PHILADELPHIA — Owen Tippett is well aware he’s carrying the label of future 30-goal scorer on his back. After reaching 27 goals in 77 games last season, his first full campaign in Philadelphia, it’s only natural to expect more this season and in the future.
It’s just not something the 24-year-old really wants to spend any time thinking about.
“It’s easy for that to creep in, especially after having some success last year,” Tippett said recently. “But I think anytime you put a number on it, (if) you fall short or you don’t think you’re on pace, it can affect your game. I’m not really one to set number goals, it’s more just being consistent each and every night and doing what I can to help the team.”
Lately, he’s been doing just that. After it took him a couple of games to find his rhythm, Tippett is the Philadelphia Flyers’ leader in individual scoring chances, per Natural Stat Trick, with 22. That includes nine high-danger chances, tied for the team lead with linemate Cam Atkinson. His 55.5 shot-attempt share is also the best mark on the Flyers.
If he keeps it up, it’s inevitable the goals will start coming. Tippett is still sitting on just one, though, when he converted a breakaway opportunity in the third period of Thursday’s 6-2 win over Minnesota.
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He had a chance for more Saturday, too. Seconds after the opening faceoff, he took a skillful pass from Sean Couturier and charged in on net, but Anaheim Ducks goalie Lukas Dostal stopped Tippett’s shot and the rebound.
The Ducks jumped out to a 1-0 lead less than a minute later, but Tippett had an opportunity to tie the game when he whipped a turnaround wrist shot from the slot with 12:23 to go in the opening frame. After the game, Tippett said he needed just another “inch or two” on it for it to beat Dostal. Instead, it caught the goalie’s shoulder and he was able to freeze it.
The Flyers went on to a 7-4 loss at Wells Fargo Center, but neither Tippett nor his linemates were to blame. In fact, in more than nine minutes of ice time at five-on-five, the Tippett-Couturier-Atkinson line enjoyed a 21-0 edge in shot attempts and a 12-0 edge in both shots on goal and scoring chances.
Fairly remarkable, considering the final.
“We’re getting more O-zone time, I think,” Couturier said about playing with Tippett on a line that coach John Tortorella put together in the third game of the season. “We were mostly in their end most of the night, but in our end, we weren’t sharp, and they took it to us.”
That wasn’t true for his line, but it was for the rest of the team. There were too many mental miscues on top of porous goaltending from Sam Ersson for the Flyers to have a chance, as they fell to 4-3-1 on the season and 3-1-0 at home.
But the game was still a step in the right direction for Tippett, who led the Flyers with eight shots on goal and 14 shot attempts. He also set up Atkinson midway through the first period when it was still close, forcing a turnover and getting the puck over to the right winger for a decent opportunity.
Atkinson has already been the beneficiary of Tippett’s awareness, scoring a breakaway goal off a feed from Tippett in the Flyers’ win over the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 19.
“We know what he’s capable of doing. He seems to be improving every game, every year,” Atkinson said earlier this week. “He opens up the ice so much for me and (Couturier) with his speed. … It’s good to see us building some chemistry and we’re going to have to continue to improve here.
“He’s playing his off wing. He’s so deceptive with what he’s going to do. He has a great shot, but his speed kills. It kind of draws their defensemen back or at least opens up space for Coots and I to get open and give us a lot of opportunities for two-on-ones, stuff like that. You have to respect his speed, because he can burn you.”
Tortorella has said that he believes Tippett is playing his best when he gets involved physically. And while hits isn’t a great stat, the forward wasn’t credited with any in each of the Flyers’ first two games, and could have been a candidate to come out of the lineup had Tortorella not chosen Morgan Frost, instead (Frost was a healthy scratch for the sixth straight game on Saturday).
The six-foot-one, 207-pound Tippett didn’t disagree with his coach. And, he’s had at least one hit in five of six games since his early ineffectiveness.
“Anytime you can kind of get involved early with a hit, or whether it’s being hit or making a hit, kind of gets you in the game early and lets you feel that impact right away,” he said.
And even though Tippett hasn’t hit the back of the net as much as he and the team would probably like — had he finished on one of those first-period chances on Saturday, it might have been a completely different game — he’s seemingly trending in the right direction.
“Ever since coming over from that trade from Florida, it’s allowed me to kind of get a fresh start and build that confidence and just kind of play more free, I guess you could say,” Tippett said. “Last year was a big stepping stone for me personally.”
Tortorella said: “I think Tip has been a little uneven. … But more and more he’s getting more scoring chances. Hopefully, more go in than they have.”
(Photo: Kyle Ross / USA Today)