As the Philadelphia Flyers soul searched for a defensive identity, they didn’t have to look far to find Samuel Morin.
Yesterday’s victory over the New York Rangers wasn’t critical only because it kept the flailing Philadelphia Flyers in the playoff hunt. It was because the Flyers may have stumbled upon the identity of their defense. To “stumble upon” presents a slight misnomer. A “rediscovery” is more accurate.
When Alain Vigneault arrived in Philadelphia, he had a place for Sam Morin. Within the first ten games of last season, Morin found playing time against the New York Islanders. Unfortunately, it was the only game he participated in before suffering another injury.
Without question, Morin would’ve had a role on the Flyers last season. Arguably, he would have been a third-pair defenseman or seventh defenseman. Morin was the physical player Vigneault missed on defense. These last two games against the New York Rangers in 2020-2021 proved that. More evidence circulates how Vigneault wanted to use Morin as a left-wing enforcer, similar to Matt Martin.
In pursuit of a defensive identity, Morin is a refreshing addition. A very welcomed one by Shayne Gostisbehere’s admission:
“Right now, the team has really lost its identity.” Shayne Gostisbehere; 3/25/21
Through his entire hockey journey, Morin is back home.
In my first season of coverage in Philadelphia, I spoke briefly to Sam Morin in the press box. Soon after he suffered his second torn ACL, I asked him about how he felt. My idea, off the record, was to understand how an athlete mentally handles an injury that shuts down a season.
I was blown away by the positive mental attitude Morin kept. He was doing better and understood this was a part of his “journey.” Morin used that word and, it reminded me that everything is about perspective. Morin never doubted himself. He understood his path and was hungry for another opportunity.
His love for hockey and his undisputed character earned him another shot with the Flyers. A foot in the door presented itself this season at left-wing in the bottom-six in some nights. Following a trend of immeasurable team defeats, Philadelphia called upon Morin to return to defense. Through an underwhelming season, his return boosted the locker room.
It is a hard sell for anyone to say the Flyers found themselves during an 8-3 loss. Allow me to offer my best sales pitch.
Disciplined hockey is hasn’t been at the forefront of Philadelphia this season. Arguably, the most undisciplined play has taken place against the Rangers during a succession of 9-0 and 8-3 shellackings. A couple of misconduct penalties and fights didn’t help the scoreboard but showed Flyers fans the team still fights. Philadelphia, showing testicular fortitude in an 8-3 loss, helped ignite a 2-1 victory yesterday.
Defensively, the Flyers tightened in front of their goaltending. Brian Elliott had a 96% save percentage, the first performance over 90% since Carter Hart shutout the Buffalo Sabres before March. The defensive core banded together, refusing to leave their goaltenders out to dry.
“It’s just straight not good enough right now. We’re letting guys just f*ck*ng absolutely beat us up in front of the net. It makes our goaltenders look like absolute sh*t, and it’s not fair.” Shayne Gostisbehere; 3/25/21
Gostisbehere and Morin were the best two defensemen on the ice on Saturday. The fire that burned after the 8-3 loss grew from an ember to an inferno. Both took advantage of offensive zone placements and found their way to the stat sheet. First, Gostisbehere did a great job quarterbacking the powerplay, allowing Nolan Patrick to finish. Later, Morin scored the game-winner.
“I’m really happy. It’s the best moment of my life. I don’t score a lot of goals. It was a big one.” Sam Morin; 3/27/21
Cheers, big guy. You deserve it.