Flyers Day 5 Phase 3 Update: Protecting the Net
For the first time since the NHL’s return-to-play plan was laid out, the Flyers took the ice and had the entire Phase 3 roster on the same rink at the same time. After a day off the ice on Thursday and three days of group sessions earlier in the week, the time has come to start getting players up to speed on the way the game atmosphere will be when they return for Phase 4.
With the travel to hub cities just over a week away, time is of the essence and the Flyers wasted little time, once again running through drills quickly. Despite Alain Vigneault saying that lines were subject to change, the same lines and pairings were used again on Friday, including the defensive pairings.
For the entire season, Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen have been united together. Assistant coach Mike Yeo, who runs the defense, said that they have been the quickest to get up to speed.
“Both those guys have obviously taken very good of themselves during the break,” Yeo said. “They’re leading the way right now with the intensity and purpose that they are doing every drill with. I think Sanny has looked outstanding all camp and that was the best Phil Myers has looked today. With Hagger and Brauner, those guys just go out and they compete and work and defend. They look very sharp right now. Then you’ve got Ghost. Friedman’s a guy that I didn’t know a lot about last year. He got some opportunities and he really impressed us.”
One thing the Flyers certainly have is a lot of depth, especially defensively. Yeo added that Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers, who have also been paired together in camp, have received some significant assignments throughout the season.
“If you look back at when we were having success, obviously you look at our lineup and you’re going to see Provy’s and Nisky’s names first on the depth chart on defense,” Yeo said. “But if you go back to when we were winning a lot of games, obviously we were using Provy and Nisky in those roles, but there was a lot of times where we’re playing against Washington and Ovechkin’s on the ice and Myers and Sanheim are going head to head against those guys. Same thing against Toronto and against Auston Matthews. Not only did we not hide those guys, but we purposely matched them against the best lines in the league. A because they have that ability and B because we wanted them to grow. Really the only way to do it is by doing it. I would say the same holds true for the playoffs.”
Provorov spoke about Yeo as a coach and how he is with the defensive core. Provorov, who was on his way to putting up career numbers while returning to his typical defensive form, said that Yeo allows players to play to their strengths.
“Just his ability to communicate with everyone and talk it over. If something doesn’t go well during the game, he stays calm and makes the right decisions,” Provorov said. “When we need to adjust something, he does that right away. When things are going well he lets us play and lets us do our thing. I think this has been a great change so far. Just lets us play to our strengths also, play aggressive, move the puck, skate with the puck. I think he’s done a great job and it’s been really helping us.”
Speaking of Gostisbehere, who is working his way back from another surgery and trying to find his way back into the lineup, Yeo made it a point to let the veteran defenseman know that his work ethic to this point in camp is not going unnoticed.
"I made a point of going to see him after practice and making sure he knows that we are recognizing the work that he is putting in," Yeo said. "Obviously he’s in a difficult situation. It’s been a difficult year for him between the injuries and the success of the team while he was out making it tough for him to get back in. He looked really good to me right now. His competitive level is very, very high. With that, I think it’s putting his skill in a position for him to have success. He’s a guy that we are looking at very closely. First of all, if you want to have any success in the playoffs, you need depth. Whether it's injuries or its adjustments, we’re going to need a number of players to come in and contribute. I have a really good feeling that Ghost is going to be ready."
The Flyers will spend Saturday morning having a couple of on-ice sessions for scrimmages to get the blood flowing and simulate game settings. Sunday will feature a similar schedule to Friday with two groups on separate rinks before united on one rink for the remainder of practice. Monday will be a complete off day for the team.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.