Surprising production from their defense is one of the reasons the Flyers entered Wednesday ranked third in goals in the NHL.
Heading into Wednesday's game against visiting Washington, Flyers defensemen had combined for a league-high 88 points (22 goals, 66 assists) and had recorded a point in 30 of 34 games.
Coach Dave Hakstol "wanted the D to get more involved in the offensive zone," defenseman Radko Gudas said before the game. "The forwards are doing a much better job of getting us the pucks up there and getting in front of the net. A lot of the goals are scored in greasy areas where the D-men get the shots and there's a rebound. So the forwards are the main reason why we're so successful, and we're just happy to contribute and be part of the offense."
Entering Wednesday, Shayne Gostisbehere and Mark Streit led Flyers defensemen with 16 points apiece, followed by Ivan Provorov (15), Andrew MacDonald (11), Gudas (9), Michael Del Zotto (9) and Brandon Manning (9).
"The biggest thing is that it's a five-man unit out there," Gostisbehere said.
Because the forwards have been doing a good job back-checking, it has enabled the defensemen to take more risks, Gostisbehere said.
"You know when you make a pinch, a forward has your back," he said. "That helps a lot. We just take care of each other out there."
MacDonald said the increased defensive scoring is "more a factor of the system and us being able to be aggressive and just have good five-man gaps all over the ice."
"This is how the game is now," said Provorov, the Flyers' emerging 19-year-old rookie. "Everybody is pretty good five-on-five, so you have to have the D more active and helping the forwards on the rush. . . . We're picking our spots pretty good, knowing when to go and when not to go."
Hakstol said he wants his defensemen to be part of the attack, "but first and foremost, the emphasis is still on defending and moving the puck out of your zone. That will never change. And we weren't very efficient in that area the first month of the season. We've been better of late, and yet we've still been able to chip in offensively."