While one Flyer in particular continues to struggle on the blue line, another is thriving enough to almost make you forget about the original problem.
One is of course Shayne Gostisbehere and the other is Ivan Provorov, and if you haven’t been under a rock, you’d know of the early season issues of the Ghost and of the early season success of the Provy.
The two integral parts of the Flyers defensive corps couldn’t possibly be headed in more opposite directions through 20 games, and just about every statistic shows it in great detail.
Provorov has racked up 13 points (four goals, nine assists) while Gostisbehere has registered just six points (one goal, five assists). Both have nearly identical possession numbers as Ghost has a Corsi-For of 53.7% while Provorov sits at 53.5% despite starting in his own zone more (51% to 47%). Though both are outpacing their fellow defenders in that respect, Provorov and his new partner —Matt Niskanen— have shouldered the far tougher assignments among the defense thus far.
Gostisbehere’s calling card since entering the league has been his offensive skills on the backend, and his power play quarterbacking in particular. The problem has been that Provorov has been the far more effective quarterback through 20 games, and even replacing Ghost on the Flyers’ top power play unit of late. Ghost’s lack of production in that role (zero goals, four assists) has led to Provorov getting a bigger piece of the action, and he’s produced to the tune of three goals and five assists in two fewer minutes of power play time per NaturalStatTrick.
It’s an interesting —and welcome— development for the Flyers to see Provorov’s improvement in terms of quarterbacking a power play because it was an area he did not excel at previously. Not only did he not excel, he was objectively bad to be frank. So either he’s finally figuring things out, or he’s on some type of roll, and neither are necessarily bad for the Flyers.
For one, if Provorov has in fact figured things out on the power play then the Flyers should —in theory— have two formidable power play QB’s. That’s massive given how ineffective the Flyers’ second power play unit has been in recent years largely because Ghost was so good for the first unit and drop off to whoever was running the second unit (a lot of times Provorov) was terrible. As talented and creative the Flyers’ first unit can be, they’re not going to be out there the whole two minutes in every circumstance, so having a formidable second unit is important.
Second, it gives the Flyers insurance if Ghost continues to struggle and can’t be counted on to produce from the backend of that first unit. If Provorov really can be a true power play quarterback, then the Flyers don’t have to keep trotting out a lackluster Gostisbehere in that role and can even work in the likes of Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers in that role moving forward to the future, and perhaps even prospect Cam York far down the line.
Provorov’s strong start has already helped to justify the long-term extension the Flyers handed him in preseason, but he’s proven himself to be an emerging force in all three zones thus far and that’s an exciting development both for him and for the club. The steadying hand of the veteran Niskanen has certainly been a positive for Provorov, but it’s also important to note that he’s by far the best partner than Provorov has had to play with in his young career. Good players make other good players better, imagine that!
We’re only 20 games in, but the strong play of Ivan Provorov has not only been a huge boon for the Flyers, but it’s also helped the team not be too hurt by the early season woes of Shayne Gostisbehere.
If the Flyers could get both clicking at the same time, then we’d really be cooking.