The Philadelphia Flyers are 19-11-5 to this point and in a much better position than seasons past, with fourth-year defenseman Ivan Provorov helping to lead the charge.
Statistically, there aren’t any standout performers on the Philadelphia Flyers this year, despite their relatively strong play for over two months of this NHL season.
Nobody is lighting the scoresheet on fire and even Carter Hart, as stellar as he has been at times, does not rank anywhere near the league leaders in goaltending statistical categories.
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The reason for success is balance through the lineup and much stronger defensive play, with a good deal of credit going to Alain Vigneault and his coaching staff.
But if I had to point to one player who is doing exactly what the Flyers need him to and being the linchpin to the team, it’s Ivan Provorov, the 22-year old rearguard who has yet to miss a game in his NHL career (281 games and counting) since breaking into the league at 19 years old.
And yes, I realize I just delivered the kiss of death by pointing that out.
But for Provorov, it now seems you can just wind him up and let him go. Provorov has played 24:44 per game so far this year, leading the team by far in ice time. It’s something that he’s done since he was a rookie.
Last season, there were admittedly cracks in his game. It looked like, even for a young player, that heavy usage had worn him down. Or, more worrisome, that he might be regressing to less of a player than he had been in his first two seasons.
But Provorov has largely put those concerns to bed with a huge bounceback this season. In hindsight, it looks like he was mostly a victim of how bad the team was last year, with his numbers and performance dragged down as a result.
This year, the Flyers did him a favor by bringing in competent defensemen like Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun so that Provorov doesn’t have to “do it all” in his own end. And though he still leads the team in ice time by a wide margin, easing his responsibilities just a little will help prevent him from wearing down later in the year.
The analytics also support Provorov’s resurgence this season, as both his Corsi (CF%) and Fenwick (FF%) are over 50% and at the highest rates of his career. If you don’t care about those things, all you need to know is that over 50% is considered “good” and then move on.
Even though Provorov tied for the league lead in goals by a defenseman two seasons ago with 17 of them, he never projected as elite offensively. But this campaign, in rediscovering his game, he has become more of a scoring threat as well.
I mean, just look at this.
Last year’s version of Provorov definitely couldn’t have done that, and he currently leads the team with five power plays goals on the year. While that stat speaks to the disappointing season that the power play unit as a whole has had to date, it also shows that Provorov is basically the only player exceeding realistic expectations in that area of the game.
But young Ivan’s bread and butter is still keeping opposing offenses at bay, something the Flyers are much improved at this season, as they are in the top ten in goals allowed per game and penalty killing efficiency. Obviously, consistently good goaltending is the top reason for this, but the team’s best defenseman who logs almost 25 minutes per game has his fingerprints all over such success as well.
Overall, Ivan Provorov looks like he is heading towards becoming the kind of player the Flyers envisioned when they drafted him seventh overall in 2015 and then signed to a new contract this past offseason.
So far, 2019-20 has been a great comeback story for a player that many were starting to write off all too soon.