Flyers

Shayne Gostisbehere still evolving, knows where he stands with Flyers

Shayne Gostisbehere still evolving, knows where he stands with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Ever since Shayne Gostisbehere took the Flyers by storm in 2015-16, pushing them into the playoffs behind 17 goals in 64 games as a rookie, the defenseman’s success has more often than not been associated with numbers.

Point production is an easy, sometimes lazy, way to determine if Gostisbehere is on top of his game. He fueled that narrative in 2017-18 when he scored the fourth-most points among all NHL defensemen with 65.

Eleven games into 2019-20, following a season in which he scored 37 points, was a minus-20 and some trade buzz floated around, Gostisbehere hasn’t put up the offensive statistics many cry for when judging his game. He had four points on one goal and three assists through the Flyers’ 5-5-1 October.

But a lower point total doesn’t mean Gostisbehere’s dynamic ability isn’t there. It doesn’t mean he’s no longer a threat to the opposition’s defense. It doesn’t mean he’s not pushing the puck up ice to augment the Flyers’ attack-oriented style.

And it doesn’t mean he’s done evolving as a 26-year-old.

What was different when he was 22 and ripping off goal after goal?

“No one knew who the hell I was,” Gostisbehere said Thursday. “A lot easier, man, they don’t think a little 5-11 guy is going to have a shot like that. So I was little more open, but it’s a little different, you’ve got to roll with it. That’s what makes you a good player — when players know what you’re going to do but you can still do it.

“Look at [Alex Ovechkin], everyone knows he’s going to one-T, but he’s still doing it. I think that’s growing as a player and making yourself better, more skilled.”

The Flyers need Gostisbehere to continue to adjust, transition the puck and create offense. Points aren’t everything but they are something, and the Flyers are better when Gostisbehere is scoring. He didn’t do it nearly enough last season and 2019-20 hasn’t started better. 

The Flyers are also deeper this season on the blue line. Ivan Provorov, Matt Niskanen and Travis Sanheim are all playing 20-plus minutes a game. Provorov handles No. 1-like responsibilities, Niskanen plays on both special teams units and the offensive-minded Sanheim is coming off a promising year. The Flyers also added 32-year-old veteran Justin Braun to help lighten the burden on the young defense.

The points might not come as much for Gostisbehere. He might not ever score 65 again.

Is that a huge deal?

“Everyone is going to have some good years — that was one of my better years obviously,” Gostisbehere said. “We have a different supporting cast this year, we have a lot of good guys who can put up some numbers and help our team contribute. It’s a different league where every defenseman has a little offensive instincts. For us, it’s good. The more, the merrier.”

The Flyers’ coaching staff is sticking with Gostisbehere and his power-play role. This season, he is new to head coach Alain Vigneault and assistants Michel Therrien (power play, forwards) and Mike Yeo (penalty kill, defensemen). Vigneault knew of Gostisbehere, though, and is aware of the ability. He would like to see it more.

“I think points are a reward for doing the right things,” Vigneault said. “I’ve seen him come here, have a great camp, really well prepared. A little inconsistency, but a lot of times you see that vision and that passing and that shooting ability — if we could just see it on a more consistent basis, we’d be a better team for it. I know he knows that and he’s trying his best. It’s the same thing with our best players. It’s time to step up and lead the way. In Ghost’s case, he’s one of our top offensive players and he needs to lead the way, also.”

As the coaching staff has worked with Gostisbehere, keeping faith in the power play quarterback, he has noticed.

“I think their communication is such a big thing, you always know where you stand,” Gostisbehere said. “The scheduling, the communication is so clear. We know our system, any guy in here will have the same answer if you asked anything about the system. I think that’s a good part. It’s up to us and finding that chemistry and putting the product out there.”

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Flyers call up Morgan Frost, send Carsen Twarynski to Phantoms

Flyers call up Morgan Frost, send Carsen Twarynski to Phantoms

Updated: 11:57 a.m.

Here comes Morgan Frost.

