Flyers-Ducks observations: Homestand ends with a dud

Flyers-Ducks observations: Homestand ends with a dud


This was not the same Anaheim team the Flyers faced 17 days earlier in Southern California.

Playing with their top center Ryan Getzlaf and one of their best defensemen in Hampus Lindholm, the Ducks were opportunistic by capitalizing on the Flyers’ mistakes in a 6-2 decision at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night.

The Ducks took the game over in the second period. In what had been the Flyers’ best period this season, Anaheim scored three unanswered goals to take a three-goal lead into the third period. The Flyers had previously outscored opponents 12-5 during the middle frame.

The Flyers closed out their five-game homestand at 3-2-0 for six points.

• Nolan Patrick was shaken up when he went back to retrieve the puck below the Flyers’ goal line. Chris Wagner delivered a hard check that appeared to rattle Patrick’s head (see video). No penalty was called as the Flyers’ rookie went straight to the dressing room for further evaluation. He was showered and in a suit for the start of the third period. Jori Lehtera took Patrick’s spot at center. 

• You could sense the Ducks’ top line was humming in the first period, and it finally broke through with a goal in the second, as Getzlaf sent a cross-ice pass in front of the crease to Rickard Rakell, who tapped in the 4-1 goal.

Getzlaf missed the first game between the Flyers and Ducks with a lower-body injury. Tuesday’s game was his first game in two weeks. Getzlaf, along with Rakell and Corey Perry, spent a lot of time in the Flyers’ zone during the opening 20 minutes. 

• Getzlaf also added a wide-angle goal Brian Elliott should have stopped to give him a goal and an assist. 

• Anaheim extended its lead to 3-1 midway through the second period when Nick Ritchie pounced on Elliott’s rebound. Ritchie was able to elevate a backhand that caught Elliott’s right arm and trickled over the line.

• A little frustration seems to have set in for Jakub Voracek, who can’t buy a goal. Voracek uncorked a one-time slap shot that hit goalie John Gibson right in the crest. Voracek appeared somewhat mystified as he continues to search for that elusive first goal of the season, even with a team-leading 12 assists. 

• I can’t disagree with the penalties that were assessed to Wayne Simmonds when he got tangled up with Getzlaf. Simmonds wouldn’t let go of Getzlaf’s stick. Meanwhile, Getzlaf continued to tug it out from under Simmonds. As frustration grew, Simmonds gave Getzlaf a crosscheck after the whistle blew and was assessed a double-minor that led to an Anaheim power play. 

The retaliator always seems to get caught in the referee’s crosshairs.

• Claude Giroux was giving the referee some choice words on the bench. As he wristed a shot on Gibson, Antoine Vermette took a whack at Giroux and broke the stick of the Flyers’ captain. Yet, no slashing penalty was called. 

On Giroux’s next shift, he was whistled for a legitimate trip (perhaps out of frustration) when he stuck out his skate and tripped up Wagner, who had leveled Lehtera a few seconds earlier.

• Brandon Montour raced past a flat-footed Brandon Manning to give the Ducks their first lead of the game at 2-1. The Flyers’ poor play in the neutral zone allowed Montour to gain speed and have a wide-open look on Elliott.  

First-period observations
• Sean Couturier gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead for the sixth time in nine games. Giroux threaded a nice pass to Couturier, who got behind the defense for the breakaway. Couturier gave Gibson a nice backhand deke before losing control and then regaining it to flip it just over Gibson’s glove. 

The Flyers’ No. 1 center seems to find a way to get at least one quality chance in front of the goalie every game. 

• The Ducks scored first when Travis Konecny delivered a weak backhand along the boards. The pass was picked off by Derek Grant, who immediately fired a shot that was redirected by Ondrej Kase past Elliott for the Ducks’ first goal. Not much Elliott could have done to prevent the goal.

• Radko Gudas wanted a piece of Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who has a reputation of getting under players’ skin. Bieksa gave Gudas a mild crosscheck in the back after play was stopped and that prompted Gudas to drop his gloves. The linesman intervened before a fight ensued. 

Not sure Gudas’ reaction was warranted, but it was nice to see the feistiness. Both players were assessed two-minute minors for unsportsmanlike conduct. 

As soon as both guys served their penalties, they engaged in fisticuffs as Bieksa decked Gudas with a right hand in a five-second knockout, and it was back to the box for five more minutes (see video)

• The Flyers drew their first faceoff violation of the regular season when Grant was kicked out of the circle and Ritchie committed another false start well before the linesman dropped the puck. Under new rules, two violations within the same faceoff result in a two-minute minor penalty. 

Lines, pairings and scratches

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Dale Weise-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Shayne Gostisbehere-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forwards Taylor Leier (upper body) and Matt Read (healthy).

