Shayne Gostisbehere Is Your New Favorite Flyer

The rookie’s first two-goal game helped the Flyers end Tampa Bay’s nine-game winning streak. Can he push the Flyers into the playoffs?

The Flyers won again last night, moving them just two points back of the final playoff spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. They were almost perfect on their six-game home stand, going 5-1; they’ve passed all the other teams vying for a playoff spot and are now squarely in ninth in the conference.

Last night’s win over the Lightning was by far the most exciting game of the Flyers’ recent stretch. Tampa Bay, in first place in the Atlantic Division, was on a nine-game winning streak heading into the game. The Lightning took a 1-0 lead just four minutes into the game; it looked like it could be a long night.

But then the Flyers turned up the heat on defense: They allowed just nine shots through the first two periods, while putting the puck on net a whopping 31 times themselves. Finally, rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere put one past Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to tie the score.

Then, in the third period, Gostisbehere put the Flyers ahead for good with a one-timer goal on a pass from Claude Giroux. The Flyers held on to win, 4-2. The schedule gets tougher in the last 17 games of the season, but they are inching closer to the playoffs.

Gostisbehere now has 14 goals this year, a Flyers rookie defenseman record, and his teammates said his play set the tone for last night’s win. “He’s clutch. That’s what he does,” Giroux said postgame. “The power-play goal was a big goal, and even the five-on-five goal. I mean, we were getting a lot of shots, but it wasn’t going in. It kind of made us relax a little bit.”

The Flyers have been bad for a while. They’ve made the playoffs just once in the last three seasons in a league where 53 percent of teams make the postseason. They weren’t expected to be playoff contenders this year, either. But the team has hovered just outside the playoffs for most of the season, and now are closer than they’ve been all year.

A lot of that is due to Gostisbehere, who had a 15-game point streak earlier this season. He also has four game-winning goals in overtime — second in the league to Jonathan Toews.

“Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere in midst of incredibly rare season,” CBS Sports wrote earlier this month. Despite playing just 47 games so far, he’s in the running for the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the league’s top rookie. There are plenty of novelty t-shirts playing off his nickname, Ghost Bear. And, honestly, his long last name isn’t even that hard to spell. Gos-tis-be-here. You can remember that!

Basically, the 22-year-old seems like the Next Great Flyer. He’s probably already your new favorite Flyer, even if you’ve been a mark for Giroux or Wayne Simmonds the past few seasons. Now Flyers fans just have to hope he can help push the team into the playoffs.