Shot-riddled Flyers plan to make a case for defense

Ivan Provorov

While their record might be 3-1-1, the Flyers know they’ve been playing with fire, and not the good kind.

Perhaps the most concerning element of their play has been shots allowed.

They’ve given up at least 30 in all five games and more than 40 in each of the last two.

Analytics will tell you that’s not a formula for long-term success.

During a media Zoom call after Friday afternoon’s practice at TD Garden in Boston, defenseman Ivan Provorov maintained the bloated shot totals might have something to do with the preseason schedule, or, rather the complete lack of any exhibition games.

“Overall, since we didn’t have a preseason, our team is still getting back to the level that we used to play at defensively last year,’’ Provorov said. “Usually you have six or seven preseason games. Now we didn’t have any.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time. I think we’ll get better and get to the level where we were at last year and even better.’’

Provorov listed some of the specifics needed to lower the shots against. When goaltenders Carter Hart or Brian Elliott have to work so hard early in games (the Flyers were outshot, 14-3, in the first period of Thursday night’s 5-4 shootout loss), fatigue can set in.

“I think we have to clean up in some areas,’’ Provorov said. “Turnovers. . .there have been too many in our zone, the neutral zone. And giveaways in the offensive zone.

“We just have to play a little bit smarter and defend a little better, play tighter. It’s only our fifth game. We’ll get the shots on goal down.’’

Losing veteran defenseman Matt Niskanen certainly hasn’t helped matters.

“There’s no doubt Matt was a big part of our team,’’ coach Alain Vigneault said. “On the ice, in the dressing room, his experience, the way he played the game. But we have some good young defensemen. We need to work with them, improve their game. It’s hard to replace a top-four defenseman. That’s what we’re doing right now.’’

 

>Gostisbehere to practice Monday

 

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who was sidelined by COVID-19, was cleared to begin working out on Wednesday and has been skating on his own.

Vigneault said “Ghost’’ should be ready to practice with the team on Monday at the Skate Zone. Whether he will be ready for Tuesday’s game at New Jersey remains to be seen.

“He’s going to need a little time here to get back into condition,’’ Vigneault said. “He was basically at a standstill there for close to seven days. COVID hits individuals differently. Some don’t feel the effects, some have the effects and feel a little bit more tired.

“In Shayne’s case, he was feeling much better and working out with more intensity. But it might take one practice (to be ready for a game) or it might take a week.’’

 

>Morin to stay at forward

 

Vigneault confirmed the Samuel Morin experiment at left wing will continue, even though the Flyers are a little thin on defense right now.

The coach said Mark Friedman, who’s filling in for the injured Phil Myers (fractured rib), will be good to go, even though he missed most of the Thursday game after a collision with the Bruins’ Brad Marchand.

“I think we’re going to stick with our initial program,’’ Vigneault said. “Which is working on giving him an opportunity up front. He’s been working extremely hard at improving a new aspect of his game.

“I believe at some point in the near future, he’ll get an opportunity to play. I want to see him up front, see what he can do.’’

Morin could be in the lineup as early as Saturday night in Boston for the second game of the two-game set.

“He is an option,’’ Vigneault said. “He did take warm-up yesterday. That was our third game in four nights. We have some bumps and bruises.’’

 

>Staying cautious on the road

 

If players around the National Hockey League needed a reminder about the importance of proper pandemic protocols, they got one the other day when the Washington Capitals were fined $100,000 and had several players, including superstar Alex Ovechkin, placed in quarantine.

The Flyers, spending a few days in Boston on their first road trip of the season, are veterans of the recommended “restricted’’ lifestyle.

They went through the better part of two months in the Toronto bubble during last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs, which included three round-robin tournament games, followed by a six-game playoff series against Montreal and a seven-gamer against the New York Islanders.

For the most part, the Flyers just hang out at their hotel, playing video games, watching TV and Facetiming family members back home.

“I think the NHL has put in a really good system of strict rules,’’ Joel Farabee said. “We’re just trying to stay safe in the hotel.

“While we’re here, it’s all business. We’re looking forward to the games here.’’

Farabee said a few of the players brought their Xboxes on the road.

“We’re staying busy,’’ he said. “It’s not too bad.’’

 

 

>Provorov working overtime

 

Provorov has led the Flyers in ice time the past couple years but this season is bordering on the absurd.

After Friedman went down against the Bruins, Provorov played more than 30 minutes (30:46 to be exact).

No problem, Provorov says. He subjects himself to a demanding workout schedule year-round and if there’s anyone who can handle this workload, it’s the young Russian.

“No, I don’t think they (the minutes) are piling up,’’ he said. “I’m in great shape. I’ve always played a lot, I love playing big minutes. It’s easy to get into a rhythm when you just keep going. I don’t worry about that.’’

About Wayne Fish 1215 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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