After Friday night’s dominating victory over the Detroit Red Wings, there was one player who stood out the most:
And no, it isn’t because he took a puck to the face.
Back in June, a trade that sent Radko Gudas to the division rival Washington Capitals also welcomed Matt Niskanen into an orange and black uniform. Since then, the veteran blueliner has been the most consistent player on the Flyers.
Last season, Niskanen had a very poor season in his final season with the Washington Capitals. The defenceman recorded 25 points in 80 games for the Caps, however, what lacked most was his efficiency. Niskanen had a career-high 73 giveaways and had trouble with getting out of the zone. Essentially, it seemed like Niskanen was panicking and icing the puck every chance he led the breakout. With him on the ice, the Capitals surrendered 96 goals on the ice, a career worst and season worst for a Capital’s defenseman.
Thankfully, the Flyers were looking to dump Radko Gudas and his pointless $3.35 million dollar cap hit. Along with this, the Flyers are thankful that Niskanen is an NHL vet, who only learned from his mistakes.
So far this season, Niskanen has nine points in 25 games. His +/- of -4 is a bit lower than we’d like to see, but he has been paired up with numerous defensive partners due to his leadership ability with the youngsters.
Just by the eye test, it is easy to see Niskanen performing well on a nightly basis. Both at five on five and on the second powerplay unit, the 6’1, 203 pound blueliner brings the heavy artillery from the back end.
Along with this, he set up Sean Couturier with a sweet saucer pass to make it 3-1 in Friday’s game against Detroit.
This season, Niskanen has brought a leadership presence for the young Flyers blueline unit. He has put his body on the ice night in and night out, showcasing what a great defenseman does for their team. Going into Friday’s matchup, he stands second on the team in blocks (31) and leads in hits (49). Coach Alain Vigneault acknowledged his crucial role following Friday’s win:
“Tremendous amount of leadership…That’s what we’re looking for Flyer players.”
Along with this, let’s talk about a moment in Friday night’s game.
Which ultimately led to…
Everyone knows the toughness of hockey players, but it’s still mindblowing each time something happens. The ability for a player to take a puck to the face, go get 15 stitches mid-game, set up a key goal, and then act like nothing happened post-game is what young players need to see. Matt Niskanen brings the Philly tough leadership mentality the young Flyers blue line needs and should be considered one of the best straight-up trades the Flyers have ever had.
Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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