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pretty much copy all of the things we wrote about Provorov

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Our week long look at how the Flyers are faring at the season’s unofficial half way point continues today with a look at the team’s seven most common defensemen this season. You can find links to the first four parts at the bottom of this post. Like we did on Tuesday with the team’s nine wingers, we’ll break this group of evaluations into three posts, but in the name of spreading the words around a bit in the bye week, we’ll only be posting two of them today and will save the third for tomorrow.

Here, we’ll evaluate the team’s two young stud defensemen who happen to be nos. 1 and 2 in ice time this season on the team . A bit later in the day, we’ll look at the two rookies and how their first seasons have gone. And finally, tomorrow morning, we’ll look at the blue line’s three elder statesmen of sorts.

With that, let’s get to it.

Stats below are from hockey reference.com, NHL.com, corsica.hockey, and hockeyviz.com. Any statistics regarding ranks relative to the NHL are through Monday’s games.

5 on 5 On Ice Performance 48.5 Corsi For, 49.8 Expected Goals For, 0.79 Points per 60

In short Provorov has continued on his way towards becoming a real number one defensemen, with some minor question marks but also some major positive developments.

How so? Beginning around Thanksgiving of last season, Provorov — still just 19 at the time — was clearly given the responsibilities of a number one defenseman. He was getting 23 plus minutes per night, playing against the best players on the other team, and getting time on both special teams units. The level of confidence that the Flyers had in Provorov was clear Jakub Voracek Jersey, and it’s only become more clear this season as he’s grown and as the defense around him has gotten younger.

With 24 45 of ice time per game, Provorov currently ranks 16th in the NHL among defensemen in average TOI. He’s also facing top pair level competition among 189 NHL defensemen with at least 300 5 on 5 minutes, Provorov is 18th in quality of competition by ice time and has taken on a lot of PK responsibility 22nd in the NHL in total time on shorthanded .

Provorov’s been leaned on quite heavily at times this year, as different players around him have been injured. A pair of games in early November — a back to back in Chicago and St. Louis — embodied what Provorov’s season had been as well as anything else; in slightly more than 24 hours, Provorov played 56 shifts and 56 59 of ice time, anchoring a Flyers defense absolutely ravaged by injuries. Based on role and usage, there’s no question who the Flyers’ top defenseman has been this season.

Yeah, but It’s weird that Provorov still isn’t driving play and that his on ice shot and Expected Goal numbers are kinda mediocre, right? The guy clearly has the talent and physical tools to be a plus defenseman, and the team trusts him to do as much as is humanly possible. It’s a little surprising that he hasn’t turned that corner this year.

Still, though ... Much as it was the case last year, the biggest reason that the Flyers spend more time defending than attacking while Provorov is on the ice probably has to do with who he’s sharing that ice with. Last year, Provorov’s main partner was Andrew MacDonald — well known as one who does not drive play forward in positive ways for his team.

Surely enough, MacDonald has been Provorov’s most frequent pairmate for much of the season, and even acknowledging that the team asks a lot of the two of them in terms of usage and competition, the two have struggled to drive positive outcomes while together once again. And during the month where MacDonald was out with a likely knee injury, Provorov’s main partner was Robert Hagg https://www.phillyflyersfans.com/nolan-patrick-jersey-c-16.html, who as we’ll discuss later has not been off to a hot start in terms of play driving.

Still, if not for recent developments, the question of “is Provorov good enough to create successful results no matter who he’s playing with?” was a legitimate one. But since December 23, Dave Hakstol has paired the team’s top defenseman with its second best defenseman in Shayne Gostisbehere, forming a true power pairing at the top of the lineup. And the results have been fantastic in 156 33 of ice time together, the pair has collected 56.07 percent of on ice shot attempts and 57.46 percent of Expected Goals. Pairing Provorov with a legitimate top 4 talent has done him wonders, and it should make fans even more confident that he’s going to be a big part of this team’s successes for a long time to come.

Grade A . If we’d given out these grades three weeks ago, I’d have put him in the B to B plus range; someone who’s shown to be able to handle big minutes and not get butchered is valuable, but Provorov hadn’t really handled those minutes in quite the way that you’d think a future number one defenseman would. But Provorov’s excellent play with Gostisbehere suggests that Provorov may just be the guy we all think he is after all, and a big time second half of the season may be in the cards for him.
While Gostisbehere may never quite top the performance of his rookie season, his work this season has gained him the trust of his coaches and earned him a bigger role on the team.

How so? We all know Ghost’s story of his first couple of seasons. The then rookie had the Midas Touch in 2015 16 https://www.phillyflyersfans.com/michael-raffl-jersey-c-15.html, showing off highlight reel plays seemingly game after game and coming in as the runner up in the Calder race behind an old man. And last season everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, as Ghost was scratched six times and had only seven goals a season after posting 17.

There’s been no real dominant narrative around Gostisbehere this season in either direction, but his third NHL season has been the one in which the Flyers have asked the most of him. Gostisbehere has seen his ice time jump up above where it was in his rookie and sophomore year. He’s held his spot on the top power play, and is the team’s clear number two defenseman at this point in time. And the points are back, too — Ghost’s point per game rate of 0.82 is actually even better than the 0.71 he posted in his rookie season.

And to the eye https://www.phillyflyersfans.com/taylor-leier-jersey-c-17.html, it appears that Ghost has made some real progress defensively, as well. Glaring errors have been few and far between, and while he’s probably been aided a bit by some good fortune his PDO of 102.2 is probably going to drop at some point, one way or the other , pucks are going in the net behind Ghost less frequently than they ever have been. There are a lot of welcome developments in Gostisbehere’s play this season, and it seems like the Flyers trust him more than they ever have.

Yeah, but No matter how the Flyers feel about him, Ghost still has a lot of work to do defensively, doesn’t he? Most available shot quality measures expected goals against, expected Fenwick on ice save percentage paint him as below average on this team, and despite his obvious puck moving gifts and heavy offensive usage he’s pretty much a break even possession and expected goals player. Can a guy like that be your second best defenseman?

Still, though ... Regarding play driving, we could pretty much copy all of the things we wrote about Provorov in the last section and drop them here. Ghost’s main partners this season have been Hagg, who has been a plus defender but is such a non factor offensively that the team gets heavily outshot when he’s on the ice, and Brandon Manning, a player who is the living embodiment of ‘just a guy’. His numbers as we discussed have taken a significant turn for the better with Provorov, and that should make fans optimistic about the idea that he can be a well rounded player.

But even if Ghost never progresses past just OK defensively, or even if he’s something of a negative in his third of the ice, he should still be a net positive going forward based on what he provides in the game’s other two zones. Last season, when nothing was going right, it seemed like the Flyers may have lost track of that a bit. This season, it seems like they realize what they have in Gostisbehere quite well.

Grade B . Two seasons ago, the Flyers — despite any concerns about his defensive game — gave Shayne Gostisbehere 20 minutes a night because they had no other choice, as he rewrote a different section of the NHL record book every week or two. This season, the Flyers are giving Gostisbehere 21 minutes a night because they know he’s the second best defenseman on the roster and they can’t afford not to. That’s a big step forward for him a year after getting healthy scratched multiple times, and like with Provorov, there’s good reason to believe the best is yet to come for him.

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