The return of Shayne Gostisbehere couldn’t have come at a better time

NHL: MAR 10 Bruins at Flyers
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MARCH 10: Philadelphia Flyers Defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere (53) readies for a faceoff in the second period during the game between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers on March 10, 2020 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

The opening stanza of the season has presented a tale of two halves for the Flyers. The first is one of an explosive offense, and the other is one of a sloppy defense. Reinforcements arrived ahead of last night’s win over New Jersey in the way of Shayne Gostisbehere and his return was more than enough to tilt the scales.

Gostisbehere has endured a bumpy 12 months. An injury-riddled 2019-20 campaign clouded his future. Mired by a knee problem that ultimately needed surgery in January, Ghost was a healthy scratch in November – a season that carried more promise for the team than any in recent memory.

Prior to the COVID-19 diagnosis that left him sidelined for the opening 6 games, Shayne Gostisbehere endured an offseason of trade rumors that circled around his $4.5M cap-hit. Those whispers did anything but die down when the team signed Erik Gustafsson.

However, Gostisbehere kept his head down upon his return, worked with the team in one full practice before the matchup with the Devils, and then showed the Flyers what they were missing.

Playing in 22 minutes, Ghost registered 3 shots and a pair of blocks with a +2 rating. Not bad for someone who had not played a competitive game since the 4-0 defeat to New York in the postseason. In the words of AV, Ghost ‘earned the minutes’ through his performance on the Ice.

“I thought Shayne coming in after one practice played a strong game.” Alain Vigneault said after the win. “Obviously not a perfect game, but he made some plays and I like the way he helped us move the puck north-south, how he supported the attack, and we’re going to need him to continue to define his game and support us in the way he did tonight.”

“…He was playing better than a few other guys back there. He earned the ice time and he was out there in key situations for us”

Ghost played on the right-hand side with Ivan Provorov partnering opposite. He told reporters that he actually prefers playing on the right-hand side as it opens things up offensively due to his moves being better suited. That was on full display and led to some significant playing time.

The initial plan, per AV, was for their offensive-defenseman to play around 18 minutes. But his ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone helped take some of that strain off of Provy and even Gustafsson, who had previously struggled with turnovers.

“He looked like he didn’t miss a beat.” Captain Claude Giroux told reporters. “He was making really smart plays on the breakout with 10-foot passes.”

“I felt good. I had some longer shifts in the second.” Gostisbehere said calmly. “Overall I’m pretty pumped. It was a soild game for myself and a great team win. Playing with Provy again was really nice, he makes you look good when you play with him.”

It’s a small sample size, sure. But seeing Ghost back on the ice and throwing it back to that brilliant 2017-18 season that saw him land 9th in All-star voting was a sight for sore eyes and hopefully a sign of things to come for a defense craving stability.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire