VOORHEES, N.J. — Sitting with the fourth-liners in their white practice sweaters, James van Riemsdyk looked like a neon golf ball in a bucket of Titleists.
JVR was the only Flyer wearing a yellow sweater on Monday as the odd man out still working his way into game shape. Before too long, van Riemsdyk will be reintegrated onto one of the Flyers’ four lines.
Right now, the only logical spot for JVR once he’s cleared to return is on the Flyers' third line, which speaks to how well this team is performing at even strength. Van Riemsdyk would in all likelihood bump Dale Weise, who’s been playing some of his best hockey since joining the Flyers in 2016.
Without van Riemsdyk, the Flyers have already posted 56 goals (3.35 per game) through their first 17 games this season, which is currently tied for ninth best in the NHL. Last season, they had scored 50 goals at the 17-game mark. Even more impressively, the Flyers have put up that much offense with a rather ineffective power play that ranks 28th in the league.
At the moment, the second line appears to be an untouchable group with Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek producing quality scoring opportunities almost nightly. That trio has manufactured six goals and 12 assists since the game in Anaheim that kick-started the Flyers’ 5-0-1 stretch.
“You could tell in practice today the pace was really high and we were enjoying it," Voracek said. "It’s a little bit different than the beginning of the year.
“It all depends on how the players are playing. Sometimes you can have the depth and not everybody can perform the way you want them to be. Right now, the way we’re going I think we’re playing good hockey. The special teams’ numbers aren’t where we want them to be, but we’re winning games, so we’re playing good 5-on-5.”
It’s essentially the same roster during the second half of last season with the younger players, most notably Lindblom and Patrick, a little more experienced now. A better indication of their scoring balance is that, according to Corsica Hockey, the Flyers have tallied 40 even-strength goals, tied for fourth in the league, and they’re starting to dominate at even strength.
Claude Giroux hasn’t budged from the remarkable numbers he put up in 2017-18. In fact, Giroux is currently outpacing his point total from a season ago. The captain is currently on pace for a 106-point season after claiming the NHL’s third star of the week honors. Sean Couturier has also shifted into another gear following a slow start that may have contributed from his delicate workload in training camp.
“I’d say since that Western trip, that’s where it all started,” Couturier said. “As a line I think we moved better, we supported each other and since then that’s when I’ve started to feel pretty good.”
Two weeks ago, the Flyers were desperate to get van Riemsdyk back on the ice. Now as one of the hottest teams in hockey, it’s a matter of working van Riemsdyk back into a role that works for the entire team without disrupting the cohesion that’s currently working.
“The key for any player is you want to carve out a good role where you’re comfortable and a situation to help the team have success,” van Riemsdyk said. “Especially being a new guy, that’s obviously a process and there’s different combinations that will get tried.”
Right now, it’s definitely a good process to have.
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