Film shows why Travis Sanheim should be here to stay

Film shows why Travis Sanheim should be here to stay

With a rookie defenseman out with an injury and veteran day to day, an opportunity arose Saturday for a second chance.

From here, Travis Sanheim got a passing grade.

After a seven-week stint in the AHL, Sanheim was back in The Show following an emergency call-up because of injuries to Robert Hagg (two weeks) and Johnny Oduya (day to day).

“When I went down,” Sanheim said, “I wanted to get that next opportunity. It’s unfortunate with the injuries, but I got a chance here to take advantage of the opportunity.”

In his first NHL action since Jan. 13, Sanheim more than doubled his ice time while playing a much more controlled game in all three zones while paired with Andrew MacDonald.

Sanheim played 12 minutes, 44 seconds during the Flyers2-1 win over the Jets, registering a shot on goal and finishing as a plus-1. What he did best didn’t show up in the box score.

“Right from the first shift, he was aggressive,” MacDonald said. “He made some really nice stick plays in the neutral zone and broke up some plays. Sent their guys in on great transition plays. I think he made that nice stretch pass from behind our net right away and you could tell he was feeling comfortable and confident. That’s a heck of a way to come back in.”

Let’s look at two plays from one shift in the first period that helped set the tone for Sanheim.

Here, Jets center Jack Roslovic finds himself on a 1-on-2 with Sanheim and MacDonald, who both play their gaps well. Roslovic doesn’t have many options as he crosses the red line.

Roslovic attempts to cut toward the sideboards with his momentum, but Sanheim positioned himself well to defend and attacks with a stick check, breaking up any potential danger.

One of Sanheim’s flaws before his demotion was stick checking, but on Saturday, he took calculated risks as to when to attack.

Another high point from Sanheim was a stretch pass that came about 18 seconds before impeding Roslovic. This time, Sanheim did what he does best.

Sanheim gathers the puck behind Petr Mrazek with four Jets in the Flyers’ zone. Matt Read and Scott Laughton begin their breakouts as Sanheim canvasses the ice.

As two Winnipeg players get back and another attempts to pressure Sanheim, the blueliner fires a stretch pass, hitting Laughton in stride. Laughton doesn’t get a scoring chance because the Jets defended well, but Sanheim’s pass is the highlight.

We know Sanheim’s puck-moving and offensive instincts are NHL-ready; what needed fine-tuning, whether we agree with where it needed to take place, was his play in his own end.

It was one game, but Sanheim played well against the Jets. The Flyers snapped a five-game losing streak, and they did so with Sanheim fitting nicely on the second pair.

Sanheim deserves another game, but will he get it? We'll see.

“He just looked like a guy who got his game back a little bit," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said.

Breaking down why Flyers traded Cooper Marody

Michigan Athletics

Breaking down why Flyers traded Cooper Marody

The Flyers on Wednesday traded NCAA prospect Cooper Marody’s rights to the Edmonton Oilers for a 2019 third-round draft pick that originally belonged to the New Jersey Devils.

Marody enjoyed a breakout junior season at Michigan University in 2017-18. The 21-year-old led the Wolverines with 32 assists, 46 points and 1.24 points per game.

His 32 assists were tied for third-most in the nation, while his 46 points were tied for ninth most. He made the Big Ten All-Tournament team and was the Big Ten scoring champion.

Let’s make sense of why the Flyers moved Marody and why it’s a good return.

One, he was a 2015 sixth-round draft pick with little NHL upside. Essentially, this boils down to a sixth-round pick netting you a third-rounder, which has a higher probability of hitting.

Two, the Flyers’ pipeline is loaded with forwards, and the book on Marody doesn’t project him to be a top-six forward. Think of him as a solid AHL player with bottom-six NHL potential.

Three, the contract limit. The Flyers are currently at 47 contracts, three under the limit. Sure, four players are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this summer with four more hitting restricted free agency. They could easily fit Marody under the contract limit but it goes back to No. 2.

Another potential factor is the 2019 third-rounder the Flyers owe the Red Wings if they make the playoffs since Petr Mrazek has won five games already with the team. They now have a third-rounder in that draft.

Any way we slice it, the Flyers turned a sixth-rounder into a third-rounder. If Marody proves the Flyers wrong, so be it. If not, it's no big deal. The chances of winning this trade are higher than losing it.

Why Flyers should ride Alex Lyon, not Petr Mrazek

USA Today Images

Why Flyers should ride Alex Lyon, not Petr Mrazek

When the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from Detroit out of necessity in February, Ron Hextall explained the trade as a reward for his players’ hard work.

“We’re in a tough situation — you lose your top two goalies when you’re fighting for a playoff spot,” Hextall said then, “and our players have worked hard for a long time now. I didn’t feel like it was fair to not have a proven NHL goaltender for this team.”

One month later, Mrazek has been erratic, and the Flyers’ grip on a playoff spot is loosening. With eight games remaining, Dave Hakstol owes it to his players to ride the steadier goalie, and that's not the proven NHL goaltender.

For the second time in six days, Hakstol was forced to pull Mrazek on Tuesday night, and for the second time in six days, Alex Lyon battled in relief, giving the Flyers a chance in a game they otherwise had no business being in.

Lyon stopped 11 of 12 shots Tuesday, holding off a determined Red Wings team and allowing the Flyers to fight back from a 3-1 deficit and force overtime. They lost, 5-4, in a shootout, but the point was huge.

We’re tired of hearing that too. But at this stage, and with how the Flyers have played in March, any point is needed. The goal is the playoffs, and right now, the Flyers cannot trust Mrazek.

What we’ve seen from Mrazek in his short time here explains why the Red Wings soured on him.

Mrazek showed glimpses of his potential in his first three starts as a Flyer, but since, he’s been inconsistent and unreliable.

In his last nine games, Mrazek’s 2-5-1 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .865 save percentage. He's allowed fewer than three goals just once. There have been far too many bad goals along the way too.

Last Thursday, Mrazek was pulled after yielding his fourth goal against the Blue Jackets, a team the Flyers are jockeying with for playoff position in the Metropolitan Division.

That relief appearance earned Lyon the start Saturday in Carolina, where he was again steady. Hakstol went back to Mrazek on Sunday and then again Tuesday.

Now, it’s time to ride Lyon until the rookie shows wear on his tires and until either Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth is healthy enough to return, which likely will not be until closer to the final week of the season.

Lyon has not looked out of place since his second call-up of the season Feb. 11. In six games — three starts — he has a .933 save percentage.

The 25-year-old passes both the numbers and eye test, and it’s time to show faith in him.

After Tuesday’s loss, the Flyers dropped to the top wild-card spot, with Columbus leapfrogging them to third in the Metro. Both teams have eight games left. The Flyers are four points ahead of the Devils, who have one game in hand.

Then, there are the Panthers, five points behind the Flyers with three games in hand. Per Hockey-Reference, the Flyers have an 88.8 percent chance at the postseason.

We’ve seen crazier collapses happen, though. When March began, the Flyers were one point behind the first-place Capitals. They’ve picked up just eight of a possible 22 points this month.

At this point, it’s about surviving, and Lyon gives the Flyers a better shot to stay above the line than Mrazek.