Flyers

Flyers Film Study: Robert Hagg makes little things huge

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AP Images

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.

Full breakdown of Flyers' 2018-19 schedule

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USA Today Images

Full breakdown of Flyers' 2018-19 schedule

The NHL released the 2018-19 82-game regular-season schedule for all 31 teams Thursday night as the Flyers will open up in Las Vegas Oct. 4 before continuing on to Colorado Oct. 6 and then hosting the San Jose Sharks Oct. 9.

The Flyers' entire schedule can be found here.

Month-by-month breakdown

• October —12 (six home, six away, one back-to-back)
• November — 12 (seven home, five away, one back-to-back)
• December — 14 (four home, 10 away, three back-to-backs)
• January —13 (seven home, six away, two back-to-backs)
• February —13 (nine home, four away, two back-to-backs)
• March — 15 (seven home, eight away, three back-to-backs)
• April — 3 (one home, two away, no back-to-backs)

The Flyers have just 12 games on back-to-back nights, which is typically on the low end of a team’s schedule — they’ve had at least 15 back-to-backs in each of the past three seasons. Last season, the Edmonton Oilers had the fewest back-to-backs with just nine. 

Home-and-homes

The Flyers have a pair of home-and-home dates on their schedule — Nov. 5-8 against the Arizona Coyotes and a true home-and-home with the Detroit Red Wings Feb. 16-17.

December road tripping

The Flyers have two separate five-game road trips within the month of December. Last season, the Flyers' longest road trip was four games to begin their 82-game schedule. From Dec. 8-15, the Flyers will hit all four time zones starting in Buffalo before wrapping up the trip in Vancouver.  

Much less travel over second half

The midway point of the Flyers' season comes after Jan. 5 at home against the Calgary Flames. Over their final 41 games, they will leave the Eastern time zone just three times in a span of four games (Feb. 12 at Minnesota, March 21 at Chicago, April 2-4 at Dallas and St. Louis).

Waiting for the champs

Alex Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals come to South Broad for the first time on March 6 and again eight days later on March 14 in their only two games at the Wells Fargo Center.

The rival Pittsburgh Penguins don’t come to Philadelphia until Feb. 11 and the Flyers will host them one final time just 12 days later when they face off at Lincoln Financial Field as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

November is easiest

The Flyers' easiest month comes in November with just 12 games over 30 days, including a five-game homestand from Nov. 8-17. Of their 12 opponents, only five made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

A kind finish?

The Flyers close out the regular season with eight non-playoff contenders over their final 10 games, including their last five games.  

Other games of interest

• Friday after Thanksgiving — vs. New York Rangers at 1 p.m. 

• New Year's Day — at Nashville Predators at 8:30 p.m. 

Flyers' full 2018-19 schedule released

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers' full 2018-19 schedule released

The Flyers’ full 2018-19 schedule is finally here.

We already knew the orange and the black would open their season in Vegas on Thursday, Oct. 4, with the home opener coming vs. the Sharks on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at the Wells Fargo Center (see story).

But there are some juicy new tidbits here, including the previously announced Stadium Series game vs. the Penguins at the Linc on Saturday, Feb. 23. Some dates to circle: 

• The Flyers' annual holiday road trip is from Dec. 23-Jan. 1. It features five games coming against the Rangers, Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes and Predators.

• As we've seen with the Flyers, the final few games of the regular season tend to have massive importance. This year, the team has a pair of Western Conference road games against the Stars and Blues before the regular-season finale at home against the Hurricanes (see full breakdown).

• You always want to know when you can first get a taste of the Flyers-Penguins rivalry. The team's first game against Pittsburgh comes on the road Dec. 1. Flyers fans will have to wait until Feb. 11 for the Penguins to visit the Wells Fargo Center.

• The Flyers don't see the defending champions until Jan. 8 when they visit the Capitals. Washington doesn't come to the Wells Fargo Center until March 6.

• Looking for a lengthy stretch of home games? The Flyers' longest homestand is five games — there are two of them from Nov. 8-17 and Feb. 2-11.

Check out the full schedule here.