He is representative of the problem at hand, less a source of it than a byproduct. Simply put, the unexpected flaws in Ivan Provorov's play this season mirror those observed among the team in general.
"I think what you see at times are guys trying to do too much,'' Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said after practice in Voorhees on Friday. "When you try to do too much, when you try to extend a shift, try to make one more play, most times that's when some negative things come right back at you.''
Provorov has been guilty, at times, of all of those. He has also made the usually dependable plays that catapulted him to the top of the Flyers' defensive corps in a flash. It's hard to believe sometimes that he is just at the start of his third full season, that he is still just 21, since the minutes he logs, and the matchups he faces, even amid these recent flaws, are those usually assigned to someone much older.
Older, not wiser. Provorov entered the league with an old man's head. Over 171 games, he is a plus-5, playing against the other team's best players every game. Over seven games this season, he is a minus-5.
Which only makes his inconsistent play this season more perplexing. Asked to assess that play Friday, he said only that "I think I can play better. You can always play better. And that's what I'm going to do [Saturday.]''
That left Hakstol to explain the why and how. After reiterating that his team was surrendering too many "home runs,'' he hit one in describing the troubles of his cerebral defenseman.
"Provy's working real hard,'' said the coach. "He's competing hard. There's been some plays around him that he can be cleaner with the puck. In terms of that first pass. And it starts with that.''
Entering Saturday's matinee against the Devils at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers have allowed 31 goals in seven games, a 4.43 average. Only the Red Wings, in the early stages of an ambitious rebuilding, have allowed more (32).
Some of this is due to an unsettled goalie situation, something that is bound to get better – based on the law of averages – in the coming weeks. Michal Neuvirth practiced Friday, Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz are both back on their skates in Allentown, and Brian Elliott looked pretty mobile during drills late in practice.
But none of that is a cure-all for the bouts of poor risk management that are at the crux of this team's troubles – and Provorov's.
"Offensively we're generating and doing things the right way,'' said Hakstol, and it's true. Entering play Friday night, only four teams had scored more goals than the Flyers (24).
"On the defensive side it's the timing of some of the Grade-A opportunities we're giving up,'' said Hakstol. "It's not the volume. Because the volume of those chances has been reasonable. … But there are a couple of home runs and a few others, so …"
A return to form by Provorov then, would be huge. It would help Shayne Gostisbehere play better, help the whole team play better.
" It's just getting that one solid game under his belt,'' said Hakstol. "He draws a lot of high expectations. Provy's played some pretty good hockey. When we see mistakes in his game it's almost like we're shocked. There's been some of those in the last few games and we need those to be cleaned up. And for him to push his game where it can be. He's not far off.''
Said Provorov, "I mean, you've just got to stay focused and I don't think we did that and got away from it a little bit. We'll come back to the mentality we're supposed to play with and we will be better.''
Nolan Patrick practiced with the team Friday and seems poised to return after a three-game absence with an "upper body injury'. ' That will be just in time to renew his friendly rivalry with Devils forward Nico Hischier, the top pick in the 2017 draft (Patrick went second). Asked if he talks to Hischier during the game, Patrick replied no at first then quipped, "Depends on how the game is going; Whether I'm pissed off or not.''… The Devils announced that Travis Zajac and Ben Lovejoy will both miss the game with lower- body injuries. … Sean Couturier was given a maintenance day and did not practice.