VOORHEES – This hasn’t been the season Shayne Gostisbehere had been hoping for and the reasons why certainly aren’t all that clear.
He insists he’s healthy, although the fourth-year defenseman’s trademark lateral deke move at the point has been, for the most part, missing.
His point totals have dropped from 65 in 2017-18 to just 36 this season (with five games to play).
He also sports a team-low plus-minus rating of minus-17.
Coach Scott Gordon announced on Friday that Gostisbehere will sit out Saturday’s game at Carolina, although it’s not a performance-based decision and just part of a rotation he will use down the stretch in order to get rookie Sam Morin some playing time. Others will be rotated out in upcoming games.
“Sam will play one of the two games (over the weekend) and then he will play the rest of the games until the end of the year,’’ Gordon said. “Don’t want him to play back-to-back with all that time off (nine months for ACL).’’
Have teams made defensive adjustments on Ghost or is he just having one of those years?
Gostisbehere, who had a similar down year after undergoing what amounted to sports hernia surgery in the summer of 2016, said he’s completely healthy aside from the normal bumps and bruises.
“It comes with the attitude of the sport,’’ he said. “We’re hockey players, we can’t show any weakness. Everyone has their bumps and bruises, it’s just your way of getting through it.’’
Gostisbehere has played in 74 of a possible 77 games this season.
His name was out there a bit at the Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline but nothing came of it.
“I can’t speak for what is or isn’t affecting him off the ice,’’ Gordon said. “I’m sure he might be frustrated as far as production offensively but I think he has a unique set of skills that offensive defensemen some have and some don’t. . .his quickness and deceptiveness are exceptional.
“For whatever reason, he didn’t pile up as many points that he’s capable of, but he’s not far off.’’
Gordon downplayed opponents’ adjustments.
“Sometimes a little of that is adjustments opponents make,’’ he said. “I don’t think he dramatically changed anything from year 2 to year 3. Maybe it’s a combination of adjustments, he’s changed some things, he’s inside his own head. Bad luck, hard luck, whatever you want to call it.’’
>Playoff chances barely alive
It’s an odd feeling when a team is mathematically still alive for a playoff berth but really isn’t.
The Flyers flew to North Carolina on Friday still “breathing.’’ But the patient could expire on Saturday if either the Flyers lose or one of two teams – Montreal or Columbus – wins.
All the Flyers can do is try to beat the Hurricanes in a 1:35 p.m. start, then hope that Montreal loses at Winnipeg and Columbus does the same at Nashville at night.
In the meantime, the Flyers just want to finish these last five games on a positive note.
“It’s not the best scenario we could have been in,’’ Radko Gudas said. “For us, I think we should take it day-to-day, don’t think about the (out of town) scores too much. Keep the focus on us.’’
Gostisbehere sees this last week as a chance for others to make a good impression, namely Morin, goaltender Cam Talbot and forward Justin Bailey.
“We’ve got some fresh guys in the lineup,’’ Gostisbehere said. “They will get some bigger opportunities. It will be good to see what they can do with a little more playing time.’’
James van Riemsdyk has been through something like this before – the Toronto Maple Leafs missed postseason play in three of the six seasons he was with them — so he’s somewhat used to the feeling.
“Ultimately, we have to just focus on our own game,’’ he said. “Just go out there and put our best foot forward and see where that gets us.’’
>Slap shot timing a fun event
The Flyers held one of those skills competitions on Friday to determine the hardest shot on the team.
As expected, Gudas took home first-place honors with a 96-miles-per-hour blast.
Nolan Patrick exceeded expectations with a 91 MPH clocking. Gostisbehere hit 89 on the radar gun and even goaltender Carter Hart got into it with a 72.
Gudas said technique is important but so our other factors, such as the “flex’’ in a stick and how often the slap shot comes into each player’s repertoire.
“Mine was OK but good enough to win,’’ said Gudas. “The flex of the stick is a factor. Some guys use a stick that’s a little better for their wrister, some guys for their slapper.
“A couple guys take pride in having a harder shot. I work in the summer trying to get strength in my core. I just try to get as much on the shot as I can on it.’’
Patrick has made a lot of progress in his overall play in the second half of this season after a slow start.
“I’ve probably taken two slap shots in my NHL career,’’ he said. “And it’s the first time I’ve ever done this, so I didn’t know what to expect.
“I struggled in the first half, our team struggled. It’s just getting your confidence back, getting in the groove of things again. You put a few games together where you feel you played well, the game feels easier and that’s what I’ve tried to do.’’
Cam Talbot will start in goal vs. Carolina and Gordon said Carter Hart will return to action on Sunday when the Flyers host the New York Rangers. He still hasn’t decided on the final three games.