Andrew MacDonald

Grading the Flyers' defensemen at the bye week

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Grading the Flyers' defensemen at the bye week

Throughout the first half of this season, the Flyers have been relatively injury free on defense, but as a group, they’ve regressed from last season. However, under assistant Rick Wilson and new coach Scott Gordon, we’re beginning to see signs of improvement. 

After breaking down the goaltending Monday, we grade out the Flyers' blue line.  

Radko Gudas

Grade: B+ 
Stats: 2 G, 11 A, plus-10, 18:00 A/TOI

Dare I say that Gudas has been the Flyers' steadiest defenseman this season. While some writers like to use Corsi as a barometer for puck possession, I like to utilize goals against/60 minutes during 5-on-5 play to determine the strength of a player’s overall defense. Gudas’ 1.76 goals allowed/60 min. is the best of any Flyers defenseman … by far. Perhaps most impressively is how Gudas has adapted his physical game without taking foolish penalties.

Offensively, Gudas’ philosophy seems rather simple. When given the opportunity, just put the puck on net as he leads the team with 16 rebounds created at even strength while contributing 13 points — a nice total considering he barely strays from the blue line.

Robert Hagg

Grade: B
Stats: 4 G, 9 A, plus-5, 17:43 A/TOI

Hagg has gained a reputation as such a hard hitter that other teams' forwards have altered their forechecking approach with the Flyers' defenseman on the ice. Hagg had his most consistent month in November and has cut down on some of the positioning flaws in the defensive zone that were a problem area in his rookie season.

Hagg has even chipped in some additional offense this season. His 15 primary points (goals, first assists) at 5-on-5 is second on the Flyers behind Travis Sanheim’s 16, and he’s currently on pace to finish with seven goals and 22 points, which would more than double last season’s totals. 

Travis Sanheim

Grade: B-
Stats: 4 G, 11A, minus-6, 17:56 A/TOI

I like the decision from Wilson in placing Sanheim on the top pairing Ivan Provorov. Not only was the Provy-Shayne Gostisbehere combination simply not working, but it has given the Flyers a chance to see how much responsibility Sanheim can handle. Sanheim was tested early against the opposition’s top forwards with a minus-12 rating in 13 games but has had periods of steady play. Has seen his ice time jump by five minutes from October into January. 

Overall, Sanheim has made a conscious effort to refine the defensive aspect of his game with improved positioning but can still get beaten one-on-one and along the boards. Would also prefer to see Sanheim on one of the two power-play units.

Ivan Provorov

Grade: C-
Stats: 4 G, 13 A, minus-14, 24:54 A/TOI

It’s beyond baffling to see Provorov’s struggles with his puck management this season. It began over a 10-15 game stretch last season, and it’s been a problem area for the entire season. The new coaching staff has worked on eliminating some of those errant passes and making that first pass up the boards. Provorov’s 3.28 goals allowed/60 min. at even strength is up significantly from 2.18 last season. 

For a player many expected to work his way into the Norris Trophy conversation, it’s been quite the regression offensively as well. Provorov is projected to finish with seven goals after leading all NHL defensemen with 17 last season. As he simplifies his game, look for Provorov to have a much better second half.

Shayne Gostisbehere

Grade: D+
Stats: 5 G, 15 A, minus-12, 20:12 A/TOI

Everything came together for Gostisbehere last season, and conversely, nothing worked over the first few months of this season. Ghost was an NHL-worst minus-18 when Dave Hakstol was fired. Since then, he’s had much more favorable matchups and has settled in playing alongside Andrew MacDonald as the team’s third pairing.

However, the most alarming aspect to Gostisbehere’s season has been his lack of efficiency on the power play, so much so, he’s no longer part of that top unit. Last season, he averaged 7.03 pts./60 min. on the PP compared to just 2.86 this season, a 59 percent dropoff. A big reason to Gostisbehere’s lack of success on the power play has been a failure to get pucks through traffic and his shot on net.

Christian Folin

Grade: D+
Stats: 0 G, 1 A, plus-4, 16:13 A/TOI

After some obvious struggles in the opening month, Folin has settled in but still can’t be counted on to play extensively. Interestingly, Gordon is much cautious in his use of Folin than Hakstol and Gord Murphy were. After averaging over 17 minutes in October and November, Folin is playing just under 13 minutes in January. 

Will be interesting to see how much the Flyers utilize Folin over the second half of the season with Phillippe Myers possibly getting a look with the big club. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to invest in Folin as he won’t be with the team beyond this season and the Flyers can fill that role with a Phantom next season.

Andrew MacDonald

Grade: D
Stats: 0 G, 5 A, minus -5, 17:55 A/TOI

Quite frankly, MacDonald came back way too early from a lower-body injury he suffered during an offseason workout and that seemed to throw off the first half of his season. Has been limited to 27 games and has been a healthy scratch as a result of ineffective play. More turnover prone than last season, MacDonald has also really struggled early on with the penalty kill this season.

Last season was the first time MacDonald TOI dipped below 20 minutes per game, and this season, it’s a career-low 17:55. Hasn’t been nearly as active jumping in offensively as well. Zero goals in 27 games with no shots on net in 10 of those games.

