James van Riemsdyk can make Shayne Gostisbehere that much scarier


James van Riemsdyk sat at his practice locker Saturday and kindly asked for a moment.

After removing some gear, he threw on his Flyers shirt, pulled back his hair and put on his hat.

Then he stood up.

Right there, his presence was felt — the wide 6-foot-3, 217-pound frame, noticeable and tangible, a problem for opponents over the last five seasons.

Shayne Gostisbehere made his way to the dressing room shortly following van Riemsdyk. Asked about his new teammate, Gostisbehere looked like a youngster anxious to buy a No. 25 jersey. And his excitement was justified — a player like van Riemsdyk is what makes Gostisbehere that more daunting when darting along the blue line.

The power-play quarterback was envisioning his playing field.

The read was easy.

"Get as many pucks to the net because that's his office down there," Gostisbehere said.

He wasn't kidding.

All it took was one preseason game to feel that presence of van Riemsdyk and how he can change the Flyers. Gostisbehere, who often unselfishly works the point with perimeter passing, delivered on his promise by showing no hesitation in Monday's 3-1 preseason win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

In the first period on the Flyers' opening power play, a 5-on-3 man advantage, van Riemsdyk took a hefty crosscheck to the back, actually knocking him down to one knee. His size and disruptiveness completely stole the attention of an Islander in front, while also impeding goalie Thomas Greiss. Gostisbehere wasted no time, ripping a bullet into the net.

Another power play later, Gostisbehere used just 24 seconds before lacing a shot with van Riemsdyk in his precious blue paint. It was a second goal for Gostisbehere, but more so a money example of why general manager Ron Hextall brought van Riemsdyk back to Philadelphia on a five-year, $35 million deal.

The Flyers already had one of the best net-front guys in the business. Wayne Simmonds' 86 man-advantage goals since 2011-12 are second in the NHL to only Alex Ovechkin's 131. They also already had a budding net-front piece in Nolan Patrick, who led the Flyers with five power-play markers over the final 23 regular-season games of 2017-18.

All of which creates a good problem for head coach Dave Hakstol — van Riemsdyk made that problem clear Monday night, if his 36 goals last season weren't clear enough.

"I think JVR can make some sneaky plays," Gostisbehere said postgame. "We have so many weapons."

Indeed they do and Hakstol will have to spread them out and use them all.

van Riemsdyk, who knows young talent from playing with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander in Toronto, smiled after his first game with the 25-year-old Gostisbehere orchestrating the power play.

"I've got to get used to that a little bit, he's pretty dynamic up there," van Riemsdyk said of Gostisbehere, who led all NHL blueliners with 33 man-advantage points last season. "He's got a ton of skill and an unbelievable hockey sense. No play is ever out of the question for him, so you just try to get in good spots and he makes it look pretty easy up there."

The equation seems easy — van Riemsdyk knows where to go and Gostisbehere knows when to shoot.

The answer, already felt.

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