The Flyers called up the playmaking center Monday from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and sent Carsen Twarynski to the Phantoms.

Frost, an exciting 20-year-old prospect who the Flyers selected in the first round of the 2017 draft, had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 16 games with Lehigh Valley.

Over his final two OHL seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Frost put up 221 points (79 goals, 142 assists) and a plus-103 rating in 125 regular-season games.

He is expected to make his NHL debut Tuesday when the Flyers play the Panthers in Florida (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and will wear No. 48.

Frost very well will likely play center, which would allow Claude Giroux to play first-line left winger, where he’s had career-best success.

How long could Frost be here? His play could dictate that, but Scott Laughton (broken finger) is nearing his return from long-term injured reserve. Laughton could be back as soon as Saturday's game against the Flames.

Nonetheless, Frost is getting his first shot.

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Flyers weekly observations: Something to think about with Alain Vigneault's system

Flyers weekly observations: Something to think about with Alain Vigneault's system

The Flyers went to the shootout two more times this week and stomached an 0-1-2 stretch punctuated by Saturday night's brutal collapse against the Islanders.

Twenty games into the 2019-20 season and the Flyers (10-6-4) are a complex group. Despite improvements under a new coaching staff with some new personnel, they are still the tough-to-predict Flyers.

Let's get into that and more with our weekly observations:

• When head coach Alain Vigneault's system is at its apex, all four lines are making an impact. Setting up shop in the offensive zone requires constant effort. The hard-on-the-attack, get-after-it premise can be taxing, so balance through the lineup is vital.

The Flyers haven't had that and their record reflects it. So, too, does their failure to close games. It's very possible they're running out of gas in the final 20 minutes.

The sharing of ice time can also lead to a style not conducive for high-volume individual point production. When everyone is going, the minutes and scoring can spread out.

Through 20 games, the production is down for Claude Giroux (13 points), Jakub Voracek (13), James van Riemsdyk (nine) and Kevin Hayes (seven). The Flyers don't need career years from those four; that probably wasn't going to happen. But the Flyers do need them for better balance or this team will have a difficult time finding consistency in Vigneault's system.

• On top of the way the Flyers want to play, their schedule hasn't been favorable — all of which could be having a negative effect on delivering knockout punches.

After playing in four different countries from Sept. 30 through October, the Flyers are in the midst of playing 16 games during November. They've already played five back-to-back sets out of 17 this season. In the second game of such situations, the Flyers are 1-2-2 and giving up 3.8 goals per game.

The Flyers have gone to the shootout seven times compared to just four times all of last season. Suddenly the start of games isn't an issue but instead finishing them has caused concerns.

Over the Flyers' last six games, they've been outscored 7-1 in the third period. Five of those six games have gone past regulation and at least three didn't have to.

“Not knowing exactly what we had to work with, I believe that we’re a work in progress and I really believe that we have steps forward to make," Vigneault said before Saturday night's game. "We’re not where I want this team to be, we’re not where I know our team wants to be. But we’re in a good place. We’re right there with a lot of good teams battling.”

• It's obvious by his faceoff work that Sean Couturier is still dealing with a shoulder strain.

The 26-year-old is one of the NHL's best in the dot but lost 12 of 13 faceoffs taken over three games this week. Last season, Couturier had 21 games in which he won at least 12 faceoffs.

He's clearly not the same guy in the circle. However, the injury hasn't stopped him from recording 10 points (four goals, six assists) and a plus-6 mark in his last 10 games.

“I feel better and better every day," he said Tuesday. "It’s more of don’t want to get it worse, want to heal it properly, don’t want it to last all year.”

The left-handed Couturier has limited his number of faceoffs and has even tried taking them right-handed.

“It’s something he’s worked on and it’s something that is pain-free for him," Vigneault said. "He does try it now or then. If the centerman gets kicked out, he’ll go in and try to win them on the side that doesn’t hurt. I hope he’s getting close because we need him to take draws.”

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