Flyers Top Forward Performances: First and Third Lines

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This is a two-part series with Philly Sports Network. My colleague, Ricky Amandeo, will be reviewing the second and fourth lines. These lines will be based on the lineup from when James van Riemsdyk was injured, which was against the Washington Capitals on March 4th, 2020.

After a focus on the goaltenders and defensemen that guard the crease for the Philadelphia Flyers, we at Philly Sports Network shift our attention to the forwards. The attacking playmakers and scorers who put the goals on the board for the playoff-bound Flyers. My colleague, Ricky Amandeo, reviewed the defensemen and I recently reviewed the goaltenders. Sometimes, you just don’t realize just how special this NHL season was until you dive into the numbers. It makes this suspension of the NHL season peak the anxiety of Philadelphia fans who were ready for a playoff run.

By the time the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals faced off on March 4th, 2020, new faces had arrived. Nate Thompson and Derek Grant were both acquired at the trade deadline by Chuck Fletcher. Kyle Criscuolo and a couple of picks were traded from Philadelphia overall for these two players in two separate trades. Criscuolo went to the Anaheim Ducks in the exchange with a pick for Grant. Those two players joined a very close-knit Flyers team.

The first line of the Philadelphia Flyers consists of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek primarily. The third line of the Flyers includes James van Riemsdyk, Derek Grant, and Tyler Pitlick back on March 4th, 2020 against the Washington Capitals. Essentially, Grant was still new to Philadelphia and Pitlick found his home on the third line once Joel Farabee was lent to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Farabee is a player that I won’t be discussing because he was sent back to the Phantoms at the time of this game but deserves a mention as a blooming forward who had significant playing time on the Flyers. Here are the top performances of each player on the first and third lines for Philadelphia:

First Line

Claude Giroux

It was during the Thanksgiving season of 2019 when “Captain” Claude had his best game in the 2019-2020 season. A season-high for points in an individual game was reached against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC Arena. Giroux was credited with four points, two goals, and two assists, with a +/- of 1. He was a playmaker on the powerplay and the penalty kill against the Hurricanes that night with those two assists. “G” even scored the game-winner in the third period.

Down two goals in the first period, Claude Giroux was the spark that got the Philadelphia Flyers offense started against the Carolina Hurricanes. Sebastian Aho scored first off of a defensive recovery when the puck was hit away from Giroux along the boards. During four-on-four hockey, Travis Konecny stayed with a puck while on his knees and skated behind Petr Mrazek. Thinking quickly, Konecny left the puck on a smooth assist from the backdoor for “G” to score his first of the night. Learning from Konecny, Morgan Frost showed the poise to set up a close distance one-timer just off the side of Mrazek to “Captain” Claude for the game-winner.

Sean Couturier

Less than a week before Valentine’s Day 2020, Sean Couturier had his best game of the 2019-2020 season. He reached his season-high in points for the fourth time in this specific game against the Washington Capitals at the Capital One Arena. Couturier has been a vital piece of the Philadelphia Flyers’ special teams for years now. This game was just another prime example of that. Two of his three points came from the powerplay, one was a goal and the other an assist.

Coming off the heels of being shutout at home to the New Jersey Devils, the Philadelphia Flyers teed off on the Washington Capitals to a 7-2 victory. The first goal of the game was a powerplay goal on a direct feed from Claude Giroux to Sean Couturier in the slot. Even more beautiful was Couturier’s second and game-winning goal. Jakub Voracek led “Coots” beautifully into a breakaway where Braden Holtby was ruthlessly deked. Todd Reirden spit his chili during this game.

Jakub Voracek

In the last game of February, Jakub Voracek had his best game of the 2019-2020 season. His season-high in points matched the best of his linemate, Claude Giroux. The Philadelphia Flyers here at home in the Wells Fargo Center as they hosted the New York Rangers. Yours truly was at this game providing coverage for Philly Sports Network as Voracek was a playmaker all night. “Scoracek” had the hot hand with the assists, notching four, including one on the powerplay.

