Shayne Gostisbehere

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Free falling: Flyers lose sixth straight as growing pains emerge

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The Philadelphia Flyers feel they are right there, which is an interesting statement from a team that’s lost six straight and eight of their past 10.

Ah, the lies we tell ourselves in times of trouble.

The Flyers did fair better on Wednesday night in a 4-3 shootout loss against the New York Islanders, which prompted goaltender Brian Elliott to make the declaration that his team just needs to turn the corner.

It’s tough to turn when you’re falling backwards, however.

Indeed, finding positives when few appear to be in sight in a skid like the Flyers are in is a tough ask in the City of Brotherly Love. Flyers fans have had to come to terms with a few things this season.

It must pain fans to see Brayden Schenn lighting the lamp over and over again in St. Louis. Schenn was traded to the Blues in the offseason. The return looked half decent for a team looking to rebuild with a youth movement.

The Blues gave up two first-round picks for Schenn along with Jori Lehtera. And while it remains to be seen what the Flyers gain from the trade in future drafts, Lehtera has been an utter disappointment, one magnified many times more by Schenn’s incredible start.

Lehtera was a healthy scratch for Wednesday’s game, the second time in his past four games he’s watched rather than played. He’s sitting on two assists this season in 14 games. Schenn, by comparison, 10 goals and 30 points, including 19 in his past eight games.

It hasn’t been all Lehtera’s fault. Oh, no.

The Flyers penalty kill has been atrocious. They rank 28th in the league at 75 percent and have allowed seven goals in their past 13 kills over the past three games.

Andrew MacDonald can’t return soon enough, especially after one of their better penalty killers tried to behead a man last week.

Scoring could be better as well.

Claude Giroux has gone six games without a goal, this after scoring nine times in his first 16 games. Jordan Weal has just one goal in his past 18 games and was bumped to the fourth line on Wednesday. And ever since he 17 times in 64 games two years ago, Shayne Gostisbehere has only eight goals in his past 95 games and none in his past 13.

Ivan Provorov has been a godsend for the Flyers on defence (and Travis Sanheim is starting to blossom), but Gostisbehere’s offensive prowess from the backend would be a welcomed addition again.

But the real reason for the Flyers struggles this season might just be something they can’t control: youth.

The Flyers iced 11 players under 25 years of age on Wednesday night. Their top defenseman, Provorov, is 20 years old. Their second line centre, Nolan Patrick, is 19.

These are the growing pains of a team getting younger, and it could get worse yet before it gets better.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Youth hockey coach fired for giving profanity-filled pre-game speech

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–The Ottawa Senators will be visiting Erik Karlsson‘s home country of Sweden this week, as they prepare to play the Avalanche on Friday and Saturday. Karlsson is pretty pumped about being able to show his teammates the country he grew up in. (Ottawa Sun)

–After he lost his good friend Rick Rypien to suicide, Kevin Bieksa started a website called mindcheck.ca, which is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health. On Nov. 5, Bieksa got a message from a fan on Twitter that told him she was able to see the signs that suggested her daughter was planning to kill herself, because of the information made available on the website. (Vancouver Sun)

–The Carolina Hurricanes are remarkably bad in overtime. Over the last two season, they rank third in the NHL in games played in overtime, but rank 27th in OT winning percentage. Why are they so bad in the extra frame? Head coach Bill Peters has to shoulder a lot of the blame. (canescountry.com)

–The Los Angeles Kings made an interesting hire when they added Pierre Turgeon as an offensive coordinator. He’s been a valuable addition to the team. “Your ability to connect with him as a human first and foremost is his strongest asset,” Kings forward Brooks Laich said. “He’s very personable, very light, always keeps it very enjoyable around the rink and making sure guys are having fun and then his knowledge obviously pours out from that connection.” (NHL.com/Kings)

–Since his holdout ended, Josh Anderson has been an important piece of the puzzle for the Blue Jackets. Anderson has been able to do a number of important things for his team, which means that other veterans on the roster could become expendable. (thehockeywriters.com)

–The San Jose Sharks were giving up a ton of chances to their opposition on the penalty kill last season, but they’ve been able to improve that aspect of their game dramatically in 2017-18. Not only are they better on the penalty kill, they’ve leaned on it so far. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

