Quick Hits: Gostisbehere, Practice Day, Phantoms, Alumni and More
Quick Hits: May 6, 2021
1) The Flyers will have their final practice of the season today in Voorhees (12:30 PM). They will play a b2b against the Caps in Washington tomorrow and Saturday, have an off-day on Sunday, host the Devils on Monday and then have Exit Day a couple days later.
2) The National Hockey League suspended Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere for the two games in Washington as a result of Gostisbehere pushing/crosschecking Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman right after the former Phantoms/Flyers player scored an empty net goal in the third period of Tuesday's game. Friedman careened into the end boards but was not injured.
The suspension was merited nonetheless.
The none-too-hidden secret that Friedman made few if any friends in the Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley locker rooms before he was waived by the Flyers and claimed by Pittsburgh general manager Ron Hextall is the backdrop to the clashes between Friedman and various Flyers players in each of the four games he's played against his now-former team. Earlier in Tuesday's game, the Flyers took exception to a hit Friedman put on Joel Farabee in the Pittsburgh zone right as Farabee was getting rid of the puck; a legal hit but a little more exuberant than the Flyers' liked. Jakub Voracek gave Friedman a cross-check and then Farabee dropped the gloves with Friedman.
Sometimes, there are personality clashes in a work environment. Friedman is someone who can push the envelope a bit, personality wise; walking the fine line between strong self-confidence and arrogance, self-advocacy and not being a good teammate, and between forwardness and abrasiveness. It's all a matter of perception, and as someone who (still) has yet to prove himself in the NHL, Friedman's style apparently rubbed many Flyers and Phantoms teammates the wrong way. Friedman apparently was not happy living and playing in this area, either. It happens, but it will be interesting to see how well Friedman meshes in the Penguins' locker room over time.
To Friedman's credit, he worked hard on his game over several seasons in the American Hockey League to simplify it and find a niche that could get him to the NHL. Formerly more of an offensive-minded and risk-taking blueliner, Friedman adjusted his game. He's always had good mobility and deceptive physical strength on a low center of gravity.
3) The Lehigh Valley Phantoms ended a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) with a 5-3 victory over the Hershey Bears at the PPL Center on Thursday night.
Rookie winger Tyson Foerster (one goal, two assists), rookie defenseman Cam York (game-winning power play goal, one assist) and fellow rookie blueliner Linus Högberg (one goal) led the way offensively for the Phantoms, while veteran team captain Cal O'Reilly added an insurance goal and Chris Mueller gave Lehigh Valley a short-lived 2-1 lead in the first period. Felix Sandström earned the win in net with 34 saves on 37 shots.
York's game-winning power play goal, which gave the Phantoms a 4-3 lead at the 8:00 mark of the third period was a breakaway goal on a play off the rush (the play that fans/media often call "the slingshot"). Goaltender Sandström passed the puck to York. Passing the defensive blueline, York wheeled and passed back to Foerster while continuing up ice. Foerster made a tape-to-tape stretch pass with York behind the defense. On a blueline-in breakaway, York put an east-west deke on goalie Pheonix Copley and scored on the forehand for his second goal in the AHL. Sandström was credited with the secondary assist.
The Phantoms (16-6-4) and Hershey (20-7-2) will clash yet again -- the final game of what's been a heated and entertaining season series between the archrival clubs -- on late Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. EDT) in Hershey. Thereafter, the Phantoms will have just four games remaining on their abbreviated 2020-21 season schedule: Sunday at home against the Wikes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (3 p.m. EDT), Wednesday in Newark against the Binghamton Devils, Sat. May 15 at home against WB/S, and the afternoon of May 16 (3 p.m. EDT) at home against Binghamton.
There will be no Calder Cup playoffs nor a divisional playoffs regardless of the standings at the regular season. There are also no plans to reschedule the games that were postponed during the COVID-19 outbreak on the Phantoms; those games are now more accurately described as "canceled" rather than postponed.
4) A member of the inaugural Flyers team, Jim Johnson, passed away on May 4 at the age of 78. He was born November 7, 1942 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The 5-foot-9 center broke into the NHL with the New York Rangers in 1962-63 after starring for the Sudbury Wolves (EPHL). The Flyers selected him from the Rangers with the 75th pick of the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft.
Johnson spent all or portions of the first five seasons of franchise history with the club including 13 games during the 196768 season. As a Flyer, he dressed in 266 regular season games (66 goals, 102 assists, 168 points) and seven playoff games (zero goals, two assists).
The best offensive game of his Flyers career came on November 19, 1970 when he collected a hat trick and an assist in a 6-2 win against the California Golden Seals at the Spectrum. Previously, on November 13, 1968, Johnson had a hand in every Flyers goal - two goals, one assist - in a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota North Stars.
On Jan. 28, 1972, Johnson was part of an epic eight-player trade between the Flyers and LA Kings. The Flyers sent young forward Serge Bernier, forward Bill Lesuk, defenseman Larry Brown and Johnson to the Kings in exchange for left winger Ross Lonsberry, right winger "Cowboy" Bill Flett, center Eddie Joyal and defenseman Jean Potvin.