Flyers

Provorov, Gostisbehere, oh my for Flyers' opponents

Provorov, Gostisbehere, oh my for Flyers' opponents

BOX SCORE

Ivan Provorov's hockey intelligence is off the charts for a guy who just turned 21 years old a week ago.

When he talks the game, he resembles a player with mounds of NHL experience.

In actuality, he's only 128 games into his professional career.

But it doesn't take Provorov's precociousness to understand what makes him click with Shayne Gostisbehere and how both can be a grueling pain in the opposition's side.

"If we play on offense, they can't score," Provorov said simply.

Bingo.

In a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils, Provorov and Gostisbehere were a two-headed monster, a blue-line duo that can terrorize the competition when it's performing the way it did Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

"We look toward the challenge," Gostisbehere said. "Obviously we're playing against the other teams' top lines and it's a challenge every game, it's the teams' best players. I think as a pair, we just need to keep it simple, pick our spots and it's working."

It more than worked against the Devils.

Provorov scored a goal, played 23:13, was a plus-2 and led the Flyers with six shots on goal and nine total shot attempts. Gostisbehere opened the scoring with a doozy of a primary assist, played 20:09, was a plus-2 and strong in his own zone.

Most ideally, though, when Provorov and Gostisbehere are wreaking havoc in the opposition's zone by keeping their team on the offensive, the Flyers can be awfully tough to beat. 

Saturday was case in point as the Flyers seized a commanding 3-0 lead in the first period to eventually win for the sixth time in the last seven games, creeping to within a point of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.

"Doing the little things and taking care of the puck," Provorov said of the fast start, which has often eluded the Flyers through 46 games thus far. "If we take care of the puck and move it forward, we don't have to play defense and that helps us to create offense and create energy."

It can also limit the counterpart's best unit. In this case, it was the Devils' first line of Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt, New Jersey's top three scorers. The trio was held in check with just a goal and an assist, while each player finished a minus-2.

"It's not just the D-pairing, I think it's a combination of the group of forwards that spent most of the time against that line," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "They did a good job. It's a big challenge, those are good players that have been generating a lot. I thought Provy and Ghost did a good job along with the majority of the time with [Sean Couturier's] line."

When asked about neutralizing the Devils' big boys, Provorov showed that hockey intelligence of his, which belies his age.

"Just take away time and space," he said. "When guys can skate that fast, just try to limit their time, angle them and don't give them time to pick up their head — just be on them hard.

"That whole line is pretty fast, but our main focus was to try and limit their chances and play on offense."

Provorov and Gostisbehere are tied for second among NHL defensemen with nine goals apiece, while Gostisbehere's 33 points are tied for fourth. He recorded his 33rd point off a sparkling play in which he took the puck from his own blue line, skated around Hischier, darted toward the middle and hit a wide-open Travis Konecny for a 1-0 lead 3:29 into the game.

"Honestly, I just knew if I was skating, he was going to find that lane," Konecny said. "Sure enough, I didn't have to move, it just came right to me."

Konecny registered two more points Saturday, giving him nine in his last 10 games, as the Flyers' youth answered the bell against a divisional opponent. And when Provorov and Gostisbehere are driving play, the Flyers are a different animal for a variety of reasons.

"It's good, it's fun to watch, they're both really good with the puck, make good plays and both can score," Valtteri Filppula, who netted the Flyers' other goal, said. "It's definitely fun to see them out there and they get a lot of minutes, too, which is nice."

Goalie Michal Neuvirth, who won his second straight start, quipped: "They don't feel young to me."

They're not looking it.

"I think we understand the game in a similar way," Provorov said. "We move the puck, we understand where we are on the ice all the time, which helps us get out of our zone quick, get through the neutral zone real fast and create something on offense."

Which creates trouble for whomever the Flyers see down the stretch.

2018 NHL draft position preview — Left wingers

ap_nhl_draft_brady_tkachuk.jpg
AP Images

2018 NHL draft position preview — Left wingers

We began our 2018 NHL draft position previews with a look at the top draft-eligible centers. This draft is top-heavy at wing and defense. We continue our previews with a look at left wingers.

Filip Zadina, 6-0/195, Halifax (QMJHL)
Zadina, who finished as the third-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, led all QMJHL rookies and was tied for seventh among all players in 2017-18 with 82 points. He won the Mike Bossy Trophy as the league’s best professional prospect. Playing for the Czech Republic, Zadina was named to the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship All-Star team, scoring eight points in seven games. Hard-working winger with an elite shot, future top-liner.

Draft projection: Top three

Brady Tkachuk, 6-3/196, Boston University (NCAA)
The son of USA Hockey Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk and brother of Matthew Tkachuk (Flames), Brady Tkachuk checks in as the second-best North American skater by Central Scouting. Had eight goals and 31 points in 40 games during his freshman season at Boston University and added three goals and nine points in seven games during the world juniors. He plays a physical game much like his dad and brother but has a little more finesse to it.

Draft projection: Top five

Joel Farabee, 6-0/164, USNTDP
Farabee finished as the 12th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. Possesses excellent speed and a strong shot and plays an effective two-way game. A little undersized but the game has changed, so that shouldn’t be a major issue. He had 15 goals and 40 points in 26 games for Team USA in the USHL in 2017-18, and 33 goals and 76 points in 64 games for the USA U-18 team in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

Draft projection: Between Nos. 10-18

Grigori Denisenko, 5-11/176, Yarolsavl Jr (Russia)
Denisenko saw a three-spot drop from the Central Scouting midterm rankings to the final, finishing as the seventh-best European skater. He’s gifted with the puck and makes plays, but he has a bit of a reputation as an inconsistent player. The Russian factor may scare teams away. Had nine goals and 22 points in 31 games in the MHL and played four games in the KHL playoffs. On talent alone, Denisenko is among the best in this year’s class.

Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

Blake McLaughlin, 6-0/162, Chicago (USHL)
McLaughlin checks in as the 24th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. Another American prospect among the top draft-eligible left wingers, McLaughlin’s best attribute is his shot, though he’s an excellent skater. He finished the 2017-18 season with the Chicago Steel as nearly a point-per-game player, scoring 23 goals and 52 points in 54 games. He’s headed to the University of Minnesota in the fall. Could squeak into late first round but probably a second-rounder.

Draft projection: Early second round

NBC Sports Philadelphia+ to air Lehigh Valley Phantoms Eastern Conference Finals Games

justsports-photography-mike-vecchione-phantoms.jpg
JustSports Photography

NBC Sports Philadelphia+ to air Lehigh Valley Phantoms Eastern Conference Finals Games

Philadelphia, PA (May 18, 2018) — NBC Sports Philadelphia announced today the network will air the American Hockey League Eastern Conference Finals games featuring the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Toronto Marlies. Games Three through Five will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ at 7 p.m.
 
May 23 - Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 3 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

May 25** — Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 4 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

May 26*** — Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 5 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+, *if necessary
 
** Philadelphia Soul will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

*** The Philadelphia Phillies game will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia, regardless if there is a Game 5 or not.

Atlantic Division Champions for the 2017-18 season, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will face off against the Toronto Marlies, AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The winner of the best-of-seven series will then advance to the 2018 Calder Cup Finals. After posting the AHL’s second-most wins (47) and second-most standings points (105), the top-seeded Phantoms eliminated the Providence Bruins in four games (3-1) in the opening round before defeating the Charlotte Checkers in five games (4-1) in the Atlantic Division Finals — a series which included the historic longest game in AHL history.