Already stumbling mightily during their season-long road trip, the Philadelphia Flyers will now be without the services of defenseman Justin Braun for the foreseeable future.
These are trying times for the Philadelphia Flyers.
A good start to the season is quickly going by the boards as the team has been taking it on the chin seemingly every game of their disastrous road trip, which is 1-4 to this point with one game to go.
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Heck, they haven’t even won a game yet this decade.
But with news coming down on Monday that first-year Flyer Justin Braun will be lost for the next several weeks due to a groin injury, extricating themselves from their current tailspin just got even more challenging.
The 32-year old blueliner will never set the world on fire with his offense, and that’s not why he was acquired in the first place. But his advanced metrics like Corsi (CF%) and Fenwick (FF%) at even strength had him grading out at his best levels in at least four seasons.
In addition, Braun garners the fifth-most ice time on the team in shorthanded situations, and his contributions had helped the unit put up a solid showing for the first few months of the season until things hit the skids recently.
All in all, Just Braun has come exactly as advertised for the Flyers, providing a steadying albeit unspectacular presence on the backend. He is second on the team in blocked shots and fourth in hits. And perhaps most importantly, he has also managed to stay healthy, as he is one of eight Flyers to play in each of the team’s first 42 games this year.
But that streak will end on Tuesday night, and we are told his absence will extend through the all-star break which comes in a few weeks. That will put Braun at a minimum of eight games missed, and it will hurt. The trickle-down effect on the rest of the defense corps is easy to see.
Robert Hagg will now have to enter the lineup on a nightly basis unless something unforeseen happens, such as a trade or promotion of another defenseman to leapfrog him in the order. The Flyers will also likely have to lean on the duo of Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen even more than they have been so far.
The real key here could be Travis Sanheim, who should now see well in excess of 20 minutes per night for the time being. Maybe he can return to the excellent form he was showing last season.
As for Shayne Gostisbehere, who knows? He has looked like a tremendous defensive liability this year. With Braun out, the team might not be able to shelter him. It could be sink-or-swim time for Ghost.
And it’s also time for Philippe Myers to step up and basically fill Braun’s defensive responsibilities in his absence. He has shown flashes, and now he needs to put things together. He can’t play the 16:27 per game that he currently is. The team will need more.
Justin Braun only missed eight games over the last four seasons combined for the San Jose Sharks. He’s as durable as they come among NHL defensemen, even though he’s not an exciting player. This injury, and especially the timing of it, is a potential threat to the Flyers’ chances of success this season.
Hopefully his mates can rally with him out of the lineup, and he can return after missing just a few weeks to resume being the rock that he has been in his first 42 games with the Orange and Black.