Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher and Jordan Hall.
The topic: Predicting who wins the Flyers' 2019-20 Barry Ashbee Trophy as the team's most outstanding defenseman.
After he struggled for the majority of last season, it has really been a joy seeing Ivan Provorov play to his true potential. It seemed like his 2018-19 slump was just a season deferred, since last year he truly didn’t look like himself in all aspects of his game.
Thanks to the combination of adding Matt Niskanen, another season under his belt and always wanting to improve, it only made sense for Provorov to bounce back in 2019-20.
Now, I haven’t seen a blue line on the Flyers this solid in a very long time and there’s honestly a few other defensemen who could rightfully be awarded this trophy — but my gut is saying Provorov (with an honorable mention to Robert Hagg, who has done his job quite well as a bottom-pair defenseman).
This would be the second time Provorov would be awarded the Barry Ashbee trophy, his first dating back to his 2016-17 rookie season.
The defensive group has improved so much this season, and I think a big helper in that has been Provorov.
Provorov is a reliable, efficient and productive blueliner.
He’s reliable because of his iron-man abilities. Provorov is a player you can count on to not miss a beat and be there in your lineup every given night. In his four-year career, he hasn’t missed one single game — he’s currently at 315 straight played. That being said, can he catch Chris Therien on the Flyers' all-time list for most games played by a defenseman? It’s possible. What’s most important now, though, is how much his determination to play impacts the game and team.
Provorov is an efficient defenseman. Through 69 games, he’s recorded 111 blocks, 16 takeaways and 84 hits. He’s found success on the top pairing with Niskanen and I believe the two work phenomenally together because of their defensive styles.
Lastly, Provorov is a productive defenseman. Not only does he hold it down and limit the opposition's top players, but he can also take the puck to the net — most notably this past November, when he went coast to coast in OT and got the game-winner in Montreal.
PROVOROV WITH THE OT WINNER! pic.twitter.com/thHmolv1MH— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 30, 2019
He’s productive at 5-on-5, he’s productive on the power play and really a key component to the team this season as he leads Flyers defensemen in scoring with 36 points.
He should get the Barry Ashbee Trophy.
Another no-brainer for me, this one is going to Provorov. I think he had a great case for the Bobby Clarke Trophy, as well, and if Sean Couturier wasn’t having a Selke-quality year, that’d be Provorov’s to take home, too. There’s no doubt Provorov took the step that most fans were hoping to see last season, and turned it into a giant leap this year.
The numbers speak for themselves as he’s nearly doubled his goal total from last season already, jumping from seven goals in 2018-19 to 13 this year with 13 games still left to play in 2019-20. And, after failing to score a single power play goal last season, he’s now tied with Claude Giroux to lead the team with seven this year.
Granted, last season was a down year for Provy, who seemed to be gripping his stick a bit too tightly as the team struggled. Even his numbers compared to 2017-18 show just how dangerous he has become on the power play. And, as a huge fan of the eyeball test coupled with stats, his game and comfort level playing against the league's top forwards have gone to another level since he’s been paired with Niskanen this year.
Provorov is 100 percent deserving. He's the team's Couturier on the blue line.
However, similar to what we did with the Bobby Clarke Trophy debate, let's look at another candidate who should rightfully be considered for most outstanding defenseman.
Niskanen has served as an integral piece to not only the Flyers' turnaround, but also Provorov's anticipated rebound from a disappointing 2018-19 performance.
Provorov, who turned only 23 years old in January, needed some help, some weight taken off of his shoulders. Niskanen, a Stanley Cup champion with 125 games of postseason experience, has helped alleviate the pressure with his smarts and abilities in all situations.
Head coach Alain Vigneault has mentioned Niskanen's importance to Provorov and we've seen it across the board, especially at even strength when the two are side by side. Niskanen also plays big minutes on the penalty kill and power play.
To boot, with eight goals and 25 assists, the 33-year-old has a chance to crack 40 points for just the second time in his well-established career.
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