LOS ANGELES — If you happened to stay up and catch Flyers Postgame Live on Thursday after the 5-2 win over the Kings, then you may have overheard Brian Elliott showing his age a little with his 1990s movie reference of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.”
Don’t even try to cross-reference this with Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick or even Oskar Lindblom.
It was Elliott’s subliminal way of answering a question of whether the Flyers have rediscovered their winning formula after a dreadful three-game losing streak that saw Dave Hakstol’s team thoroughly dominated by the Islanders, 6-1, at the Wells Fargo Center.
If there was one Flyer who needed to rediscover his Stella-like swagger during this Pacific Coast getaway, it was Ivan Provorov. The Flyers' shutdown defenseman clearly hadn’t been himself over the previous 11 games — turning pucks over at an alarming rate, failing at times to separate forwards from the puck and lacking an overall calmness that he has so routinely exhibited over the first two years of his career.
“Provy’s hockey that’s not up to his standards is still pretty good hockey," Ron Hextall said. "You know he’s going to be a very good player for a long time.”
It was just assumed Provorov would continue his upward trajectory as soon as the season began in Vegas. There were other problem areas in the Flyers' overall team defense worth addressing.
In analyzing Provorov’s sluggish start with Hextall in Columbus a few weeks ago, the Flyers' general manager referred to Provy as a “good” hockey player, not great or exceptional. Privately, Hextall may think otherwise, but he’s meticulously careful when it comes to placing too much acclaim or even blame on a young player.
He did the same when Shayne Gostisbehere took the league by storm in 2015-16. Hextall thought the media was caught up in the “ghostly” aura of a 22-year-old rookie who had some gaping holes in the defensive side of his game despite the offensive adrenaline he brought to the Flyers.
In back-to-back games against the Ducks and Kings, Provorov appeared “locked in,” embracing the pressure and logging monster minutes against a pair of top-heavy lines featuring All-Star centers Anze Kopitar and Ryan Getzlaf. He took away a 2-on-1 opportunity rather routinely in the win in Anaheim, and later in that same period, completely denied a breakaway chance altogether.
“All I know is that he had one blocked shot, it was basically a breakaway and he came out of nowhere and his stick just was a little snake tongue, got it for me, and that’s a big break for me,” Elliott said. “He’s been consistently getting better and better, for sure.”
While apparently reestablishing the standard he set for himself in 2017-18. Provorov’s sophomore season mirrored Drew Doughty’s second year in the league when the Kings' future Norris Trophy defenseman scored 16 goals and finished with a plus-20 rating.
That’s the standard Provorov has set, and it’s hard to be reminded that he’s still just 21, a few weeks younger than Mikhail Vorobyev, who was recently sent back to Lehigh Valley after appearing overwhelmed in his first full month in the NHL.
“I think everything that happens, happens for a reason,” Provorov said Thursday.
Flyers fans can only hope that Provorov brings some of that California coolness back to Philadelphia with him.
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