Robert Hagg solid in return to Flyers’ lineup; Phil Myers is benched against Islanders
Defenseman Robert Hagg replaced slumping Phil Myers in the Flyers' lineup Thursday.
Coach Alain Vigneault downplayed Phil Myers’ benching Thursday, but sitting the defenseman for a key late-season game against the New York Islanders showed just how far he has slid.
Myers, 24, was replaced by Robert Hagg, who missed the last 11 games with a shoulder injury. The Flyers went 4-5-2 in those games.
On Thursday, Hagg, playing alongside Travis Sanheim on the second pairing, had a strong game. He fired six shots (three on goal), delivered two hits, blocked two shots, and registered a plus-1 rating in 22:03.
Myers, who signed a a three-year extension that carried an annual $2.55-million cap hit before the season, has struggled mightily in his first full year. He had a quality 50-game rookie year in 2019-20 (16 points, plus-17).
This year, he was given a chance to play on the top pairing, but that didn’t work out. He has no goals and six assists in 30 games, and is minus-14 since the beginning of March.
Vigneault said Myers and winger Joel Farabee were young players who were “evolving and growing and have potential. What that full potential is, we’re not quite sure. Are they going to figure it out? Are they going to get it? We believe Phil has a lot of potential. Lately, his puck decisions have been the area that has caused him some problems, and at the end of the day has caused the team problems.”
He called the lineup change “as much about getting Haggs in as it is about how Phil is playing.”
Added Vigneault: “This is a learning curve Phil is going through now. Do we believe he can play better than he has? Yes. And he’ll have the opportunity to prove that to us with the number of games we have moving forward.”
Before the game, Vigneault praised the play of third-pairing defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Samuel Morin, and called the other three defensemen -- Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, and Justin Braun -- “our rocks back there.” (Morin received a game misconduct in Thursday’s first period.)
Hagg, 26, one of the Flyers’ most physical players, has a goal, an assist, and a plus-1 rating is 22 games.
“With him, he’s very consistent every night in what he brings to the team,” left winger James van Riemsdyk said. “He plays really hard, really good on the penalty kill, and blocking shots. He just keeps it a simple game.”
Van Riemsdyk’s goal-less streak reached 13 games Thursday. He has 13 goals, second on the Flyers.
“He’s getting some looks and working hard,” Vigneault said before the game. “JVR throughout his career has been streaky at moments. He was very hot at the beginning. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and the team is also banking on him finding his touch. ... You need your top offensive performers to come up big for you.”
Van Riemsdyk said he takes pride in “being consistent in my approach and what I bring. You’re never going to be perfect, but if you have that consistency as far as being good on the walls in your own end and making good decisions with and without the puck (good things will happen). Obviously, I’d like more production, and I’m going to continue to battle away and go from there.”
He had two shots in Thursday’s loss.
Carter Hart made his second straight start, and Brian Elliott will go Saturday against Boston. “Brian has played extremely well when he’s fresh,” Vigneault said. ... Vigneault put Joel Farabee on a line with Kevin Hayes and Scott Laughton, and he moved Nolan Patrick back to center on a line with Michael Raffl and Nic Aube-Kubel. Farabee has a team-high 14 goals but is goal-less in his last eight games. He hit the post with a point-blank shot Thursday.