Flyers

Radko Gudas discovered this week just how soft the NHL has become

Radko Gudas discovered this week just how soft the NHL has become

Flyers radio color commentator Steve Coates labeled Thursday’s scoreless first period between the Flyers and Stars as “nondescript” hockey.

Welcome to the new NHL, the Nondescript Hockey League.  

The NHL’s regular season is evolving into a product that looks more and more like an amplified version of an All-Star Game with a lot of skating and shooting and very little checking.

“Either with the puck or without the puck, I don’t know if there was a hit thrown by either team in that first period,” Stars head coach Jim Montgomery said, describing the first 20 minutes of the Flyers' 2-1 win.

Interestingly, according to the official stat keepers, somehow the Flyers and Stars managed to register 12 first-period hits between the two teams, which started with Travis Konecny bumping Esa Lindell just six seconds after the opening face-off.

As fighting has been almost entirely phased out of the game over the past ten years, one can only wonder if hitting and checking is following a similar trajectory. Apparently, we’ve now reached a point where just the definition of a hit, especially a clean one, isn’t so clear cut any longer.  

“I don’t know what to say, that’s just the way the league is right now. Every hit, everybody thinks it’s dirty right now,” Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas said. “When I was coming into the league it was way different. Guys were hitting everywhere. That’s a really big change in the sport now.”

While the line for what constitutes a clean play from a dirty one has clearly moved toward the direction of making the game safer, Gudas discovered this week that those legal hits according to the rulebook are now no longer tolerable across the league. 

Monday against the Blues, Gudas leveled Alex Steen, knocking him out of the game and leaving the benches to chirp back and forth about the physicality of Gudas’s play.

“I hit Steen at center ice and guys are going after me,” Gudas said. “There’s no hits in the center ice anymore.”

The following night in Washington, Gudas executed a perfectly timed hip check against Capitals center Travis Boyd early in the third period. Moments later, Gudas was immediately jumped by Devante Smith-Pelly, and the two bruisers dropped the gloves and settled their differences. 

Yes, we’ve entered an era in pro hockey where the tolerance level for physical play is now at a level that amounts to being grazed or nudged. Having spent the past nine-plus seasons in the American Hockey League, Flyers coach Scott Gordon believes the standard has been set years ago in the AHL, where guys once sacrificed everything to prove they were NHL-worthy. 

“The way it is now, a hard hit is almost unacceptable by the opposition,” Gordon said.  “Unfortunately, the way players are now, they don’t expect the big hits because they’re too far, few and in between. Because of the pace of the game, it’s nowhere near where it used to be. The game is so much faster. You can skate hard all the way and get there, and next thing you know, it’s now a late hit.”

Some believe it’s a 25-year evolution of the NHL’s instigator rule that was put into effect in the early 90s. 

Others point to concussions to Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, and most notably Brandon Manning driving Connor McDavid into the boards in 2015 — which led to McDavid's broken collarbone — as the turning point to where we are now.  

Either way, who initiates the hitting and who deserves to be hit seems to be a touchy subject in today’s touchy-feely game. 

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Flyers vs. Sharks: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Sharks: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

The Flyers are ready to audition some new faces with 20 games to go in their playoff push.

With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the Flyers (35-20-7) host the Sharks (26-32-4) Tuesday.

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• Nate Thompson has gotten used to this. He has been traded in February 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The 35-year-old center still appreciated the phone calls from his new teammates. Thompson, who the Flyers acquired Monday in a trade with the Canadiens, said he heard from Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes last night.

"That was really nice," Thompson said Tuesday after morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center. "Whenever guys reach out to you and make you feel welcomed, it’s always nice to hear."

Thompson and fellow trade acquisition Derek Grant will make their Flyers debuts tonight.

Grant, a 29-year-old center with positional versatility and defensive qualities, already has a career-high 14 goals. Coming from the Ducks, Grant can cap his best NHL season yet by helping the Flyers make the playoffs.

