The Philadelphia Flyers are the top seed in the Eastern Conference after going undefeated in the round-robin tournament. A 4-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night capped it off, and it was another great performance by the Flyers.
One of the players that had a great game was Shayne Gostisbehere. He was a healthy scratch for the first two games, but finally got a chance against the Lightning.
Gostisbehere played 15:24 in total, picking up two assists, two shots on goal, and two blocked shots with a 50% Corsi-For Percentage (the Flyers had a 45.35% CF) and 80.01% Expected Goals-For Percentage (the Flyers had a 59.92 xGF%).
It didn’t matter who he was matched up with. Against the Lightning’s top line, Gostisbehere helped hold Tampa Bay without a shot on goal – and only three shot attempts – in four minutes.
Justin Braun was paired with Gostisbehere, and was on the ice for 10:06 of Ghost’s 12:22 at 5-on-5 against the Lightning.
When that pair was on the ice the Flyers had the upper hand with a Corsi-For Percentage of 55% (11-9 shot attempts), an Expected Goals-For Percent of 80.01%, a 6-2 shots on goal advantage, 6-5 scoring chances advantage, and a 2-0 lead on the scoreboard. They started 16 of their shifts on the fly and three in the neutral zone.
The numbers don’t do it justice. Gostisbehere looked like the Ghost of old and it was great to see.
Gostisbehere was aggressive from the get-go. Just seconds into his very first shift, he read the play and pinched up the wall to try to get a cycle going. He was unsuccessful in his attempt, however, as the Lightning went the other way.
The Lightning had all five of their players in the defensive zone while the Flyers were making a change, so Sean Couturier was back to cover for him (along with a backchecking Joel Farabee). That may have been pure luck, but it seems more likely that Gostisbehere recognized the situation and decided to pinch.
Gostisbehere got back in position in the defensive zone and tied up Brayden Point in front so he couldn’t get a good deflection on net.
Gostisbehere helped start a rush on his next shift with some solid passing, and then pinched up the left boards again. This time it worked and Travis Konecny was able to swing around the zone and throw the puck on net.
After a nine-second nothing shift, Gostisbehere went to work again. With the Lightning coming down on an odd-man rush, Gostisbehere stepped up to disrupt Tampa Bay’s timing and they went offside.
Later in the shift, after a commercial break, he helped get the Flyers on the board.
Gostisbehere pinched up the left wall yet again, this time he forced – and maybe tipped – a cross-ice pass that went awry. Derek Grant kept the play alive with a stick check, and Gostisbehere picked up the loose puck on his way back to the point.
He used his nifty footwork to set up and wristed a shot on net through traffic that Nicolas Aube-Kubel was able to deflect past Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Flyers had a 1-0 lead.
This is the Shayne Gostisbehere that we know and love. He kept the Flyers’ offensive zone time going with his play up the wall then turned nothing into something with a nice play at the line.
He didn’t play in either of the first two round-robin games, but his first few shifts showed why he has a strong case to stick in the lineup – and the game was less than eight minutes old!
Gostisbehere created another chance or two with a point shot on his next shift. Joel Farabee made a nice bank pass to Gostisbehere, who fired a shot that Vasilevskiy kicked out to the slot where Claude Giroux had a prime scoring chance.
Later in the shift Gostisbehere made a quick chip pass from behind the net to Philippe Myers that was a bit too much to handle.
It’s a good idea, but it didn’t work out.
Another good idea is this flip pass to Giroux.
Giroux just entered the zone a bit too soon.
Gostisbehere showed off some of his skating on his next shift. He took the puck up ice with speed and threw it to Konecny to get it in deep.
Those are the types of moves that we want to see.
Again as the Lightning moved through the neutral zone with speed, Gostisbehere stepped up to take away time and space from Yanni Gourde and slowed down the rush.
Gostisbehere had another shot attempt from the point on his next shift, and he made a play in the defensive zone as well. After a turnover, he defended a mini two-on-one in front of the net. He went down to the ice and got a piece of the pass.
Here’s another look at Ghost’s defensive play.
He then showed that Robert Hagg isn’t the only Flyers defenseman that can get physical in front of the net.
