VOORHEES – The gold standard for best two-way hockey player on the planet pretty much starts and ends with Boston Bruin superstar Patrice Bergeron.
Bergeron has won the Frank J. Selke Trophy for best defensive forward an amazing four times and has been a finalist an equal number of other times.
He’s a big reason why his line, which includes Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, is considered one of the best in the National Hockey League.
The Flyers’ Sean Couturier has played so well at both ends of the ice the past three seasons that some consider him a possible worthy successor to the throne someday.
Couturier has come close to winning the Selke. Two years ago, he finished second to Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar.
When the three finalists for this year’s Selke are announced on Monday, Couturier figures to be on that list.
In fact, in some circles, he’s considered the favorite to eventually win it.
He once again posted impressive numbers this year, including a plus-21 while matched up against the Crosbys, Ovechkins and McDavids of the sport.
When asked about how much Couturier models his game after Bergeron’s, the 27-year-old center had plenty to say.
“He (Bergeron) is definitely a great role model for any young player,’’ Couturier said after day five of training camp at the Skate Zone, “or any young guys trying to learn the game and play the right way.
“I believe he does all the little things right. Barely makes any mistakes, plays the right way, he’s responsible. He’s definitely a player that any young guy could look up to.’’
Bergeron, who turns 35 on Friday, has posted some incredible statistics in a 16-year career. In 1,089 regular-season games, he’s a plus-201. In 136 playoff games, plus-42. His regular-season takeaway/giveaway ratio: 596-319.
When the Selke was first awarded back in the ‘70s, Montreal’s Bob Gainey won it the first four times coming out of the gate. No one has duplicated that dominance until Bergeron.
Certainly a guy a young player like Couturier could emulate when he entered the NHL for the 2011-12 season.
“It was no different for me coming into the league,’’ Couturier explained. “He was already established and a solid player, so I definitely looked up to guys like him, Kopitar, Jordan Staal. . .those guys are really reliable and play the game the right way.
“It’s an honor just to be mentioned in the same conversation as those guys.’’
>Penalty kill improvement
The Flyers had one of the worst penalty kill units in the NHL for the 2018-19 season, finishing 26th at 78.4 percent.
This past season, under first-year assistant coach Mike Yeo’s guidance, the Flyers bounced back all the way up to 11th at 81.8 percent.
Now it’s true the Flyers did add some important penalty killers to their lineup, including defenseman Matt Niskanen and center Kevin Hayes (who tied for the NHL lead with four shorthanded goals). But a lot of the improvement had to do with a change in culture and systems.
“I was really impressed with the way the guys bought in this year,’’ said Yeo, who was head coach of the St. Louis Blues just prior to the Craig Berube Stanley Cup-winning regime. “A, you always need great goaltending, which we got from whomever was between the pipes, whether it was ‘Moose’ (Brian Elliott) or Carter (Hart).
“That’s going to give you the opportunity to develop confidence in the things you’re doing. But the players really bought in, we wanted to bring in an aggressive style but we also focused on very small details.’’
Proper positioning is so important. Teams which have kill percentages in the high 80s know exactly where to be and when to be there.
“And we added ‘Nisky’ (Niskanen) and (Justin) Braun-er, and we have some kids who are really starting to develop in that role. They’re paying attention to detail,’’ Yeo said. “Ultimately, you have to have that pride, that willingness – if you have to block a shot, you’re going to block a shot, pay any price to get that puck down the ice.
“Your name might not show up on the scoresheet at the end of the night but you have to take pride in that and the guys have done a great job with it.’’