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Flyers Injury Update: Nolan Patrick, Brian Elliott

Flyers Injury Update: Nolan Patrick, Brian Elliott

It's no secret the Flyers aren't the healthiest of teams in the NHL.

They've played six goalies because of injuries and their center depth has taken a hit.

Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher provided clarity Thursday on six players recovering from ailments:

Nolan Patrick

The Flyers are hoping to get the 20-year-old center back sometime next week.

Patrick, who suffered an upper-body injury last week against the Lightning, has missed the past four games. He took part in the morning skate Thursday and is "feeling very good," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said Patrick was scheduled to see one of the team doctors Thursday night and will "hopefully be cleared for contact [Friday]."

The 2017 second overall pick hasn't put up the offensive production many had hoped for his second season. Patrick has two points in his last 19 games and 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 33 games overall.

"I think you've got to realize that points for guys that are first- or second-round picks usually go to teams that don't have the offensive players we have here," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said last week. "To me, what I like is the defensive play, which will eventually lead to more offensive opportunities. For me, I like that piece. That piece is going to stay with him."

Claude Giroux played left winger Thursday night, meaning Scott Laughton was the Flyers' second-line center.

Brian Elliott

On Nov. 16, the Flyers were hoping their No. 1 goalie would miss only approximately two weeks.

That has not gone as planned.

Elliott is still on injured reserve with a lower-body ailment as Michal Neuvirth and 20-year-old Carter Hart hold down the crease.

Elliott, who is 33 years old and underwent core muscle surgery last February, was skating with the team in early-to-mid December but had to return home from the first five-game road trip for a medical appointment.

The good news is Elliott hasn't required surgery.

"Brian is progressing pretty well," Fletcher said. "We are hoping he is back on the ice by this weekend and hope to get him back to practicing with the team in 10 to 14 days."

Other notes

• Defenseman Andrew MacDonald (lower-body injury) was out Thursday night and will miss Saturday's game. The Flyers are hoping he's back skating Monday. They have a home game that night against the Blues.

• Defensive prospect Samuel Morin (ACL surgery) is practicing in full with the team but has not been cleared for contact. The 23-year-old is still slated for a mid-February return.

• Center Corban Knight, who has been out since late October with an upper-body injury, will see a doctor Jan. 17 when the Flyers "expect him to be cleared to practice with the team without contact," according to Fletcher. The team is hoping he can return in mid-to-late February.

• The Flyers are hoping to have goalie Anthony Stolarz back on the ice this weekend. Stolarz suffered a lower-body injury Dec. 15, which eventually led to Hart's arrival.

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Bruins 3, Flyers 0: All fight, no results in chippy shutout

Bruins 3, Flyers 0: All fight, no results in chippy shutout

BOX SCORE

BOSTON — The Flyers had about as much success in Boston as the Dodgers.

Thankfully for the orange and black, they leave Beantown having lost just one game as the Bruins shut out the Flyers, 3-0, Thursday night at TD Garden.

How did the special teams let them down again, and why couldn’t the Flyers solve Bruins backup goalie Jaroslav Halak?

• Dave Hakstol had to be pleased defensively with the Flyers' first period when they gave the Bruins little open room on the defensive side of the red line. With the Bruins missing two key defensemen, the Flyers failed to get in strong on the forecheck and put some pressure on an injury-plagued Boston blue line without Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy.

• The four-game absence seemed to help Andrew MacDonald, who looked like he had the burst in his skating that was missing in his first five games. He told me the biggest area that would be noticeable would be in his pivots in 1-on-1 defending. As much as he’s disliked, a healthy MacDonald is essential for this team to have three solid D-pairings. Unfortunately, "A-Mac" had the turnover that led to Zdeno Chara’s big blast that gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

• Scott Laughton did a tremendous job of keeping the game scoreless as he hustled back and broke up a 2-on-1 backchecking Brad Marchand by tying up the stick. Plays like that are a big reason why Laughton has been one of the Flyers' best two-way forwards this season. Thursday marked the 200th career game for Laughton and clearly, the past 100 games have seen a significantly different player.

• Not only did the Flyers gift the Bruins a power play with a too-many-men on the ice minor, but the coverage between MacDonald and Robert Hagg on the penalty kill also completely broke down, allowing Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci to work a give-and-go play that left DeBrusk unattended and unaccounted for. DeBrusk redirected an easy goal.

• After playing a solid, structured game through the first 30 minutes, the Flyers started to get a little sloppy with their gaps, leaving the defensemen to make long stretch passes to the forwards. When that happens, several bad things can take place. There’s a higher frequency of icing and/or those long passes are more prone to being intercepted in the neutral zone.

• The Flyers were given a golden opportunity to claw their way back into this game with back-to-back power-play opportunities midway through the third period, but they couldn’t convert on either one, as the power play didn’t make the Bruins work hard in the process. The passing is predictable and the team is simply trying to funnel shots inside the goal mouth while looking for a tip-in.

• You have to wonder had the Flyers been able to trade Michal Neuvirth this summer, how strongly they would have pursued Halak, who signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract with the Bruins on July 1. Halak was the difference as he was in control and in position for the full 60 minutes. He stonewalled Claude Giroux on three different occasions and simply made Thursday’s 26-save effort look relatively easy.

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