Figuring out the Flyers: Forwards Part II

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Figuring out the Flyers: Forwards Part II

Note: This is the second installment of a series looking at the Flyers' offense. For Part I, click here.

The Flyers' defense got much of the attention, but the team's offense struggled in 2013, as well. What follows is an examination of the second group of Flyers forwards - and while most took steps back, not all did.

Keep in mind: some players such as Jason Akeson, Ben Holmstrom and Eric Wellwood didn’t play enough games to warrant review.
 
Also, pending free agents like Ruslan Fedotenko, Simon Gagne and Adam Hall were evaluated previously (see story).
 
Matt Read
Age: 26
Games played: 42
Stats: 11 goals, 13 assists
Plus/minus: plus-1
Average ice time: 18:01
Cap hit: $900,000 (last year)
 
Were it not for a rib cage injury that held him back in February, Read might have had better numbers than he did a year ago over a full 82-game slate.
 
He’s another guy that other clubs want to talk about when it comes to trades. Like Couturier, retains that value moving ahead. What hurts him here is UFA status next season when the Flyers have a number of players to re-sign.
 
Zac Rinaldo
Age: 22
Games played: 32
Stats: three goals, two assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 8:22
Cap hit: $750,000 (next two years)
 
For a guy who averages a little over eight minutes a night, Rinaldo packs quite a punch. Consider that he was second on the team in hits with 143 - better than four per game.
 
Coach Peter Laviolette loves the energy Rinaldo brings and the fact he is not afraid to fight. Rinaldo actually took his game to a new level this season in that he learned – quite effectively – how to draw penalties.
 
Coaches say they want to give him work on the penalty kill, but that has yet to happen for two seasons now. Maybe it needs to happen next fall.
 
Jay Rosehill
Age: 27
Games played: 11
Stats: one goal, no assists
Plus/minus: minus-4
Average ice time: 6:47
Cap hit: $675,000 (next two years)
 
No matter how you slice ‘n dice it, the Flyers needed a heavyweight enforcer. They had no healthy enforcer with genuine NHL experience in their system once Tommy Sestito was claimed off waivers by Vancouver.
 
Rosehill is young and gets a chance to grow in the role while also offering some offense, though not a ton. Like many heavies, he’s a pleasant chap off the ice, too.

Brayden Schenn
Age: 21
Games played: 47
Stats: eight goals, 18 assists
Plus/minus: minus-8
Ice time: 15:31
Cap hit: $3.11 million (final year)
 
Schenn took steps backwards in 2013. It remains to be seen whether he can ever really be an effective centerman as opposed to playing on the wing.
 
Though he’s moved throughout the lineup these past two seasons, Wayne Simmonds has been a near constant on his line. Like his brother, Luke, you see a development curve. He needs to improve defensively.
 
When the Flyers traded for his brother, it gave Schenn a certain amount of protection he would not be dealt if other clubs came calling. After this season, however, no forwards other than Giroux and Jakub Voracek, remain untouchable this summer.
         
Wayne Simmonds
Age: 24
Games played: 45
Stats: 15 goals, 17 assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 15:38
Cap hit: $3.975 million over the next six years
 
The man with the skinny lamb-chop legs, is a tough hombre in front of the net and might have surpassed his career goal output (28) if this had been a full 82-game season.
 
He’s been linked to Schenn most of his time here with a rotating winger on the other side. He's willing to engage and play through pain. He’s a fun player to watch but needs to cut back on penalty minutes – had 82 this season.
 
Max Talbot
Age: 29
Games played: 35
Stats: five goals, five assists
Plus/minus: plus-2
Average ice time: 15:25
Cap hit: $1.75 million the next three years
 
When he slumped badly at the start – 21 games without a goal – Talbot's crutch was that scoring wasn’t his thing but strong defensive play and penalty killing were. While that may be true, the Flyers expect more and need offense from Talbot next season.
 
Talbot had 19 goals in 2011-12 and should have gotten 9 or 10 this season. He missed the final 13 games with a broken left leg. He needs to think of himself differently: like, remember Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2009 against Detroit?
 
Jakub Voracek
Age: 23
Games played: 48
Stats: 22 goals, 24 assists
Plus/minus: minus-7
Average ice time: 17:14
Cap hit: $4.25 million next three years
 
Voracek was Jaromir Jagr’s prized student who simply blossomed on a bad team coming out of the lockout. He led the Flyers in goals and was second only to Giroux in shots (129). He won the Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP.
 
And there’s the difference: shots. A year ago, all Voracek did was look to pass the puck, constantly passing up scoring opportunities. The coaches drilled into his head that he had to think "shot" before passing, and survey the ice. His chemistry with Claude Giroux is undeniable.
 
