Harping on the the blown lead and defensive breakdowns is beating a dead horse at this point. The Flyers need to figure their miscues out, and they need to do it fast. But if we’re gonna look for positives from their most recent loss, let’s narrow our focus to the team’s (hopeful) future no. 1 center: Nolan Patrick.
Patrick’s goal last Saturday against the Flames was just a glimpse of him returning to form after an upper-body injury. If that was a small glimpse, Patrick’s play on Friday afternoon against the Isles was the full realm of potential.. He was setting up his linemates for multiple chances and even asserted himself physically. It showed us a true glimpse of the kind of player Patrick could be.
Let’s break it down.
Patrick was recently put together with Danick Martel and Wayne Simmonds. So far the trio looks good. In the gif below, Patrick hunts down the puck on the wall and feeds a nifty backhand pass to Simmonds.
Wayne Train couldn’t sneak one by Thomas Greiss, but the pass through traffic illustrated Patrick’s vision and playmaking ability. He’d show us another flash of it later in the game.
Patrick’s solid game was not solely in the offensive zone. He held his own in the defensive zone, too. Watch him negate a high-danger chance from Joshua Ho-Sang.
Yes, Ho-Sang retrieved the puck on the backhand, which does help Patrick’s cause. What makes this play admirable is Patrick’s awareness to mark Ho-Sang. If he loses Ho-Sang, Brandon Manning has to make a quick decision on whether or not to challenge Ho-Sang or to stick with his man in front. Patrick’s defensive awareness prevented this opportunity.
Now, let’s take a look at Patrick setting up another chance from Gretzky’s office.
We first saw just how quickly Patrick processes the game on his assist to Dale Weise in their last-minute loss to the Predators early this seson. This play here is another great example of Patrick’s hockey sense.
He takes advantage of an errant pass, sees Martel cutting toward the front of the net and, once again, uses his backhand to create an opportunity. To have that presence of mind at such a young age is special.
The Martel-Patrick combo seems to have some nice chemistry, too. Patrick makes a smart move on the play to draw the penalty. He knows he won’t be able to outskate Dennis Seidenberg, so he uses his body to shield the puck. That kind of confidence from a teenager is great to see. Patrick pins Seidenberg’s free arm to him and it’s enough to draw a whistle. Did Patrick sell this play a bit? Yes, he did, but it’s something we’ve seen time after time from almost every player in the league. It’s a veteran move by Patrick.
The Martel-Patrick even combined to assert their physical game to set up a scoring chance.
But what may have been Patrick’s best shift of the game were his efforts that helped Simmonds break his goalless drought.
Patrick does so many great things during this shift. He knifes through the defense to create a controlled entry, dishes some great backhand sauce to Martel on the wing -(DJ Khaled voice) another one – and then supports the puck. We’re barely halfway through the play.
From there, he’s able to absorb a check and one-hand the puck to Simmonds on the wall. Watch Simmonds as Patrick cuts to the middle of the ice. The defense is so worried about Patrick, they forget to mark Simmonds.
As Patrick corrals the puck, he’s able to play keep away with the puck and slide a pass over to Gostisbehere. Ghost rings the post, but Simmonds is there to clean up the garbage.
I’m gonna cheat a little bit here and bring up Patrick’s goal from the Flyers’ loss to the Calgary Flames. Partly because it was a great goal, but mostly because it was the first tangible progress we’ve seen since Patrick’s return from injury.
Every mistake is magnified during a loss, especially one that has disappointing loss after disappointing loss, but during the rough patches, it’s important to look for the bright spots. Patrick’s recent stretch of games, especially the one against the Islanders, was one of those bright spots.