Confident, healthy Gostisbehere adds to Flyers’ firepower

Shayne Gostisbehere with some of his close friends.

Anyone who’s been watching Flyers games of recent vintage knows there are two Shayne Gostisbeheres.

There’s the semi-injured one, like the fellow who’s been struggling with lower body issues which compromise his speed and agility.

And then there’s the healthy one, who becomes a dynamic force from the blue line, as the defenseman demonstrated in Wednesday night’s 2-1 Game 1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

There was a time a few years back when the Florida native was considered the No. 1 defenseman on the Philadelphia roster.

But it seems like it’s been one thing after another since his record-breaking season in 2015-16, including a pair of knee surgeries in 2020.

Finally, given time to fully recover during the pandemic, Gostisbehere looks like his explosive self again.

When he’s at his best, the 27-year-old backliner can handle, pass or one-time pucks with the best of them.

That’s why even though he’s still on a third defense pairing with Justin Braun, he’s likely to see a bit more ice time when the Flyers take on the Canadiens in Game 2 on Friday afternoon (3 p.m.) at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Coach Alain Vigneault has been impressed by what he’s seen of Gostisbehere in the past two games. “Ghost’’ had a pair of assists in the round-robin clinching win over Tampa Bay and handled the puck smartly against Montreal.

“He made some good breakout passes against a lot of pressure,’’ Vigneault said. “You know Montreal came at us very hard in that second period. We bended a little bit but we didn’t break.

“In the third period, I thought we handled our puck decisions better. One of those reasons was our back-end guys like Shayne doing a better job beating that hard pressure they were throwing at us. We’re going to need him to continue to do that.’’

Braun believes Gostisbehere is back to a hundred percent once again.

“Offensively he’s dynamic,’’ Braun said. “He’s got that step and that move at the blue line. It’s nice to have that.’’

It’s a little different than playing with Braun’s “other’’ partner, Robert Hagg, who’s more of a defensive defenseman, with lots of physical play like hits and blocked shots.

“He (Hagg) will create loose pucks,’’ Braun said. “Ghost is more stick on puck, which is fine, either way works. Playing with either guy, our focus is on good breakouts. The rest of it will take care of itself.’’

Gostisbehere feels confident with his game right now.

“I’m just taking it day by day,’’ he said. “I’m just doing whatever I can to help my team win. When I go out there, I’m doing things that make me the player I am, making plays with the puck, doing things offensively to help our team get some goals.’’

For now, he’s put the knee surgeries behind him.

“Getting surgeries on both knees, it’s definitely not ideal,’’ he said. “Especially for a guy who takes pride on his skating, getting up in the play. I definitely feel better, I feel more elusive out there and more confident. It’s not only the games, it’s the practices, too.

“I’m getting back to my old self and doing things I normally do.’’

>Voracek looks fine on third line

A few heads turned when Jake Voracek returned from a one-game absence and played on a third line with Derek Grant and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

But Voracek was effective and even figured prominently in the Flyers’ first goal, which came on the power play to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. It also broke an 0 for 11 Flyers’ slump with the man advantage.

Vigneault put Voracek on left wing, flipping him from his normal spot on the right side (he’s a lefty shooter).

“I liked Jake’s game yesterday,’’ Vigneault said. “I thought he was strong on the puck, good on the forecheck. He’s obviously a little more comfortable on the right side but throughout the series that (left side) is where he can be most beneficial to our team. Overall I felt he played a strong game.’’

Voracek has sort of lost his regular spot as right wing on the Sean Couturier-Claude Giroux top line because rookie Joel Farabee has been handed that assignment and he’s been lighting it up.

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About Wayne Fish 2473 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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