Fun fact: Jakub Voracek is the only player on the first line to have his best game while Carter Hart was the starting goaltender. Voracek’s first assist went to Sean Couturier on a wrap-around pass across the crease in close distance to Alexandar Georgiev. His next two resulted in a Claude Giroux goal; one a one-timer and the other a powerplay deflection. The cherry on top was when “Scoracek” recovered the puck from Scott Laughton and found Kevin Hayes in the slot for the one-timer. The Flyers won 5-2 and all but one goal had Voracek’s fingerprints on it.

Third Line

James van Riemsdyk

Nearing Halloween 2019, James van Riemsdyk put together his strongest performance of the 2019-2020 season. His three points contributed not just during even-strength hockey but on the powerplay. At the Wells Fargo Center hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Philadelphia Flyers picked up the win. In this game, van Riemsdyk only shot twice. He finished with a 100% conversion rate.

Towards the waning minutes of the first period, James van Riemsdyk hustled to a puck along the goal line to gain leverage on the forecheck. He dropped a pass directly back to Jakub Voracek who scored the first of the game. Then, van Riemsdyk would score a powerplay goal to tie the game at two by doing his signature move in the crease. Later, “JvR” would play equalizer again, with another edition from the signature series. The Philadelphia Flyers would win 7-4, but van Riemsdyk was critical in keeping the Flyers in the game when Brian Elliott didn’t have the best of luck.

Derek Grant

Here is the exception. Derek Grant’s best game of the 2019-2020 regular season was not with the Philadelphia Flyers. It was while he still played for the Anaheim Ducks in a win against the St. Louis Blues in the Enterprise Center. His standout performance with the Flyers followed immediately after Jakub Voracek’s. This was in the second game of the home and home series against the New York Rangers.

Derek Grant came from the Anaheim Ducks with a noted explosion on the penalty kill. When the Philadelphia Flyers landed Grant at the NHL Trade Deadline, I immediately thought of the compliment he would be to Kevin Hayes’ penalty kill contributions. Against the Rangers, he tallied two points. Michael Raffl hit Ryan Strome to the ice and Grant recovered the puck, making a two-on-one into a shorthanded assist. Tyler Pitlick forwarded the puck from the boards to Grant on a breakaway where Henrik Lundqvist was deked for a goal.

Tyler Pitlick

On the last day of January 2020, Tyler Pitlick had his strongest performance with the Philadelphia Flyers. This took place against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the PPG Paints Arena. Just a week later, Sean Couturier would have his best game of the 2019-2020 season. Pitlick’s correlation goes against the grain of every other player discussed so far. No, it’s not because he did it against the Penguins.

Tyler Pitlick is the only Philadelphia Flyer in the 2019-2020 regular season to have his best game during a loss. His two points against the Pittsburgh Penguins marked the only multi-point game Pitlick had with the Flyers during the season. Both of those points were during even-strength hockey. Late in the second period, “Pits” scored his fifth of the season off an assist from Nicolas Aube-Kubel in the slot. It was Scott Laughton who tied the game in regulation off a deflection from Pitlick, but the Penguins won in overtime.

As a bonus, Joel Farabee’s best game was against the Colorado Avalanche at the Wells Fargo Center. He had two goals that night, both during even-strength hockey. Credit Farabee with the game-winner in his top performance of 2019-2020. “Philly Joel” has a bright future in Orange and Black. The depth circulating through the Philadelphia Flyers system is incredible and we are lucky to have this talent taught by Alain Vigneault.

Leave a comment below with your favorite memory of this season from any of the six players I mentioned above. This is the first part of two highlighting the top performances of the Philadelphia Flyers forwards. Next will be lines two and four. For your fix of Flyers content, be sure to give @EricReesePSN and @PhillySportsNetwork a follow on Twitter.

Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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