Back in April of 2014, while in the process of winning the NCAA Frozen Four championship with Union College, Shayne Gostisbehere put on a remarkable display at the Wells Fargo Center that generated few highlights and is somewhat buried in the statistics from that game, but it was memorable for those who noticed it.
Early in the first period of the championship game against Minnesota, Union found itself on the power play, and Gostisbehere stationed himself at the point to take on the role of a hockey puck Gatling gun. Over and over the Dutchmen worked the puck to Gostisbehere at the point, and over and over he’d fire towards the net. On the first power play, he took five shot attempts in about a minute and 40 seconds. He did score later in the period on one of his 10 total shot attempts in the first period alone, and ended up with 17 on the game. Only five were credited as being shots on goal, but the other 12 certainly helped to keep the momentum on his team’s side.
Union won that game 7-4 and Gostisbehere earned Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player honors, largely on the strength of his record-setting +7 rating. But it was easy to watch that game as a Flyers fan – especially that power play – and imagine what Gostisbehere would look like on the Flyers power play down the road.
Well, it’s 19 months later, and here we are. Gostisbehere has been with the Flyers for three games, and his point shot has resulted in two goals – one of his own on a power play on Tuesday vs. LA, and one during even strength in Carolina on Saturday that went in off Wayne Simmonds. He’d been pumping those shots in with the Phantoms this season – he had a team-leading 41 shots on goal through 14 games upon his departure – and he now seems poised to do it in the NHL for however long this opportunity lasts.
“As long as Jake and G tell me to keep shooting, I’m going to keep shooting,” Gostisbehere said Wednesday. “Simmer’s in front there with Brayden… so I’m going to keep shooting.”
What happens though when opposing teams pick up on Gostisbehere’s threat? After all, it doesn’t take long in the NHL for teams to identify newcomers through video prescouts, and come up with ways to neutralize them.
“I haven’t really noticed that,” Gostisbehere said. “I think [Tuesday night] they let me shoot a lot. So I’m going to keep shooting.”
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Gostisbehere’s contributions in the first two games are just part of an overall team effort towards improving pressure in the offensive zone. The Flyers’ 38 shots on Tuesday were their most in more than three weeks, and they posted another 34 on Thursday. Hakstol says that’s a result of that effort.
“We went through the first six, seven games of the year putting all kinds of pucks on net, and then we went through a real dry spell when we just didn’t get anything to the net,” Hakstol said. “It seems like it’s coming a little easier right now. Whether it’s a young guy doing a little bit of it, I think more so it’s a focus of our team to get more pucks to the net, and in doing that, get more bodies to the net.”LEIER SETTLING IN
Taylor Leier is now three games into his NHL career, and he has yet to look out of place at all. The 2012 4th-round pick came up to the big club with Shayne Gostisbehere on Saturday and has been growing more accustomed to the league.
“Every shift you kind of feel a little more comfortable,” Leier said. “Shayne and I are getting a little more comfortable here as the days go on, and we’re kind of taking it day-by-day.”
Leier is in his second professional season after wrapping up a three-year junior career. But like the Flyers, the Phantoms also have a new head coach in Scott Gordon, so it’s a fresh start across the board – and the Flyers are trying to make things as vertically integrated as possible by playing the same way in the AHL as they look to do in the NHL.
That makes things a bit easier on Leier, as does the fact that he’s played the last two games with Scott Laughton.
“Me and Scotty, we played together for the majority of last year [with the Phantoms],” Leier said. “We kind of have some connection, so when we’re out there it makes it a little easier for me. I kind of know where he is more.”
Sam Gagner has been on Laughton’s other wing, and his veteran presence is also helping the two young players.
“Gags is in his eighth year pro, so he knows what he’s doing,” Leier said. “I think all three of us have some skill to our game, so I think if we can get the puck in the o-zone, it’s nice to try to be able to keep it down there, but when we’re out there we have to be dependable in the d-zone as well.”
One of the nuances a lot of fans don’t realize about hockey players who get called up from the AHL is that for at least their initial stay, they’re put up in a hotel by the team – and in a lot of situations, like this one, the player has left his car in another city. So off the ice, things can be kind of boring. But in this situation, Gostisbehere and Leier are in it together, and Laughton is another familiar face that isn’t far away.
“We’re across the hall from each other at the hotel, so it’d be a lot different if I was in the hotel by myself,” Leier said. “Scotty’s helped me a lot too. He’s played about 30 or 40 more games than I have, so he’s in more of a routine in this league, and he’s given me a couple tips and helped me into finding my groove here.”