Justin Braun was expected to provide solid penalty killing and defensive presence on the blueline. More of a bottom pair player at this juncture of his career, Braun may be the most consistent Flyers‘ blue liner this season. He has played in 21 game this season, with only Sanheim and Provorov playing more on the blueline.
GP:21 G:0 A:2 PTS:2 PIM:4 CF%:49.4
Braun has the reputation as a solid defensive defensemen with very limited upside offensively. Braun does not contribute much on the offensive end. Fortunately, the Flyers have other players who can handle the puck moving duties and Braun is asked to do little in that regard.
Braun appears to be a step slower than even last year, perhaps an indication of physical decline brought on by age. While this does lead to the occasional issue while defending the rush, he has been very solid when defending the cycle.
Perhaps the biggest vulnerability the Flyers have shown this season is the play in their defensive zone, especially the play of the defensemen. Plagued by bad exit passes and turnovers, or spotty defensive coverage the defensive corps have been a source of stress. For his part, Braun has largely avoided much of the problematic play.
Braun has settled in as a stabilizing force in the lineup and has brought a bit of consistency to an otherwise erratic group. He is often sent to be paired up with higher ceiling partners when they are struggling. Braun is there to provide stability. With that in mind, Braun has played significant minutes with Sanheim, Provorov, and Gustafsson. To his credit each of those players have a positive +/- when paired with Braun, and Sanheim has a CF% over 58%.
Braun was expected to be a bottom pair veteran who can provide low danger minutes on the defensive end. But he has played on the top line, and the top four most of the season. He ranks third on the team in 5 v. 5 minutes, and he has been very consistent when he is on the ice. It is a welcome respite from the defensive zone adventures that the Flyers other defensemen have taken.
Braun is rarely, if ever, the most impactful defensemen on the roster. On a nightly basis, Provorov and Sanheim easily stand out as better players. Myers, Gustafsson and Gostisbehere have better games on any given night. In fact Braun has not stood out that much, but for the type of game he plays that is a good thing.
Braun’s versatility and consistent play has been much more important to the team than anticipated. Braun may never be the powerplay quarterback, and is unlikely to score 10 goals this season, but he is rock solid in his own end, which the Flyers need desperately. It is hard to fathom where the team would be without him.