Flyers

Thursday night's Flyers game was a little gritty ... no wait, it HAD a little Gritty

Thursday night's Flyers game was a little gritty ... no wait, it HAD a little Gritty

Gritty is already in midseason form but who knew he’d be in a run for his money (or however Gritty gets paid) rinkside before the Flyers' third preseason game? 

Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, a mini Gritty was spotted learning the ropes from the mascot himself. 

Once Gritty was over the initial shock of it all, he put his miniature self to the ultimate test and examined the authenticity of his fur and even threw a few classic moves his way. 

It was like he was looking in a mirror — sort of. And you have to admit, the entire interaction is pretty adorable. 

It’s safe to say Gritty was impressed ... and if you can impress the best mascot in the NHL, you’re certainly doing something right. 

Stick taps to you, mini Gritty! 

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Matt Niskanen

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Matt Niskanen

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Matt Niskanen.

Destra

I’m not going to lie — I fell under the category of not fully understanding the trade for Niskanen during the offseason in a one-for-one deal, sending former Flyer Radko Gudas to the Capitals. At the time, the most appealing aspects about the deal were recognizing the level of veteran experience he was going to bring to the blue line and his extensive résumé when it came to the playoffs. 

Now, with his first regular season as a Flyer officially at an end — it’s safe to say he was an absolute steal. Way to win a trade, Chuck Fletcher. 

Not only did he post 33 points (8 goals, 25 assists), making him the second-best defenseman in points on the team, but he elevated his partner Ivan Provorov to new heights in his career as well. The duo built such powerful chemistry on the ice and Niskanen provided the skillset needed to help Provorov hone in on his talent.  

There couldn’t have been a better fit for the Flyers and Provorov. Whatever Niskanen’s next steps are in the NHL, let’s hope he wants to stay in Philadelphia for a little while longer. 

A+ for Niskanen — not bad for his 13th season in the league. 

Emmer

The Flyers went from averaging the third-most goals against per game (3.41) and a minus-37 goal differential in 2018-19 to then tying for the seventh fewest goals against in the league and drawing a plus-36 goal differential this season—a major key for that success was Niskanen.

Niskanen had a lasting impact throughout the regular season on special teams. Most notably, the penalty kill which he helped improve from 78.5% in 2018-19 (26 th in NHL) to 81.8%  11th in NHL). His power play minutes were also impressive—4 goals scored on the man advantage were the highest in his career.

He brought leadership to the blueline and the dressing room and was a steady presence the Flyers and d-partner, Ivan Provorov, depended on throughout the regular season.

I give Niskanen an A.

Fordyce 

Niskanen, an experienced Stanley Cup winning defenseman, came to the Flyers via trade for Radko Gudas from the Capitals last offseason. His addition to the team added a veteran leader to the roster as well as a possible mentor for some of the Flyers young defensemen. In his first season with the Flyers, he did both admirably.

Niskanen’s presence on that top defense pair with Ivan Provorov allowed Provorov to open up his game more and become a better overall player. Niskanen is a smart defenseman, who is rarely out of position, and this allows Provorov as his defense partner to freelance a bit more, which is one of the strengths of his game. Niskanen also has great puck skills from the point, getting pucks toward the net by pass or shot and creating opportunities. 

No-brainer, Niskanen gets an A.

Hall

What an acquisition by Fletcher. In the Gudas-Niskanen swap, the only other hit for the Flyers was salary related — obviously taking on Niskanen's $5.75 million cap hit as well as retaining 30 percent of Gudas' $3.35 million cap hit.

Niskanen made the trade unquestionably worth it for his new club.

Not only did the 33-year-old Stanley Cup champion significantly improve the Flyers at 5-on-5, on the power play and the penalty kill, but he also did wonders for the rebound of Provorov, a 23-year-old who had far too much on his shoulders last season.

Niskanen's winning pedigree has rubbed off on everyone. With eight goals and 25 assists, he also had a chance to crack 40 points for the second time in his well-established career before the regular season was cut short because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A well-deserved A for Niskanen.

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Flyers Talk podcast: Carter Hart's leash, team awards and NHL playoffs analysis

Flyers Talk podcast: Carter Hart's leash, team awards and NHL playoffs analysis

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall discuss Carter Hart's leash, team awards and the return-to-play tournament.

From the 24-team madness to prospects and Oskar Lindblom, let's dive in:

0:55 — Scott Laughton is the most improved Flyer; who were the other candidates?

5:15 — Analyzing the length of Hart's leash in the 24-team tournament

14:30 — Six games a day in the 24-team tournament?!

19:15 — Which Flyers player will love the bubble setting the most?

24:05 What to make of the Wyatt Kalynuk decision

29:20 — Which prospect benefits most from Kalynuk's departure?

33:00 — Why the Flyers won't fret over the loss

36:00 — Lindblom, ring that bell! A special moment

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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