Break the Ice

Justin Braun embracing Philly (fans and media), new challenge with Flyers

Justin Braun embracing Philly (fans and media), new challenge with Flyers

Following a preseason game, Justin Braun said, “I’ve never seen so much media.”

For the first time in his career, Braun is no longer in San Jose, where he played from 2010-19, appeared in 84 playoff games and made a run to the Stanley Cup Final.

The 32-year-old defenseman is excited about being in Philadelphia and believes his experience can help a Flyers team that hasn’t won a postseason series since 2012.

The Flyers have youth across their blue line. Shayne Gostisbehere is 26, Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin are 24, Travis Sanheim is 23 and Ivan Provorov is 22. Philippe Myers, who isn’t far away from joining the group, is 22.

“Coming here and the playoff experience in San Jose, it translates to the regular season pretty good,” Braun said last month in a sit-down interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Derek Souders. “You’re in those high-pressure spots, not to panic, you’ve got to just make the next play, you can’t be flipping pucks for icings all the time. You’ve just got to take a deep breath, you’re going to be up 1-0 late in games and you’ve got to shut the door.”

Braun and another accomplished defenseman Matt Niskanen have a chance to improve the Flyers’ goal prevention. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Braun brings physicality and an active stick.

"I'm not the guy that's going to go out and have a big open-ice hit,” Braun said in training camp. “Mine is more contained. I like to get physical with guys but that's more to knock them off the puck, get them straight-legged. 

“I'm not the [Niklas] Kronwall and blow anyone up coming up the boards like that. I'll play guys hard, but I wasn't gifted with that timing, too, to absolutely smoke guys center ice. Have that gap, end plays on the wall, if they chip the puck, finish that hit. Because if you let them off the hook, they're just going to have easy nights.”

For more from Braun on Philly, his style of play and the Flyers’ youth, watch the "Break the Ice" video above.

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Kevin Hayes: Flyers' Sean Couturier is 'an elite center in this league'

Kevin Hayes: Flyers' Sean Couturier is 'an elite center in this league'

Kevin Hayes knows what it's like to have a plate full of responsibilities on the ice.

He's a 6-foot-5 center who changes the game defensively and on the penalty kill. The 27-year-old is poised for his biggest offensive role yet, so versatility will be one of Hayes' most impactful qualities with the Flyers.

But not many have done it like Sean Couturier over the past two seasons.

While the 26-year-old was left off the NHL Network's list of top-20 centers this offseason, a player like Hayes can appreciate a player like Couturier.

Sean's an elite center in this league," Hayes said this month in a sit-down interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Taryn Hatcher and Derek Souders. "His stats speak for themselves, but I think he's a little bit underrated. He's one of the toughest guys to play against, he plays on the top line and he plays against the other teams' top line. There are not a lot of centers that do that in this league, there are probably a handful of them.

I do believe he should have been on the top-20 centers, for sure. He's very underrated and maybe because of his style of play, he doesn't get appreciated as much as the flashy centers. I'm not sure if that's a big deal for him.

Ideally, Hayes' similar do-it-all characteristics can help alleviate the burden on Couturier's shoulders. Over the past two seasons, Couturier ranks first on the Flyers in goals (64), game-winning goals (11), faceoffs taken (2,324) and shorthanded faceoffs won (158), and second in points (152), power play goals (15), ice time per game (21:51), shorthanded ice time (340:04) and plus-minus (plus-36).

Along with Claude Giroux, Couturier does a ton for the Flyers.

"I'm excited to be a one-two punch with him," Hayes said.

For more from Hayes on why he was sold on the Flyers, his expectations and the rivalry with the Rangers, watch the "Break the Ice" video above.

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Matt Niskanen: Claude Giroux 'holds his own, for sure,' in trash-talking

Matt Niskanen: Claude Giroux 'holds his own, for sure,' in trash-talking

Matt Niskanen has played 38 career games against the Flyers, so he's seen Philadelphia a lot.

Since 2011, the 32-year-old played 390 games for the Capitals and 214 for the Penguins. Those two teams aren't liked too much around the Delaware Valley.

He was on the Capitals when bracelets were thrown on the ice by frustrated Flyers fans during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was on the Penguins during 2012, when the Flyers last won a postseason series by beating Pittsburgh in the first round.

Now, he's wearing Flyers orange with Claude Giroux and company.

Following an offseason trade from the Capitals, he's embracing the opportunity to be on the Flyers' side for a change.

I've played two playoff series against the Flyers in my career," Niskanen said last month in a sit-down interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Taryn Hatcher and Derek Souders. "Things have gotten a little heated, a couple wild ones, a couple wild games, too. There's been some yapping back and forth and Giroux holds his own, for sure.

I won't dive into what he has said to me in the past, but yeah we've chatted before on the ice, I'll put it that way.

Niskanen won the 2018 Stanley Cup with the Capitals and the Flyers are expecting him to impact their young defensemen. Over the past six seasons, Niskanen has averaged 22:31 minutes per game while compiling a plus-91 mark. He is a skilled puck mover, which leads to positive goal prevention.

He has 125 career postseason games on his résumé. Prior to this offseason, Giroux had played the most playoff games on the Flyers' roster with 69.

Niskanen's experience is a welcomed addition for the Flyers.

"Played in Pittsburgh, who everybody seems to hate," Niskanen said. "Washington, who has had success recently, so they've been the hunted. And now in Philly, where it's rowdy. Games get physical, they can get nasty — you never leave Philly without a couple of bruises. It's going to be fun to see all three sides of this. I think Philly missing the playoffs last year, we're going to be the ones on the hunt this year — hungry, trying to get back into the playoff picture and try to leave a mark.

"We're going to chase down those teams and we might have to knock one of them out of the playoff picture. Wouldn't that be sweet?"

For more from Niskanen on the Flyers' young blueliners, winning the Stanley Cup and his expectations, watch the "Break the Ice" video above.

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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