NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
The Flyers’ decision to sign Kevin Hayes to a seven-year, $50 million deal drew a lot of criticism over the course of the summer. The same thing could be said for the five-year, $35 million contract they gave James van Riemsdyk on July 1st, 2018.
Both players have taken their share of criticism since joining Philadelphia, but their recent play seems to have taken a turn for the best over the last little while. With the Flyers clinging on to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they’ll need to make sure these two players are contributing with consistency if they’re going to hold on to their position in the standings. Oh, and maybe they can move up a slot or two along the way.
Let’s start with Hayes:
The 27-year-old came into this season with a career-high of 25 goals (2017-18) and 55 points (2018-19). This year, he opened with just one point in his first six games. He followed that up by picking up six points during a four-game stretch and then followed that up with a 10-game point-less streak and 11-game goalless drought. Not ideal for a guy trying to make his mark in a tough market.
But even when he wasn’t picking up points, Hayes was finding a way to contribute, which has primarily come on the penalty kill and in winning individual battles. The reason he was able to land a $50-million contract was because of his overall skill set combined with his huge frame (he’s listed at 6-foot-5, 216 pounds). Players who can score 20 goals and 50 points at that size are rare, so it wasn’t shocking to see him land a huge contract right before free agency.
Lately, he’s managed to get his point production back on track, too. Since Nov. 19, he’s managed to accumulate 13 points in his last 16 games, which is pretty good given his offensive track record throughout his career.
[COVERAGE OF FLYERS-RANGERS BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]
His CF% is just over 50 percent (50.8), his SC% is at a respectable 53.15 percent and his HDCF% is at 55.56 percent. Again, add all that to his nine goals and 20 points in 33 games, and his ability to play special teams, and you quickly realize that his contract, although still high, isn’t as bad as some people made it out to be. Size matters, too.
JVR is progressing:
The Flyers brought van Riemsdyk back to Philly to be a finisher. That’s what he is. He’s there to score goals. It took him eight games to find the back of the net at the start of the year, but was finally able to do so against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 24.
The 30-year-old went through a 10-game goalless drought between Nov. 9-27. That’s less than ideal for a player bringing in that kind of dough. In fairness to him, he’s managed to get things turned around lately. JVR has back-to-back two-goal performances and he’s scored six goals in his last five games. He’s also accumulated nine points in his last seven contests.
There was a time earlier this season when van Riemsdyk was skating on the Flyers’ fourth line. It wasn’t uncommon for him to get between nine and 12 minutes of ice time in a game. Now, he’s consistently playing above 15 minutes and in the last three games he’s played at least 17:45.
Everyone enjoys getting a Christmas break, but you’d have to think van Riemsdyk would like to keep this momentum going. We’ll see how much damage he can do against the Rangers tonight.
Tonight’s studio coverage will be hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Patrick Sharp and Anson Carter. John Walton and AJ Mleczko will call the action from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.
Immediately following tonight’s Rangers-Flyers matchup, the first episode of the three-part docuseries, “Road To The NHL Winter Classic,” will air on NBCSN. The series will chronicle the Stars and Predators as they prepare to meet outdoors in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1 at Cotton Bowl Stadium at 1 p.m. ET on NBC. Click here to view the trailer. Episode 2 will air on Friday, Dec. 27, at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the season finale will be presented on Monday, Jan. 6, at 10:30 p.m. ET immediately following Oilers-Maple Leafs on NBCSN.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.