flyers' perspective: The Flyers are 2-6-3 over the last four seasons against the Lightning.

Here's the rest of the East's qualifying round/round robin schedule (team on left signifies "road" team). Per the league Friday night, a complete broadcast schedule will be released in the coming days.


Aug. 1

• No. 11 Rangers vs. No. 6 Hurricanes

• No. 10 Panthers vs. No. 7 Islanders

• No. 12 Canadiens vs. No. 5 Penguins

Aug. 2

• Flyers vs. Bruins

• No. 9 Blue Jackets vs. No. 8 Maple Leafs

Aug. 3

• Capitals vs. Lightning

• No. 11 Rangers vs. No. 6 Hurricanes

• No. 12 Canadiens vs. No. 5 Penguins

Aug. 4

• No. 9 Blue Jackets vs. No. 8 Maple Leafs

• No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers

• No. 10 Panthers vs. No. 7 Islanders

Aug. 5

• Lightning vs. Bruins

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers

• No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens

Aug. 6

• Capitals vs. Flyers

• No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets

• No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers (if necessary)

Aug. 7

• No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets (if necessary)

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers (if necessary)

• No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens (if necessary)

Aug. 8

• Bruins vs. Capitals

• No. 11 Rangers vs. No. 6 Hurricanes (if necessary)

• No. 12 Canadiens vs. No. 5 Penguins (if necessary)

Aug. 9

• Flyers vs. Lightning 

• No. 9 Blue Jackets vs. No. 8 Maple Leafs (if necessary)

• No. 10 Panthers vs. No. 7 Islanders (if necessary)

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Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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