Nolan Patrick finds his 'fifth gear' for Flyers

John Boruk
NBC Sports Philadelphia

Nolan Patrick finds his 'fifth gear' for Flyers originally appeared on nbcsportsphiladelphia.com

Nolan Patrick has spent a lot of time dialing the 204 area code lately, especially after some of these tough losses.

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"My dad is the biggest influence for me," Patrick said. "I talk to him after every game. He's always helping me stay positive throughout slumps like that when the team's not playing well and you're not producing. I have to give a lot of credit to him."

Steve Patrick wasn't exactly a prolific scorer during his six-year career with three different teams in the 1980s, but he has the experience of guiding his 20-year-old son through a very prolonged slump.

As you might expect, there have been many more conversations than usual as the younger Patrick just capped a 24-game goalless stretch, roughly one third of an NHL season, when he redirected Scott Laughton's shot five minutes into the second period of Monday's 7-4 win over the Wild (see observations).

"S---, that's a long time," Patrick said. "It weighs on you quite a bit. It's something you think about quite a bit when you go through a slump like that. I didn't know it would take that long."

For a player that many had labeled as the breakout performer of 2018-19, it finally took 46 games into the season to have what you might describe as his "breakout" game. 

For whatever reason, it just hasn't happened for the second overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft. 

Patrick has been more of the pace car this season, not the race car. He provided glimpses in the second half of his rookie season as to how high his motor can run. You can tell right away when he's playing with tempo and pace, and when he's not. The majority of this season, Patrick has been stuck in neutral.

"I think the biggest change for him will come as soon as he identifies, and he actually said the term, get to fifth gear," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said. "A lot of times he's playing in third gear. He's got another speed and we saw that. When I show him video or we talk about his game, let's make sure we're playing in fifth gear tonight."

Patrick started his downshift a few games ago, and now he's finally being rewarded. 

Monday night was his second career two-goal, three-point performance, and against the Wild, his between-the-legs shot was a highlight-reel play that will be talked about for a while, and the type of goal that speaks to Patrick's untapped potential.

"I tried it once this year. I tried to go through my legs earlier this year. I couldn't remember who it was against," Patrick said. "It's just something you try and practice during the summer. I've worked on that. I couldn't really backhand it, so I had to make that play." 

With four goals and five assists, Patrick along with Wayne Simmonds and Laughton, were easily the Flyers' most active and productive line of the night, even if you include James van Riemsdyk's hat trick. With Patrick centering a third line, that trio has the talent to create some serious mismatches. 

"I think with Nolan, he's only at the tip of the iceberg at what he's going to potentially be," Gordon said.

Just as long as he's not moving at the speed of an iceberg.

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