The Philadelphia Flyers probably weren’t ecstatic at the time about a 7-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 18 last year. It was just the fourth game of the season and Philly got off to a slow start falling behind 3-0.
By the end of the contest, the Blackhawks had two three-goal periods and rookie Ivan Provorov had a minus-5 rating on the game.
Months later, the Flyers can be more than ecstatic about the outcome.
It didn’t seem like it at the time, but it was a blessing in disguise for Provorov. From there on, he grew and developed into the number-one defenseman he can almost be considered now.
Over the rest of the season, Provorov scored six goals and 24 assists for 30 points. That’s also with second-unit power play time.
The Russian’s best game came in December when he scored two goals against the Blackhawks — showing Chicago that October game really was a fluke. However, Provorov’s most impressive accomplishments were that he averaged over 21 minutes of ice time and still managed success despite being paired with Andrew MacDonald for the whole year.
Twenty-one minutes for a 19-year-old rookie is a ton, but Provorov had few issues past October. As I went over in MacDonald’s preview, Provorov was the one guiding the veteran to better play.
No one’s supplanting Provorov’s spot. In fact, his minutes may increase even more as he continues to grow.
Earlier I mentioned that Provorov can almost be considered a number one defenseman. After this season, there should be no discussion. The blueliner will be moving toward franchise defenseman by next summer.
Provorov is just too good at so many things to not take a step forward. There’s always a chance at a sophomore slump like Gostisbehere, but it doesn’t seem likely.
For one, Gostisbehere had offseason abdominal surgery and despite all of his talent, still struggles in the defensive zone at times. Provorov hasn’t had any surgery, is a rock defensively and isn’t a pure offensive blueliner who can be studied and game-planned to defend against.
Of course the only issue surrounding Provorov is the continued strategy of playing him with MacDonald. We likely won’t see the best of him until he’s removed from a defenseman who struggles to move the puck forward and needs help defensively.
Flyers fan almost salivate at the thought of pairing Provorov with Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg or even Radko Gudas — and it could happen this seaosn. Provorov and Hagg were paired together against the Boston Bruins Thursday night.
But either way, don’t temper expectations on Provorov regardless of who he’s playing with. He’s only growing into the defenseman he’ll become.