Gostisbehere didn’t join the top power-play unit in Jakub Voracek’s absence, but he did quarterback the second unit.
We got some classic Ghost action during the Flyers’ first power play. First, he faked a shot to skate in for a better chance.
Then he fired off a slap shot that Vasilevskiy made a difficult save on.
Ghost was feeling it early on.
After grabbing Gourde from behind just a few shifts prior, Gostisbehere nearly laid an open-ice hit on him. Gourde got out of the way just in time, but Ghost’s aggressiveness sent the puck back in deep.
Gostisbehere played a very eventful 4:51 in the first period (4:00 at even strength, 51 seconds on the power play).
Early in the second period, Gostisbehere was on the ice with the third line creating some good pressure. He wasn’t too involved, but did his job along the blue line.
The same goes for his next shift. He did a perfectly fine job during a 49-second shift on the penalty kill.
Gostisbehere was active in the offensive zone all night long. With a winger trying to sneak by him, he kept the puck in at the line and got it into the slot.
He nearly got caught on a pinch in the neutral zone, but used his speed to get back and help even things up.
Gostisbehere joined the rush and gained the zone, then got it in deep to go for a change.
He made a play in the neutral zone on each of his next two shifts to stop a potential Lightning rush.
Simple, but effective.
Late in a nearly minute-long shift, Gostisbehere made a nice stretch pass while the Lightning were changing.
About a 150-foot pass? Not too bad.
Gostisbehere went right back to his defensive game a few shifts later. Tyler Johnson skated in on him one-on-one, and Gostisbehere got the best of him by blocking his shot attempt.
That had the puck going the other way and eventually led to Joel Farabee’s goal.
Not only did Gostisbehere have an assist on the goal, he had a nice entry to gain the zone and set things up.
We know what happened next.
It was just a great play all around, from the poke by Couturier, to the cross-ice pass by Gostisbehere, and the finish by Farabee.
Ghost went back to work on the Flyers’ next power play. He took the puck up ice, banked it in deep, and went after he. He tied up Mikhail Sergachev, allowing James van Riemsdyk to dig the puck out and get the cycle going.
The second period didn’t have as many highlight plays as the first, but he had one of the best in his assist on Farabee’s goal. Gostisbehere played 7:09 in the second period (5:14 at even strength, 1:06 on the power play, and 49 seconds on the penalty kill).
The third period wasn’t very eventful for the Flyers. They kind of sat back with the lead, but they still kept the Lightning away from the high-danger areas.
We did get another Gostisbehere move at the line to find a shooting lane, even if it did go off the glass.
He then stepped up against Nikita Kucherov at the offensive blue line, forcing the Lightning to regroup.
Gostisbehere had one of his rougher shifts midway through the third period.
First he couldn’t control the bouncing puck behind the net and his clearing attempt up the wall went to Ryan McDonagh. Then he failed to clear and was caught out of position a bit.
Thankfully, there was nothing going for Tampa Bay.
Gostisbehere made a good play at the offensive blue line during his next shift. He left his post to keep the puck in and set something up.
His final shift came after Tyler Pitlick’s empty-net goal that put the game away. They played out the final 80 seconds and the Flyers locked up the No. 1 seed.
Gostisbehere played 3:24 in the third period (all at even strength) with the game pretty much in hand. That decrease in ice time may be something to keep an eye on. Braun (5:16) played more than Gostisbehere in the third period, but I don’t think that’s anything worth worrying about yet. The Flyers’ other four defensemen are playing well, and getting them out there instead of Gostisbehere with a two-goal lead in the third period is understandable.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Flyers defense looks for their first round series against the Montreal Canadiens. It seemed like it was Robert Hagg’s job to lose, but Gostisbehere came pushing hard for it. The Flyers may need all the offensive help they can get against Carey Price, and that would lead me to believe that Gostisbehere should play.
It’s a tough argument to make to bring Gostisbehere out of the lineup now. He did it offensively with two primary assists, and on the defensive end he allowed just two shots on goal and was on the ice for 0.13 Expected Goals Against.
We’ll see what happens, but all that matters is that Shayne Gostisbehere is back.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick