PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Flyers stayed hot last week as the schedule begins to work its way back to a normal slate. With wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators sandwiched with a loss to a good Arizona Coyotes team, the Flyers are now 7-1-1 in their last nine games.
The Flyers are 17-8-5 with 39 points, marking the third-best start this decade. In 2011-12, they were 20-7-3 after 30 games and 18-7-5 in 2010-11.
After a hellish November schedule, the Orange and Black will have had three days off before their next game.
Let’s take a look at a few takeaways from the week that was.
1. The Real Deal
When Ivan Provorov departed Flyers Skate Zone for his summer in April 2018, the then-21-year-old was on the cusp of stardom. In his second season, he was tied for the NHL lead among defensemen with 17 goals. He averaged over 24 minutes. He looked like a seasoned veteran in his sophomore campaign.
Then came Year 3, and the trajectory Provorov appeared to be on took a major turn. Provorov struggled, like every young Flyer last season, and doubts crept in.
Thirty games into Year 4, Provorov is back on track to being the defenseman we all thought he would be.
Provorov leads the Flyers in ice time with 24:53, which is ninth-most in the NHL and has averaged 25:54 in his past 15 games. In the Flyers’ 4-3 win over Ottawa Saturday, Provorov had a 47-second break between two long shifts — a one minute, 35-second shift followed by a one minute, 21-second shift to end the game. That means he was essentially on the ice for 2:56 of the game’s final 3:43. He played 26:51 on Saturday.
The 22-year-old also scored his seventh goal of the season against the Senators, which matched his season total from 2018-19. It was also his second goal and fifth point in his last six games. His four-game point streak ended in Thursday’s loss to Arizona. He’s on pace for 19 goals and 52 points, both would be career highs.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) December 7, 2019
What’s most impressive about his goal production is, Provorov’s finding his way on the power play. Two years ago, 15 of his 17 goals came at even strength. This season, he already has a career-high four power-play goals and three at even strength.
In fact, his PP production overall has taken an enormous leap with a career-high 10 PP points.
It’s no secret by now that Provorov can score at the NHL level, and he does so with a sneaky wrister — not a booming slapper like a Shea Weber or even Shayne Gostisbehere. Two Saturdays ago he scored the Flyers’ goal of the season in Montreal by going end to end. He’s on pace for 51 points this season.
With Provorov, though, the offensive production isn’t what excites the Flyers the most. He’s as well-rounded a defenseman as they come, and he’s capable of handling big minutes at such a young age. He’s still 22, so he’s still learning. He’s had some hiccups this season too, but that’s normal.
The addition of Matt Niskanen has done wonders also. Niskanen has provided Provorov a veteran, right-handed partner who’s helped form a legitimate top pair.
Through 30 games, there has been a lot to like about the Flyers. Provorov’s jump back on track has to be near the top of the list.
Like Travis Konecny, the early returns on Provorov’s six-year, $40.5 million contract are quite good.
2. Laughts to love
For some, Scott Laughton — given his draft position — could be drawn up as a miss. Some people see the first-round (20th overall, 2012) label and automatically expect stardom. They place expectations on the player because of the draft position. For a while there, Laughton was headed more toward the miss category.
Not so fast. In the past three years, the 25-year-old has carved out a role with the Flyers in the team’s bottom six. He’s developed into one of the team’s top penalty killers and his offense is finally starting to come around. Laughton has quietly developed into a solid NHL player.
Laughton capped off a productive week with a monster game Saturday, scoring his fourth goal in his last six games and picking up an assist. Had it not been for a broken finger that forced him to miss 13 games, he certainly would have had a Gordie Howe hat trick.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) December 7, 2019
After Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki injured Konecny with a tad late, tad high hit that left No. 11 with an upper-body injury (update coming Monday), Laughton responded by being a thorn in Ottawa’s side. He went after Brady Tkachuk and then Thomas Chabot.
Then 16 seconds into the second period, Laughton leveled Jean-Gabriel Pageau, which led to Joel Farabee’s first career fight. Laughton’s hit, too, was a tad high.
Scott Laughton with a huge hit pic.twitter.com/XCa0Wb5dtt
— Brandon Murphy (@2Murphy8) December 7, 2019
It didn’t stop there. After scoring his second career game-winner, Laughton chirped Tkachuk as he was making his way toward the Flyers’ bench to celebrate.
Scott Laughton/ Brady Tkachuk beef concludes with Laughton chirping Tkachuk after scoring GWG and then Tkachuk jumping Laughton late in the game pic.twitter.com/LRY9yeFBTZ
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 7, 2019
That eventually led to Tkachuk taking two minor penalties — a roughing and a cross-check — with the Sens down one goal with 25 seconds left when he jumped Laughton. That decision cost Tkachuk $2,486.56 in fines and ended Ottawa’s hopes of tying the game.
When Laughton was drafted, many compared him to Mike Richards — a smaller, gritty centerman who could provide some offense. That comparison didn’t pan out, but on Saturday, Laughton certainly had a Mike Richard-esque game.
Laughton currently finds himself on the third line with Kevin Hayes and Farabee, which means James van Riemsdyk is on the fourth line. At first glance, JVR’s struggles to finish seemed like the main reason for the demotion.
They certainly played into it, but Laughton’s ascension can’t be overlooked. He’s earned the spot on the third line. There’s a lot to love about Laughton.
The last face goaltenders want to see on a breakaway. pic.twitter.com/ZTTjeXaaE9
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) November 29, 2019
Plus, his always stoic facial expressions (or lack thereof?) has turned into a meme among Flyers fans.