Justin Braun

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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Debating Flyers' biggest positive from 2019-20 training camp, preseason

Debating Flyers' biggest positive from 2019-20 training camp, preseason

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall.

The topic: After touching on the disappointments, who was the Flyers' biggest positive during training camp and the preseason?

Destra

He has been an underdog for most of his career, but not anymore. Heading into this training camp, it seemed like many forgot this prospect made it to the final cut in 2018-19 before coming up just a tad short. But this time around, Carsen Twarynski made sure to hit the ground running (or should I say hit the ice skating) and put his name on everyone’s radar for 2019-20.

With the game constantly advancing, teams can no longer play and succeed with having only two solid lines that can produce. Every line needs to contribute, every player. Twarynski has the capability to solidify the bottom half of the roster. And the best part is? He hasn’t even reached his fullest potential yet.

Twarynski netted two goals, tying him for most scored in the preseason on the Flyers. But something stood out with his play on every shift he took — his refusal to quit.

The 21-year-old decided to stay in the area during the offseason, training in Voorhees, New Jersey. It may seem like a cliché — but hard work truly does pay off.

Emmer

From the first day the orange and black hit the ice for training camp in Voorhees, New Jersey, Joel Farabee made a name for himself on the Flyers’ roster. 

He was put to the test on Day 1, filling in on the first line for a then contract-less Travis Konecny, and as the preseason games began, his role continued to grow.

“He’s a real smart player,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said last week. “For a 19-year-old player, I think he’s ahead of the curve with a respect to awareness of the game away from the puck, his defensive understanding of the game.”

Though he never played lower than the third line in five preseason games and didn’t make it on the score sheet once, that “awareness of the game away from the puck” still impressed head coach Alain Vigneault. 

“If he's not in the lineup that first game, it would be a surprise,” Vigneault said last Thursday. “He's played extremely well. In my mind, if we would start tomorrow, he would probably be in our lineup.”

He turned heads in the preseason, but was it enough? As the regular season begins Friday, the major question is when will he fit into the Flyers' lineup?

“He’s obviously a highly competitive kid,” Fletcher said last week. “Very intelligent kid. But it’s a tough league for a 19-year old player. What we do with Joel will be what’s right for the team, but also what’s right for him in the long run.”

Regardless of what happens before the opener, Farabee has a future with the Flyers, whether it’s now or later.

Hall

A bit of an outside-the-box pick: Justin Braun.

Before his arrival, we didn’t know much about the 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman because he played out on the West Coast in San Jose, where Brent Burns has long been the man along the blue line.

However, there’s a reason why Braun played nine years for the Sharks, has put up 20:43 minutes per game over the past six seasons to go with a plus-32 rating and sports 84 career playoff appearances on his résumé.

He understands defense and the intricacies of goal prevention.

"If you want to end plays in this league, you've got to have a good stick and then you've got to get body,” Braun said on Day 1 of training camp. “If you're soft out there, you're going to be in your D-zone all night. You've got to end those plays quick and try to get it going north, otherwise you're going to have a long night. Every shift I try to do that so I don't have to spend too much time in my D-zone."

San Jose has been one of the NHL’s top teams since the 2015-16 season, when it went to the Stanley Cup Final.

“Harped on gap all the time — like, we didn't want guys crossing the blue line with the puck,” Braun said. “We wanted them to dump it, get it back, turn it over.”

The 32-year-old is an underrated upgrade for the Flyers’ defense.

"Braun isn’t going to win any contests for artistic merit on the ice, but he competes and he has a great stick," Fletcher said on Day 1 of training camp. "I went back and watched 20 games of clips just the other day again, he is unbelievable stick on puck. He is hard to play against. It's like seaweed, he's out there, there's arms and he’s battling and pushing you and poke-checking and he brings a real veteran savvy to the defensive part of the game."

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What the Flyers 'counted' shows the belief behind their offseason

What the Flyers 'counted' shows the belief behind their offseason

Chuck Fletcher made July 1 less stressful for himself.

As a result, he also made it less entertaining for those who love to see their team jump into the free-agent frenzy and make splashes with the rest of the 30 NHL clubs.

The Flyers made eight depth signings Monday. Nothing screamed or popped.

It's OK to be quiet on July 1.

Fletcher and the Flyers did their work ahead of the NHL free agency period. They're confident in that work. They acquired Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun and Tyler Pitlick, while parting ways with Radko Gudas, Andrew MacDonald, Ryan Hartman and David Schlemko.

What the Flyers are just as confident in is their youth. Did the Flyers have enough around their young foundation pieces in 2018-19? 

It's a fair question.

Fletcher's offseason was about supplementing the youth and giving it the best chance to take the next step.

However …

"I don't think it's a very smart thing to box these kids out and take on additional cap responsibilities when we're going to have a lot of really good pieces that are just going to mature and grow through the system," the Flyers' general manager said via a conference call Monday.

Remember when everyone loved the Flyers' prospects, too? Some are here and the Flyers need them to grow. Some are coming and the Flyers will need those ones, too.

And that's what 2019-20 will be about.

Hayes, Niskanen and Braun should make the Flyers better, but the pressure is truly on the coaching staff to round everything into shape and the youngsters to prove their mettle.

"We have an exciting future ahead of us," Fletcher said. "We have a lot of very good young players. I'm not just talking about the prospects that participated this past week [in development camp]. You look at our team, we counted today, there are eight players on that NHL roster that haven't come close to hitting their peak and to having their career seasons. That's the exciting thing. That's our growth."

The Flyers' belief in their youth will be challenged against a Metropolitan Division that has gotten deeper.

The Rangers' rebuild has gone into hyperdrive with the acquisitions of Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba, and drafting Kaapo Kakko No. 2 overall.

The Devils have added first overall pick Jack Hughes, P.K. Subban and Wayne Simmonds, to join Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Nico Hischier and company.

The Penguins are still the Penguins and have gotten younger with the trade for Alex Galchenyuk.

The Capitals and Islanders were 1-2 in the Metro last season and should be formidable again, while the Hurricanes are fresh off a run to the Eastern Conference Final.

We identified the players we wanted to get and we went out and got them early. We felt our priorities were adding a No. 2 center, adding a couple quality defensemen and finding a goaltender to play with Carter Hart. 

When we went through the list of all those available players, we quickly realized there were very few centers and defensemen in the free-agent marketplace. Rather than getting into a bidding war over very scarce … in a market where there just weren't a lot of players, we felt if we could get ahead of it and get the guys that we wanted, that would be a smart thing to do.

- Fletcher

The Flyers will need Ivan Provorov to look like the 2017-18 Ivan Provorov. They'll need Shayne Gostisbehere to find consistency. They'll need Nolan Patrick to produce more like a No. 2 overall pick. They'll need Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom to take bigger strides, along with Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers. They may need to trust another prospect (Joel Farabee?) soon. Oh, and they'll need that elusive goalie stability from Hart, who will be 21 years old and entering his first full NHL season.

"We have some high-end talent," Fletcher said. "We not only have to slot them properly but surround them properly, to create the best environment possible — not only to develop them but to win games. I think we accomplished a lot of what we set out to accomplish."

The Flyers never had a problem building from within. Fletcher isn't straying from that philosophy. The Flyers have done more than they have in past summers, even with a quiet July 1. No matter what, it's still about the youth.

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