“It’s always fun," he said. "I didn’t know anyone really here. I met [Thompson] at the hotel this morning, so we came over together. Everyone has been great, it’s always a little easier when you can get into a game right away and get to know guys a little quicker that way.”

Right now, the Flyers will slide Thompson into their fourth-line center role and he'll help on the penalty kill. Grant will play third-line center between James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Pitlick, while also contributing to the PK.

Assistant coach Ian Laperriere and the Flyers got both players acclimated with film work before morning skate.

“All done, they got in here this morning, they sat with Lappy," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said. "We’ve got a system video that we show all new players, whether they’re guys from Lehigh Valley or in this case guys from other teams, about our priorities and how we do certain things. It went extremely well, we had a team video session, they were very comfortable there.

"I expect them to be excited, motivated and expect them to help us get their first win with us.”

• The Flyers sit in third place of the Metropolitan Division, a point ahead of the Islanders and Blue Jackets, and three points up on the Hurricanes.

Tuesday marks a big night for the race as New York, Columbus and Carolina are all in action. With a victory, the Flyers can draw within one point of the second-place Penguins.

The Flyers hold an 82.3 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com.

• The Sharks have lost four straight games and own a minus-31 goal differential on the road.

Since Jan. 8, the Flyers are 13-5-1 with an NHL-high 68 goals.

Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Derek Grant-Tyler Pitlick
Michael Raffl-Nate Thompson-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg-Justin Braun

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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Flyers have good laughs, good sense on Shayne Gostisbehere trade rumors

Flyers have good laughs, good sense on Shayne Gostisbehere trade rumors

When it came to Shayne Gostisbehere, Chuck Fletcher had a good sense of humor at Monday's NHL trade deadline.

The general manager also had good overall sense.

No, the Flyers weren't looking to shop the defenseman, nor should they have been as the trade market unfolded.

The Twittersphere probably suggested otherwise.

"That’s been the interesting one," Fletcher said of Gostisbehere at Flyers Skate Zone. "I’ve been here a year. I can’t say I'm always on social media but I’m amazed at how often I’m trading him."

The Flyers didn't move Gostisbehere and they weren't expected to. Is he a nice trade chip? Of course, he has shown how productive he can be when he's making plays along the blue line, he's not far removed from a career 65-point year in 2017-18, he's only 26 years old and he's under contract for the next three seasons at a comfortable $4.5 million cap hit.

But you don't just play your chips to play your chips. And Fletcher will have this chip moving forward, when it might be more playable. Gostisbehere's trade stock was far from its peak Monday. He has missed 18 of the Flyers' last 19 games because of a left knee injury and is enduring his worst NHL season as he's projected to finish with career lows in goals (seven) and points (18).

Even if the Flyers weren't opposed to moving Gostisbehere, why do it now?

"We were certainly not looking to move him," Fletcher said. "Teams have called me on him. Nothing really makes sense right now to me to move one of our seven D unless we’re getting a really great impact player back in some area. Those types of trades usually don’t happen right now."

A thought process could be that the Flyers possess young depth on defense and quality blue-line prospects in the system, like Egor Zamula, Cam York and Wyatt Kalynuk, to name a few. If the team wanted to drastically improve an area of need with a splash, shedding from defense would have been a route to pursue. It wasn't happening, or at least not now at this deadline.

After a conditioning loan to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley last weekend, Gostisbehere is back with the Flyers, who are getting healthier at a position of strength. Fletcher wasn't going to mess with that.

"I like Shayne," Fletcher said. "He’s gone through a few weeks, probably over a month now with some knee issues. He’s cleaned it up. He skated really well this weekend. Right now, we are carrying seven D. He’s one of them. He’s a guy that I think can still contribute. He can play on the power play.

"Frankly, I think Shayne can get back to where he was and help us. If he can take a step and get that confidence back offensively, that would be a big boost to our team."

And it would fuel the conversation everywhere. Especially on social media.

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