March sadness: Why Gostisbehere benching has reached three games

Shayne Gostisbehere

Back on Feb. 28, things were going splendidly for Shayne Gostisbehere, who was among the Flyers’ team leaders with a plus-7.

He was paired with Ivan Provorov on the top defense tandem and looking like his old self on the offensive side of the game.

But for some reason, when the calendar flipped to March, things went completely haywire for the Flyers’ backliner.

Starting with a minus-3 performance at Pittsburgh on March 2, the numbers have quickly reversed themselves.

And after recording games of minus-3, minus-2 and minus-3 in two games against Washington and one against the Rangers respectively, Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault decided to pull the plug.

Before Saturday morning’s skate at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., Vigneault announced that Gostisbehere would be sitting out for a third straight game while veteran Erik Gustafsson remains in the lineup.

Usually with most players these “resets’’ last a game or two.

When it gets to three, a few alarms go off.

“Shayne had a few games there where in my estimation and my coaches’ estimation, defensively he hadn’t been as solid,’’ Vigneault said during a media Zoom call. “The stats that we keep and the plus/minus stats that are out there gave us that analysis of his performance.’’

Those numbers probably would have been worse if Gostisbehere had participated in that kick-in-the-pants 9-0 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

“We gave him the opportunity on a couple occasions to redeem himself,’’ Vigneault said. “But after the last game, we felt that it was time for ‘Gus’ to get back in.’’

Vigneault said his lineup for Saturday night’s game would be the same as the one that pulled out a 4-3 win over the Islanders on Thursday night.

As for Gostisbehere, the Flyers can’t afford for him to be a liability on the defensive side of the puck.

Perhaps he can take a lesson from veteran defenseman Justin Braun, who leads the team with a plus-10.

“Ghost, he’s got to be more dependable,’’ Vigneault said. “We see the qualities he has as far as puck-moving ability, that good shot that he has. He’s got to put it together consistently like the rest of our team and that’s been a challenge for our group.’’

Gostisbehere was not made available for comment.

>Hart gets the start

Although goaltender Carter Hart looked a bit off his game in the third period of Thursday night’s game, surrendering three goals, Vigneault decided to come back to him for Saturday night’s start.

“In the third period, it wasn’t easy,’’ Vigneault said. “The first shot found the back of the net. A team like that will be coming at you in waves. I do think Carter is trending (up) and we need him to find his game and he’s working at it.’’

>Numbers game

The Flyers went into Saturday night’s game having allowed the league’s third-fewest shots on goal in the month of March at 25.3 per game, but have allowed the league’s most goals per game on average at 4.50. They have outshot their opponents in the month of March by an average of 32.1 per game to 25.3 against, but are being outscored 4.50 to 3.00. . .Sean Couturier has six goals and 12 assists for 18 points in his last 16 games since returning from injury on February 7. He has at least a point in 13 of those 16 games. . .Joel Farabee is second on the roster with 12 goals. He scored his first power-play goal of the season on Monday night. The other 11 are all at even strength, which ties him for third in the league in that category. . .James van Riemsdyk leads the team with 13 goals and 29 points in 27 games. His 1.07 point-per-game average is a career-best pace; his current career high for a full season is 0.76 points per game, done twice with Toronto.


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About Wayne Fish 2446 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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