–Is this the year Alex Pietrangelo finally wins the Norris Trophy? People in the Blues organization hope so. “He’s one of the best defenders,” former Blues defenseman Al McInnis said. “I don’t know if there is a better defender from the top of the circles down. He plays with a long stick. He’s got great reach defending and getting pucks out of battles with that stick, getting it to the forwards.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

–Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is about to set a new franchise record, as he’s about to reach 100 points faster than any defenseman in franchise history. (Philly.com)

–In previous season, players that have made the jump from the KHL have had success. Guys like Artemi Panarin and Alexander Radulov turned their stellar play into big contract extensions. This season, the Russians that have made the leap to the NHL (Andrei Mironov, Vadim Shipachyov, and Victor Antipin) haven’t been able to stick with their respective teams. (fanragsports.com)

–Vice Sports’ Dave Lozo makes a case to move each one of Canada’s NHL teams to the United States. For example, here’s what he had to say about moving the Maple Leafs: “The longer the Leafs stay in Toronto, the more likely it is the media creates a scandal about Auston Matthews staying out too late or William Nylander eating too much falafel or Morgan Rielly spelling his last name incorrectly all these years out of protest against Justin Trudeau.” (Vice Sports)

David Pastrnak is a very useful player for the Boston Bruins, but he made some questionable decisions with the puck in the third period of Monday’s game against Minnesota. It’s something they have to figure out in the near future to take his game to the next level. (NBC Sports Boston)

–International women’s hockey has been dominated by Canada and the United States, and heading into next year’s Olympics, the two teams will see a lot of each other. Both sides do everything they can to get every little advantage over each other. (New York Times)

–A youth hockey coach was fired after giving his team a profanity-filled pre-game pep talk. The whole thing was caught on video. (Denver Post)

–Lightning defender Victor Hedman came up clutch for his team in a game against Columbus, but not in the way that you might think. Hedman actaully managed to win a face-off against Nick Foligno in a crucial moment of the contest. (Rawcharge.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Flyers’ Will O’Neill makes NHL debut 11 years after being drafted

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His first shift probably won’t be remembered years down the line, mainly because it lasted a whole four seconds. But Thursday night, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Will O’Neill finally made his NHL debut.

The 29-year-old O’Neill stepped onto the ice at Scottrade Center in St. Louis 4,198 days after his name was called in the seventh round of the 2006 Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers. (Six rounds earlier they selected Bryan Little 12th overall.) When he hopped over the boards early in the first period of the Flyers’ 2-0 win, he was quickly back on the bench after a Dale Weise penalty ended his first shift after four seconds.

But he would hit the ice 11 more times and play 9:25 during the win as his mom, sister and best friend were in attendance.

“He did a good job. He did his part, he did his job,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said.

After O’Neill’s draft, it took him some time to finally reach professional hockey. He would spend two years in the United States Hockey League with the Omaha Lancers before becoming an integral part of the blue line with the NCAA’s Maine Black Bears. At the end of his senior season he made the jump to the American Hockey League’s St. John’s Ice Caps, one year after the Thrashers became the Winnipeg Jets.

Injuries to Radko Gudas, Shayne Gostisbehere and Andrew MacDonald forced Flyers general manager Ron Hextall to bring in reinforcements, and after 346 games in the AHL O’Neill, who was selected 210th out of 213 picks in 2006, finally got the call.

“It was pretty cool. It was the first one I’ve received like that,” he said on Wednesday. “I knew that someone was trying to call me, so I had a little bit of an idea. I was pretty cool for a few seconds there and then he told me. It’s exciting. It’s cool for me. I’m excited to be able to play the game.”

We see these stories every season, from Bracken Kearns to Pat Cannone — sometimes those long bus rides in the minors eventually do pay off with a chance in The Show. Who knows how long O’Neill’s stay in the NHL will be, but a goal was certainly reached Thursday night in St. Louis.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers head into short trip with injury issues

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The Philadelphia Flyers are hurting, and not just in terms of their pride after being the first team to lose to the Arizona Coyotes this season.

They got a round of bad injury updates on Tuesday, as Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Nolan Patrick and Shayne Gostisbehere are unavailable for their upcoming road trip, while hulking young defenseman Samuel Morin is out for two weeks.

