Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography
Welcome back to our second edition of Flyers Report Card®, a weekly feature where we will take a look at the best and worst performers of the week. It’s been a *eye starts twitching* good and fun week for the Flyers, so these will be really fun and positive! Anyway, let’s take a look at some grades.
[All statistics from this report card were obtained from NaturalStatTrick.com]
SEAN COUTURIER – A+: Sean Couturier returned from injury and played the final two games of the week against Calgary and Winnipeg. He was arguably the Flyers’ best forward in those games. The Flyers got 60% of shot attempts with him on the ice. Coots took back his spot on the struggling penalty kill and helped them to play two of the best games we’ve seen this season. He did not look like he had missed a beat at all, playing strong hockey in all three zones. Couturier was clearly the strongest player on the ice during his return against Calgary, showing signs of absolute dominance during the third period. Dave Hakstol took note, giving Couturier and Matt Read more even strength ice time than any other Flyer forwards on Saturday night.
MICHAL NEUVIRTH – A+: While Sean Couturier was probably the strongest forward this week, there’s basically no doubt as to who the strongest player was. The Flyers knew they were getting an upgrade when they signed the 27 year old Michal Neuvirth as an unrestricted free agent this summer. They did not expect him to carry them through the beginning of the season.
Amongst goaltenders with more than 5 games played so far, Neuvirth finds himself tied with Jake Allen and Henrik Lundqvist for the top save percentage mark in hockey (.945). Three clean sheets also has Neuvirth atop the leaderboard in terms of shutouts early on. Of the three points that the Flyers picked up this week, Neuvirth was directly responsible for at least two of them. He also kept the Flyers in that dismal Edmonton game much longer than they deserved. In three games this week, Neuvirth posted a .953 save percentage, stopping 101 of 106 shots that were sent his way. Absolutely elite play from the newcomer who could end up having the biggest impact on the Flyers this season.
LUKE SCHENN – B: With Evgeny Medvedev out of the lineup, Schenn found himself paired with Nick Schultz for all of this week’s four games. Alongside a possession black hole like Schultz, the older of the Schenn brothers was able to maintain respectable numbers in three of the four games. Outside of Tuesday’s disastrous game in Edmonton, Schenn had a 55% CF over the course of the other three games. Schenn’s early numbers were certainly driven at least in part by Medvedev, but he’s been a bright spot this season too.
DAVE HAKSTOL – C: It’s tough to get a true idea of what a coach is about until you see him try to carry a team through some tough times. With the team going through an extremely difficult road trip, we saw Hakstol make some changes as the week went on. On Monday night, we saw a big misstep, as Evgeni Medvedev sat as a healthy scratch. The Flyers did announce that Medvedev was injured on Tuesday, so it’s unclear whether or not that played a part in his benching.
Next, we saw Sam Gagner benched on Thursday night so that Vincent Lecavalier could begin the game skating with the third line. Lecavalier ended up playing just over 4 minutes in the game. This was definitely a misstep as well, and Hakstol knew it. He corrected this mistake on Saturday, taking Lecavalier back out of the lineup in favor of Gagner.
Hakstol did some things that I liked this week as well. His willingness to lean on Sean Couturier during both Thursday and Saturday’s games was encouraging. The same goes for his ability to notice Matt Read’s strong play and respond by increasing his ice time. With Couturier healthy, hopefully we see Hakstol’s Flyers get back to the strong neutral zone play that they exhibited early on.
VINCENT LECAVALIER – F: Nobody expected Vincent Lecavalier to come out and be extremely impressive this season. However, the struggling 35 year old forward has simply reached a new low. During three games this week, the Flyers registered just 25% (!) of shot attempts with Lecavalier on the ice. He can still play half decent hockey in the offensive zone, but his complete inability to play in either of the other two zones renders his offensive talent completely useless. I hate to use hot-takey words like these ones, but it really seems like Lecavalier is not 100% mentally invested in playing hockey for the Flyers anymore. To be honest, it’s difficult to blame him at this point.