Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography
This week was one of the best of the season for Philadelphia, as the Flyers took 6 out of the 8 possible points. Things are looking alright for the first time in a while, especially after back to back wins against quality clubs to close out Thanksgiving weekend. Let’s take a look at some grades.
2ND LINE: A
The trio of Matt Read, Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds was the Flyers’ strongest possession line by a wide margin this week, with each player posting a CF% above 57%. They’ve been controlling the game well all season, but it was good to see them get on the scoreboard a bit this weekend too. This was especially important for Wayne Simmonds, who has been fairly underwhelming as a guy who needs to bring some offensive firepower to this line. Simmonds broke a 6 game pointless streak with his 3 point game on Saturday.
EVGENI MEDVEDEV: B+
After spending a couple weeks up in the press box, Evgeni Medvedev finally found his was on to the ice this weekend and immediately made his presence felt. The pairing of Medvedev and Shayne Gostisbehere was very clearly the Flyers’ best this weekend, as Medvedev cruised to a 63.6 CF% and added an assist on Saturday. In addition, the Flyers gave up just 38.4 CA/60 with him on the ice, a number that was only bested this week by Nick Cousins. Let’s hope he is here to stay, because he clearly makes this team a better one.
MICHAEL DEL ZOTTO: B+
Michael Del Zotto definitely played the best hockey he’s played this season over the past four games. In a week that finished with a back-to-back against his former clubs, Del Zotto posted a 54% CF while adding a goal and an assist. Saturday against the Rangers, he played a whopping 29:20 of ice time and made several very important defensive plays. It’s still early, but Del Zotto seems to be thriving under Dave Hakstol’s system thus far.
DAVE HAKSTOL: D+
I just spoke about one of the good things that Dave Hakstol did this week. Now I’m going to talk about one of the questionable ones. Jakub Voracek, who has struggled offensively this season, spent the majority of the week playing with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris Vandevelde.
Initially, I decided that I’d keep an open mind regarding that decision. It seemed like something that would be short lived and possibly give the Flyers some balance, and I was encouraged by the fact that Dave Hakstol was open to splitting up Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
After 4 games, it’s more than clear that this lineup is a failed experiment. The trio combined for zero points this week and all finished under a 40% CF% for the four games. That isn’t providing any balance and it’s taking one of the Flyers’ biggest offensive weapons out of the picture. That’s nothing against Vandevelde or Bellemare; They’re both good, versatile bottom-of-the-lineup players. They just aren’t the line mates that Jakub Voracek needs to start producing.
I understand that Hakstol doesn’t want to break up the Read/Couturier/Simmonds line. They’ve been controlling play very well in some difficult minutes, and that’s important. It’s even more important that the Flyers have their leading point scorer from last season playing with guys who won’t suppress his talents. If Hakstol wants Voracek playing apart from Giroux, it absolutely has to be on Sean Couturier’s wing. There’s no other option. Hopefully next week will see Voracek moving back up in the lineup to play with either Giroux or Couturier. Until then, Dave Hakstol will have to live with the worst grade I’ve given him so far this season. (Probably crushing to him, right?)
NICK SCHULTZ: F+
Nick Schultz posted a CF% of 39.1% during his 4 games this week. He was laying in the crease in some sort of a strange yoga position when the Predators tied the game late on Friday. The Flyers truly looked measurably better with four defensemen yesterday than they did with a healthy Nick Schultz in the lineup early on. It’s a shame that Schultz was injured, but hopefully this will open Dave Hakstol’s eyes up to the fact that the Flyers can get by perfectly fine without him.