The Flyers think they have untapped the potential Voracek had in him. Every indication is that there is more yet to be gained, but not at the expense of defense.

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Vincent Trocheck scored with just under 5 seconds remaining to lift the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.

Jonathan Marchessault also scored and James Reimer stopped 26 shots to help the Panthers complete a 5-0 road trip -- their first perfect trip of at least that many games in franchise history.

Reimer has won five straight decisions and has not lost in regulation since Jan. 7 against Boston, going 6-0-1 since.

The Panthers moved into a tie with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, but have the edge because they have a game in hand on the Bruins.

Kyle Brodziak, playing for the second time after missing 10 games due to a broken foot, scored for the Blues and Jake Allen finished with 31 saves. St. Louis lost its second straight since winning six in a row (see full recap).

Coyotes use three-goal 1st period to beat Ducks
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Radim Vrbata capped Arizona's three-goal first period and the Coyotes held on for 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

Christian Dvorak and Jakob Chychrun also scored for Arizona, and starting goalie Mike Smith had 27 saves before leaving about 4 1/2 minutes into the third period after a collision in the net. Marek Langhamer helped kill a power play after being pressed into action for his NHL debut and stopped six of the seven shots he faced.

The Coyotes have won four of their last six.

Langhamer gave up Ryan Getzlaf's second goal of the night with 26.8 seconds to play, but thwarted two quality shots in the final seconds.

Jonathan Bernier gave up three goals on six shots in the first period for the Ducks. John Gibson came on to start the second and stopped all 14 shots he faced (see full recap).

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers’ “Ghost” headed home Monday on a high note — for a change.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere recorded three assists for the first three-point night of his NHL career Sunday as the Flyers edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the final game of a three-game Western Canada road trip (see story). In one night, he matched his offensive output of his previous 10 games played. 

He was a healthy scratch for three games in the meantime. On many other occasions, he has struggled while dealing with the NHL’s proverbial sophomore jinx following a standout rookie season. 

“It’s been a while coming,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s good to get some points, but I thought it was more important to get two points for our team.”

The win moved the Flyers (28-24-7) within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently held by Toronto, in the Eastern Conference. With considerable thanks to Gostisbehere, the club’s much maligned power play scored on two of three man-advantage opportunities. 

“He played great,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere. “He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger.”

Gostisbehere’s first assist enabled the Flyers to get off to a quick start offensively as Simmonds deflected in his point shot only 1:11 into the game. On the Flyers’ second goal, Gostisbehere head-manned the puck to Sean Couturier on a rush. Jakub Voracek easily put Couturier’s big rebound into a gaping net with Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller caught out of position.

One minute and 27 seconds later, Brayden Schenn took Gostisbehere’s pass and put in a shot from the slot. Altogether, Gostisbehere’s assists enabled the Flyers to build an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbeliveable skill,” Simmonds said. “He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

Gostisbehere now has four goals and 18 assists on the season. Until Sunday, the 23-year-old had seemed like an apparition of his former self. 

He had a less-than-ideal recovery period from offseason hip (labrum) and abdominal surgeries, due to his participation with Team North America in the World Cup. Then he suffered a facial cut in the Flyers’ season opener and took a bruise on his right hand in December.

He also struggled defensively to the point where he was scratched — for the first time in his NHL career — in November and was later benched and pulled out of the lineup again. Heading into Sunday’s game, he had a woeful minus-22 mark, but he was only on the ice for one Canucks' goal.

He helped the Flyers shut out the Canucks in the first and third periods. 

“We don’t like how they came back, but we held the lead and, like I said, we got the two points,” Gostisbehere said.

Ghost’s offensive showing evoked memories of his seemingly other-worldly 2015-16 season. In 64 games last season, he notched 17 goals, the most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf, then with Calgary, who scored 20 over a full 82-game schedule in 2005-06. Gostisbehere also enjoyed a historic 15-game point streak in 2015-16, the longest ever for a first-year rearguard, and he was a runnerup for the league’s Rookie of the Year award.

His return to form Sunday bodes well as the Flyers face two Metropolitan Division rivals this week, first Washington at home on Wednesday and then the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday in an outdoor game that will pack plenty of hype and pressure. 

After those games, the Flyers face a more compressed schedule than they have lately. The Feb.12-27 portion of their calendar contains only five games. But starting Feb. 28, they will play their final 21 games of the regular season over 41 days as they push to make the playoffs.

“We definitely know we’re a playoff team, for sure,” Gostisbehere said. “It shows. It’s a big test for us (this) week, playing these really good teams.”