VOORHEES, N.J. – Even though Shayne Gostisbehere enjoyed a spectacular bounce-back season last year, many thought Ivan Provorov was the best all-around defenseman on the Flyers.
True, Gostisbehere did win the Barry Ashbee Trophy for Philadelphia’s top D-man.
But Provorov’s 17 goals tied for the NHL lead and his plus-17 was seven better than Gostisbehere’s.
Provorov suffered a significant shoulder injury in the playoff round against Pittsburgh last April and could barely lift his arm when he hit the ice for Game 6.
Somehow he made it through.
There were high hopes and expectations for Provorov’s third season but things haven’t started off so well for the 21-year-old Russian.
In seven games, he’s registered just one point (an assist in Thursday night’s 6-3 loss at Columbus) and he’s a minus-5, tied with his partner Ghost at the bottom of the team stats.
“I think I can play better,’’ he said after Friday’s practice at the Skate Zone. “You can always play better. That’s what I’m going to do tomorrow (vs. New Jersey).’’
The Flyers thought they had solved the team goals-against problem in last Saturday’s 1-0 home loss to Vegas.
But the situation turned ugly again in the following two games, with the Flyers surrendering a total of 11 goals.
The Flyers have given up 31 goals in seven games. Only Detroit (33) has allowed more.
“You just have to stay focused,’’ commented Provorov on the team effort. “I don’t think we did that (in Columbus). We got away from it a little bit. We’ll come back to the mentality we’re supposed to play with.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol believes Provorov’s game will turn around soon.
“He’s working real hard,’’ the coach said. “There have been some plays around him (where) he can be cleaner and typically is a bit cleaner with the puck in terms of that first pass.
“It starts with that. For him, it’s getting that one absolute good game under his belt. He draws a lot of high expectations. He’s played some pretty good hockey. When we see mistakes in his game, we’re shocked.’’
At times there seems to be some hesitation in Provorov’s game and that can lead to errors.
“There have been some over the past couple games,’’ Hakstol acknowledged. “We need for those to be cleaned up to push his game to where it can be. He’s not far off.’’
Patrick almost there
Nolan Patrick, who has been out for 10 days after getting hit in the face in last week’s game at Ottawa, was skating with Jake Voracek in practice and the belief is he could be ready to return for the Devils game.
Of course, the Flyers are keeping their cards close to the vest, waiting for the medical clearance issue to be resolved.
“When medical people tell me he’s ready to go, we’ll start thinking about making decisions,’’ Hakstol said. “He’s practiced the last few days.’’
Patrick was looking to get off to a fast start this season, coming off a strong finish in the previous campaign.
Things have been a bit bumpy so far. Even though he’s been playing with skill players such as Voracek and Oskar Lindblom, he has no points with a minus-5 in three-plus games.
“I’m just trying to do everything I can to get back,’’ Patrick said. “It’s not really in my control.
“You never want to be hurt, you want to be playing. It stinks watching.’’
Patrick had to recover from offseason abdominal surgery last year. He really didn’t hit his stride until the second half.
That’s why the timing of this injury is frustrating.
“I wanted to have a fast start last year,’’ he said. “I’ve struggled with that (quick getaways) all the way back to junior. Always been a slow starter, it’s something I’ve tried to work through and get out of.
“I think when you think about something like that, it doesn’t help you at all. I’m just contribute at both ends of the ice, have fun and compete as hard as I can.’’
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