When you think about it, there really have been two Ghosts.
There was the near-Rookie of the Year Shayne Gostisbehere — drilling game-winners and serving as a setup man for Claude Giroux and a playoff-bound power-play unit in 2015-16.
And there was last year’s Shayne Gostisbehere. In 2016-17, the Flyers’ young defenseman posted a plus/minus of minus-22, after plus-8 his freshman season. He also scored 46 points in 64 games to start his career, in contrast to 39 in 76 games last year, a healthy campaign that included a couple healthy scratches.
This year, it looks like the good Ghost is back, as Gostisbehere has netted 11 points in eight games more quickly than every Flyers’ defender aside from Mark Howe in 1985 (also scoring 11 points in eight games). With Philly at 5-3, it Ghost’s production could spur the Flyers back to the playoffs. Jake Voracek thinks this is the best he’s ever seen the 24-year-old play.
“He has the puck all of the time,” Voracek said after a win against Edmonton this weekend. “When you have the puck you don’t have to play defense. It is as easy as that. He is confident with the puck. I think he has 11 points right now which just gives him a confidence boost. He is a big part of our team. He looked good on the power play. We got a big one in the first and we found a way to win.”
Of course, even the most offensive-minded defensemen have to play without the puck some of the time. And it’s in this — one of his weaker attributes — that he has made the most progress over the young season.
“Yeah I’ve been working on it every day I can,” Gostisbehere said. “In the summer too it’s a lot. I’m glad it’s working. It’s getting noticed so I’m just gonna keep my head down and keep going. I’m an offensive guy, but I’m a defenseman first. I think if I take care of the defensive side the offensive side will take care of itself.”
In his defensive pairing with another young Flyers, Robert Hagg, the duo seems to be potent on both ends of the ice, combining for plus-9 thus far.
“Ghost is competing really hard without the puck, but he’s also moving the puck out of our zone,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “When you can do that, you have to defend a little bit less and spend less time in your defensive zone. I think Ghost is doing a good job on both sides of the puck. Not only that, he’s doing things with confidence and doing it in a way, that not only helps his partner but our entire D core.”
Philly is back in action Tuesday night for yet another west-coast foe in the Ducks.