Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Flyers' fourth line opening eyes early in season

The Flyers' fourth line has created numerous scoring chances in the first three games and looks like an upgrade from last year's unit.

Scott Laughton (right) and Michael Raffl are part of an improved fourth line
Scott Laughton (right) and Michael Raffl are part of an improved fourth lineRead moreTOM MIHALEK / AP Photo

NASHVILLE — The Flyers' overall team speed is much better than last season, and a lot of the upgrade can be attributed to the fourth line.

Thanks to its quickness and tenacity, the fourth line — Scott Laughton centering Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl — has created numerous scoring chances in the first three games.

"They're unbelievable," right winger Wayne Simmonds said after practice Monday at the Bridgestone Arena, where the Flyers will face winless Nashville in the Predators' home opener Tuesday. "They've been in the other teams' zone the whole time. I don't think they've been in their [own] zone once in three games."

Simmonds was exaggerating, but Laughton and his linemates have been impressive.

This isn't your father's fourth line of muckers and grinders.

"I don't know if there are too many typical fourth lines anymore," said Leier, 23, a rookie left winger who also played alongside Laughton with the AHL's Phantoms. "We just try to bring that speed element to the rink every day."

"Nowadays, you have to have four lines that can play," Laughton said. "You don't really have three fighters on the fourth line anymore. We just try to do a good job when we're out there, and try to do a good job on the penalty kill. That's a big part of our role, too."

So far, the Flyers' fourth line has been just as effective as any of the other units in terms of offensive-zone time.

"Five on five, they have good chemistry," coach Dave Hakstol said. "They go out and they're like buzzsaws out there. They work hard and they're hounddogs on pucks. They're creating opportunities."

The Flyers are off to a 2-1-0 start.

"Right now, I think that's one of our strengths – the depth of our four lines," Hakstol said.

The balanced lines give the Flyers better matchups than in the past.

"I think every one of our lines can play pretty much against any line out there, so that helps, especially when you don't have home ice," Raffl said.

Last year's fourth line, composed of center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, winger Chris Vande Velde and a variety of other wingers, wasn't nearly as fast as this season's group.

In the first three games this season, the line has had numerous scoring opportunities — combining for 19 shots — but hasn't converted.

"It's kind of frustrating when you can't bury your chances, but if we keep playing the same way — I know it sounds like a cliché — we're going to get one," said Laughton, who is noticeably faster than last season. "We're just feeding off each other. I think we read off each other pretty well, and we all bring something a little different. Once we get the puck down low, we're good with holding onto it."

Before Tuesday's game, the Peter Laviolette-coached Predators (0-2-0) will have a celebration commemorating last season's Western Conference championship, raising their first banner to the rafters.

Laviolette was the Flyers coach when Laughton broke into the league during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Laughton played five games with the Flyers that season before being sent to Oshawa in the OHL.

"I was pretty young back then and was just coming into the league and didn't know much, and Lavy kind of helped me through it and gave me an opportunity," Laughton said. "I'm grateful for him giving me those five games. I remember training camp, there were a lot of offensive-zone plays. He liked to play with speed and have us get after their D."