Travis Sanheim's defense quickly progressing on the fly

AP Images

Travis Sanheim's defense quickly progressing on the fly

The Flyers had a complete off day Friday and you couldn’t blame Travis Sanheim if he wanted to lounge around all day and just scroll through the TV channels.

For the first time since Philadelphia became his permanent residence, Sanheim now has a connection to the outside world. His television is finally hooked up to hundreds of channels. When asked if there’s one show or program he’s looking forward to watching Sanheim replied, “Just hockey games. I just love to watch hockey, even if we’re not playing.”

Until now, that’s been Sanheim’s only option.

With the help of video coach Adam Patterson, the Flyers have wired each player’s home so they can review each game, and more importantly, shuttle through shift-by-shift so players like Sanheim can perform some self-assessment when they’re not at the rink. 

Travis will probably go back and evaluate the second-period play during Thursday night’s game against the Jets when he lost control of the puck at the blueline, couldn’t recover and was caught up ice, which led to Winnipeg scoring a 2-on-1 goal, cutting the Flyers lead to 2-1.   

“I think I have a good ability to turn the page when I do make mistakes, whether its big or small and not letting it affect and creep into my game,” Sanheim said. “Right now, I’m just focusing on the little areas of my game defensively and trying to make smart reads and not try to give up too much defensively.”

There has been a significant progression in Sanheim’s game just over the past few weeks coming off some early season growing pains starting in his NHL debut in Los Angeles. There have been some coverage and positional breakdowns, but like any rookie, he’s beginning to clean up those areas of his game. 

After the 4-game road trip to begin the season, Sanheim was pulled for a few games in favor of Brandon Manning, but he was reinserted in the game against the Predators and hasn’t been a healthy scratch since. 

“Sanny just keeps becoming more and more consistent and more and more comfortable,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “Travis is a player that really had to earn his way onto this team. Everybody does, but coming into camp he just put one day after another of good performances and he’s continued that as we’ve gone on into the regular season here. He’s an exciting young player.”

“I’m starting to settle in a little more, Sanheim said. “I’m happy with how my play has been growing as a player over the last couple of weeks. I think just my confidence. Being able to make plays with the puck, seeing the ice.” 

The numbers also suggest the defensive aspect of his game is coming together. After a rocky month of October that saw him finish with a minus-6 rating, Sanheim has bounced back in November and is currently a plus-2. While positionally he’s still learning the game at the NHL level, he has shown tremendous control with the puck on his stick. 

At 5-on-5 play, Sanheim has been credited with just four giveaways in nearly 226 minutes of ice time, or a ratio of one giveaway every 56:29 of ice time, which is by far, the best on the team. Comparatively, Shayne Gostisbehere has struggled in this area recently and has 14 giveaways this season in almost 262 minutes, an average of one giveaway every 18:47. 

While we’re still waiting to see the dynamic element of Sanheim’s offensive game that he displayed during the preseason, he’s picking his spots and finding those seams when he can take advantage of the defense. As Travis found out, the recent home-and-home series against the Wild was not one of those opportunities when he was held without a shot in both games. 

“You learn how little space you have out there,” Sanheim said. “Just the other night against Minnesota, how good they are defensively. You don’t get a lot of space. When you get your chances, you got to try and make the most of them.

“Obviously, I’m not allowed to do the offensive stuff that I could in junior and skating the puck up. I think it’s something I learned last year was making a good first pass and having an ability to read the play and jump up and find seams in areas that create space and offense as well.”

Thursday, more than 50 family and friends made the three-hour drive from Elkhorn, Manitoba, to Winnipeg to watch Travis play for the first time.

They may not notice it right away, but the kid from the tiny town on the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border is already making great strides in a short amount of time in his first full NHL season. 

Radko Gudas facing suspension, offered in-person hearing for slash

Radko Gudas facing suspension, offered in-person hearing for slash

Here we go again.

Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas has been offered an in-person hearing by the NHL for his dangerous slash to the back of the head on Winnipeg's Mathieu Perreault in Thursday's loss. That date and time of the hearing is TBD.

Gudas was handed a game misconducted — the sixth of his career — and was tossed for his unnecessary slash. Was it dirty? Judge for yourself in the video above.

The NHL certainly seems to think it was intentional, however. An in-person hearing means Gudas is staring down a suspension — and a lengthy one, too — should the NHL discipline him. In-person hearings warrant a suspension of at least six games, as opposed to a suspension of five games or fewer that would be discussed in a phone call.

While the slash was certainly grounds for a suspension, Gudas' reputation is also working against him. The D-man is a repeat offender and was last for six games in Oct. 2016 for a late hit. 

In his absence, the Flyers figure to get Andrew MacDonald back from a lower-body injury within the next week or so. MacDonald injured his leg while blocking a shot Oct. 21 vs. Edmonton. The Flyers are 3-5-3 in his absence. Mark Alt, who is currently serving as the team's seventh defenseman, also figures to step in should MacDonald not be ready for Saturday's game vs. Calgary.