Being paired with a rookie defenseman can sometimes be a drawback. There’s a learning curve for both defenders, and it usually takes them a while to find a comfort level with each other.
That wasn’t the case, however, in the first six games that the Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg played together.
The speedy Gostisbehere, who is in his third NHL season, already has 10 points. He had 10 points after 20 games last season, and by that time he was minus-6.
Gostisbehere is plus-4 in the first six games this year, and Hagg, a 22-year-old rookie who plays with a sense of calmness, is plus-5.
“There’s a little bit of chemistry there, and they seem to be building it day by day,” coach Dave Hakstol said before Tuesday’s 5-1 win over Florida. “They’re working hard together; their skill sets complement each other pretty well.”
Gostisbehere, 24, is a risk-taker, a player who likes to jump into the rush. Hagg can be a puck-mover as well, but he is known more for his steadiness on defense.
“It’s nice to know you have a guy out there who can help you if you get in trouble,” said Gostisbehere, who scored a goal Tuesday night that Hagg helped set up for the first point of his NHL career. “Hagger’s done a great job with that. He’s a calm, cool and collected guy and he’s been a great partner.”
Hakstol called Hagg, who has been playing the right side, “reliable and sound in a two-way sense, and Ghost is competing real hard without the puck and doing the things he does well with the puck, so the chemistry and the combination of those two has been good.”
For the third time in six games, rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim was a healthy scratch. Brandon Manning, who took a plus-2 rating into the game, remained in the lineup.
“We have seven good ‘D’ right now, and obviously there’s going to be a guy sitting,” Sanheim said.
Sitting out Saturday’s 8-2 win over Washington “was a learning experience,” Sanheim said. “I think I can gain a lot from watching and seeing some of those guys and how they handle themselves in certain situations.”
Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall have said they don’t want their young players sitting too much.
Hakstol was asked about the threshold of how many games he would have a young player, such as Sanheim, sit out.
“I don’t have a number there,” said Hakstol, adding he has been pleased with Sanheim’s play, “but young players have to play. That doesn’t mean they have to play every game. But certainly they have to learn both off the ice, on the ice, practice, game-wise, and continue to grow. Every player is probably a little different in terms of what that number is.”