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.
“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.