All eyes are on rookie, Shayne Gostisbehere these days, and rightfully so. He is a young player that the Flyers organization should feel lucky to have on the roster. The entire NHL is talking about this guy. He is arguably the best rookie defenseman in the league, and a candidate for the Calder Trophy.
The Flyers improvement this season can be mainly attributed to his call up from the AHL.
With that said, let’s not steer away from the rest of the defense and the success they have had of late. They are bringing force and success and behind them is the defensive coaching of Gord Murphy. He is the secret to their success. He has led them into a cohesive, confident unit.
With players such as Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas, and Evgeny Medvedev, the Flyers defense is looking up and moving forward.
Although Medvedev will occasionally get caught defensively, he is learning the NHL and will only improve with experience. His offensive skills and puck-handling are above average and have earned him time on the power play and in 3-on-3 overtime situations. His struggles on defense could be hurting his ice time, but when he is on his game, he stands out as one of the best defenseman the Flyers currently have. He has made a few fine plays lately that should not go without effort.
The Flyers may not be where they are without Michael Del Zotto. Highly touted as one of the more offensively gifted defenseman on the team, Del Zotto has shifted his game to a more defensive stance. He has had a great season so far.
Del Zotto is averaging about 24 minutes of ice time each game, of which 2:40 is on the penalty kill. He is always willing to jump up into the offensive zone to make a play, but has the speed to recover if he should get caught pinching, and the help of his defensive partner, Radko Gudas. The chemistry between Del Zotto and Gudas has earned the trust of Murphy and Dave Hakstol, and they’ve been rewarded with top ice time.
As for Gudas, when he was first acquired from Tampa Bay, fans intended for him to be a "wrecking ball" and a tough guy defenseman. He does bring a physical edge to the game, which makes him hard to play against. In some cases he is that "wrecking ball," but he has also been very underrated. With an average of 21:09 minutes of ice time in the last five games, he is a grinder who is working well with Del Zotto. Playing up to his physicality, Gudas is second in the NHL and leads the team with 195 hits.
The system has great talent lined up for the future. But while fans await the future, this is the Flyers present situation. The players on the roster now are showing their worth to the team and doing what they can to keep to the Flyers in a playoff race.
Denise Mroz is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @denisemroz10.