In some ways, that sounds a little worse than it might be, as the Flyers’ road trip only lasts two games (at Blackhawks on Wednesday, then visiting the Blues on Thursday). If those two can manage a return soon, it wouldn’t be that bad. Naturally, that remains to be seen.

The Morin update, via Carchidi, is a little odd and very “hockey.”

“Sam’s a tough guy, and he didn’t disclose 100 percent of his injury because he plays through things,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall said. “He has a little nick that’s going to keep him out a bit — not days, maybe a couple weeks.”

For a while, it was reasonable to spin some Flyers injuries (particularly that of Andrew MacDonald) as potential blessings in disguise, as they potentially opened the door for young players to get some reps. Sometimes things don’t pan out so well, as Morin was conceivably one of those youngsters who might have benefited from a chance that’s at least placed on hold.

On the bright side, the Flyers will enjoy a reasonably friendly home schedule starting this weekend. They’ll play three in a row and five of seven in Philly from Nov. 4-21.

If they’re lucky enough to get Gostisbehere and/or Patrick back during that stretch, the Flyers might be able to start to improve upon their murky start, as they currently stand at 6-5-1.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Marleau is ready for ‘really weird’ return to San Jose

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–Trades are never easy to make, especially early in the season. Here’s three deals that happened early on over the last 10 years that ended up being pretty significant. Sergei Fedorov to Columbus happened in November of 2005. (Sportsnet)

–The ESPN hockey crew looks at the top feuds going on in the NHL right now. Whether it’s Matthew Tkachuk vs. Drew Doughty or Matt Duchene vs. the Colorado Avalanche, there are some interesting ones. (ESPN)

–Speaking of Tkachuk, he’s a really important piece of the puzzle for the Flames. His performances on the ice and his desire to win make him one of the key figures in that Calgary locker room. (flamesnation.com)

–The Oilers have been one of the biggest disappointments of the season so far, so The Score looks at three ways they can fix their offensive issues. Is it time to sign one of the veteran free agents still on the market? (The Score)

Patrick Marleau is making his first return to San Jose since signing a deal with the Maple Leafs this off-season. There’s a good chance this ends up being an emotional night for him. “Kind of just anticipating it to feel really weird, I think,” Marleau said. “Just a little awkward. But I’m going to try to use that energy for myself to be playing well and playing hard.” (San Jose Mercury News)

–When this hockey fan was seven years old, he got a signed hockey stick from J.P. Parise. 40 years later, he wanted to give it to Wild forward Zach Parise, who’s J.P.’s son. “It was a thrill to come down here and meet Zach and give him that stick and a photo of that night I got it. It will [be weird to not have it] for awhile. But instead of not having that stick at home, I have the memory of meeting Zach and the story to tell my kids, my family and my friends. That’s a pretty good trade-off.” (NHL.com/Wild)

–There has been many theories about the Golden Knights’ hot start, but here’s an interesting one. With so many of their early games having been played at home, some are wondering whether or not the “Vegas flu” is real. Do opposing players party too hard in Vegas the night before games? That’s an interesting theory. (Sinbin.Vegas)

–Samuel Morin is back up with the Flyers. He was recalled from the minors after Shayne Gostisbehere was injured against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night. (Philly.com)

–One of the reasons why NHL players aren’t going to the Olympics is because the league refuses to shut down for two weeks during the season. The NWHL stars are still going to the Olympics, but instead of shutting down, their star players just won’t play. (ESPN.com)

–There’s little doubt that Leafs sophomore forward Mitch Marner is a more dynamic offensive player than Lightning forward Brayden Point, but the stats say Point is a better all-around player. Here’s a thorough comparison between the two players. (rawcharge.com)

–A Florida Panthers fan was hit with an Octopus during Saturday’s home game against Detroit. Not cool. “It was quite heavy. It hurt me, and I was quite shaken up by it. I certainly wasn’t expecting to get hit in the head by a large animal of some type.” (WSVN.com)

–Unfortunately, NHL players don’t like to show their true personality during interviews. That’s just the way the league has trained its players to think over the years. Instead of saying anything negative, they just spit out the company line. Being a little more colorful could help grow the game, but it’s just not happening. (stlouisgametime.com)

–Daniel or Henrik? Which of the Sedin twins has been the better player during their time in Vancouver. The Hockey News recently chose Daniel, but greatesthockeylegends.com believes Henrik should have gotten the nod. (greatesthockeylegends.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.