Flyers

Travis Sanheim makes costly mistake in debut as Flyers blanked by Kings

Travis Sanheim makes costly mistake in debut as Flyers blanked by Kings

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LOS ANGELES — On my way to the Staples Center Thursday, about three hours prior to face-off, a fan approached me on the street and asked if there were any lineup changes.

It’s a curious question considering that less than 24 hours before that, the Flyers exploded for five goals, which included a power play that went 3 for 5. That feat coupled with Wayne Simmonds posting the franchise’s first hat trick on opening night in a building where the Flyers rarely have had success.

What more could one fan possibly want?

Yes, it’s a hypothetical, but you don’t have to venture too far to find the answer — whether that’s a block from the hotel or on a thread of comments listed below a Flyers-related story on the internet.

People want to see the youth and they want to see it now. It’s like a bowl of Lucky Charms, except the Flyers’ young players are the marshmallows, and you can never get enough marshmallows. The rest of the cereal? That’s just filler for the bowl.  

On Thursday night, Travis Sanheim was the pink hearts or the green clovers or whatever color and shape you prefer. The 21-year-old made his NHL debut in the Flyers’ 2-0 loss to the Kings (see observations), much to the delight of anyone who was sitting at home in an orange and black sweater. 

All of that goodness that came out of the preseason was supposed to just carry over into the regular season. That’s what Sanheim’s girlfriend likely expected when she posted on social media earlier in the day that her sweetheart was playing in his first game.

That sort of information is never to supposed to leave Ron Hextall’s double steel-plated vault. Regardless, it leaked out. 

After all, this was a coronation, so let the greatness commence. Never mind that Sanheim played his very first game in one of the league’s toughest venues against one of the league’s toughest teams.

“This is a hard league,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “You see it with veteran players, let alone with guys who are playing their first or second game. It’s a hard league.”

That hard part wasn’t supposed to be part of Sanheim’s night, until the rookie was asked to describe his first taste of regular-season hockey.

“Actually pretty disappointed with my effort,” Sanheim said. “I thought I could play a lot better. I started feeling more comfortable in the third. I got my feet under me and started to play more of my game, and getting up in the ice and making plays. I wish I could have done that early. Obviously, being my first game, I was a little hesitant early. I wish I could go back and tell myself maybe get a little bit more comfortable, start getting up in the ice and start playing my game.”

The plays Sanheim was remembered for making in the preseason weren’t exactly the plays Sanheim will be remembered for following this game. Most notably a neutral-zone turnover that saw Trevor Lewis work his way behind Sanheim and the defense. A pass, a one-timer and just like that, a 1-0 Kings’ lead.

“That shift in the second period was actually a turning point in this hockey game,” Hakstol said. “The one shift that they had there was a turnover that ended up in the back of the net. That’s something they’ll look at.”

“Yeah, I saw him,” Sanheim said of Lewis. “My gap was a little off. With the turnover, I wish I was a little farther up. I think then he doesn’t see that play. I wish I could have had a better gap. That’s a mistake and something I can learn from.”

Overall, Sanheim finished with 10:58 of ice time and a minus-two rating. He also somehow played just one single second on the power play, where he could have unleashed that rocket of a slap shot. 

As if Lucky Charms aren’t coated with enough sugar, Hakstol wanted to make sure he added one more teaspoon. 

“There’s lots of good to say,” Hakstol said. “This is a tough building and a tough environment to play your first NHL game and I really liked the way Travis stayed with it. I really thought he started to play his game in the latter half of the second period and in the third period. That’s a positive. There’s going to be some jitters there.”

Then again, if Hextall had it his way, he’d save Sanheim along with fellow rookie defensemen Robert Hagg and Sam Morin for another day. Not when you’re ready, when he’s ready, and most importantly, when they’re ready. All three will play this season. It just won’t be at the same time or with the same team.

“You can understand with these three guys, they’re three different players,” Hextall said. “Sam’s a big, heavy defensive defenseman. Hagg is a solid two-way guy and Travis has got a little more offense than both of them. You’ve got three different players there.”

“How we piece our lineup together is going to be specific to the team we’re playing against and specific to the situation,” Hakstol said.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Orange stars, yellow moons, blue diamonds and rainbows. 

After Thursday’s shutout, you can see the line of thinking. A bowl of marshmallows would not make for a good team. Unless you carefully craft them and combine them perfectly with the other bland pieces, you will fail to realize just how good the marshmallows can truly be.

Best of NHL: Nick Bjugstad stars in Panthers' shootout win over Maple Leafs

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Best of NHL: Nick Bjugstad stars in Panthers' shootout win over Maple Leafs

SUNRISE, Fla. — Nick Bjugstad scored Florida's only goal in regulation and the game-winning goal in a shootout as the Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Bjugstad skated in and held the puck until Toronto goalie Frederick Andersen was sprawled out, then moved to his right and flipped in his goal during the fourth round of the shootout.

The Panthers won the tiebreaker 2-1 after Aleksander Barkov scored for Florida, and Patrick Marleau was successful for Toronto.

Vincent Trocheck and Henrik Haapala had assists for the Panthers (8-11-2).

Nazem Kadri netted a goal for Toronto (14-8-1), assisted by Connor Brown and Marleau (see full recap).

Forsberg, Turris lead Predators past Habs in SO
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Filip Forsberg scored a pair of power-play goals and Kyle Turris had the only goal in a shootout to lead the Nashville Predators to a 3-2 victory over the struggling Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

Pekka Rinne made 27 saves in regulation and overtime, then denied all three Montreal shootout attempts as Nashville won for the eighth time in nine games.

Jordie Benn and Joe Morrow scored for the Canadiens, who have lost their last five. Morrow's goal evened the score with less than a minute left in the third period.

In the tiebreaker, Turris beat Antti Niemi with a wrist shot between the pads (see full recap)

Anderson's goal in OT gives Blue Jackets win
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After missing training camp because of a contract dispute, Josh Anderson has performed at a consistently high level for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Anderson scored two minutes into overtime to give Columbus its fifth straight win, 1-0 over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.

Sergei Bobrovsky had 22 saves for Columbus in his third shutout this season and 22nd of his career. Mike Smith turned away 40 shots for Calgary.

It was the first time this season that either team ended regulation scoreless (see full recap)

Point scores in overtime as Lightning beat Blackhawks
TAMPA, Fla. — Falling behind Chicago and staging a comeback has become the norm for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Brayden Point scored a power-play goal 3:25 into overtime, and the Lightning rallied again to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Wednesday night.

Point took a pass from Steven Stamkos while positioned near the post and put the winner past Corey Crawford and complete a three-goal rally.

"To be down 2-0 to a team as good as Chicago, it was a great bounce-back performance," Stamkos said.

Chicago was short-handed after Nick Schmaltz was sent off for slashing at 3:10 (see full recap)

Flyers suffer heartbreaking overtime loss to extend skid to 6

Flyers suffer heartbreaking overtime loss to extend skid to 6

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NEW YORK -- The book entitled “Finding Different Ways to Lose” is growing thicker by the game.

Josh Bailey scored on his own rebound just 32 seconds into overtime to give the Islanders the extra point and a 4-3 overtime win over the Flyers on Wednesday night at the Barclays Center (see observations). The Flyers appeared to have the play covered until defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere lost track of Bailey, who missed on his first attempt but converted on his second effort to hand the visitors a sixths straight defeat.

“Everyone goes through different struggles,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s a growing rule for everybody. Right now, Ghost is one of the elder statesmen on the back end there and sometimes that has a way of putting extra weight on your shoulders. I just think it’s a stretch that he’s going to get through. He’s doing a lot of really good things. He’s just got to get back to where he was before he was out a few games with that injury.”

In the eight games since returning from an injury where he was slammed hard into the boards in Toronto, Gostisbehere has struggled mightily in the defensive end. However, the Flyers’ problems over the course of their current six-game losing streak extend well beyond just one player. The penalty kill has completely fallen apart as the team has allowed seven power-play goals in the last three games. The units have also killed off just four of the last 11 power-play chances.

It’s a two-fold problem. The Flyers are creating self-inflicting wounds and the penalty kill isn’t outworking the opponents’ power play unit. Of course, it didn’t help when Sam Morin, who making his season debut, gave the Islanders a two-man advantage when he flipped the puck into the stands for a delay of game penalty.

“We’re right there. We kind of put ourselves in another bad position when we took a 5-on-3,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “It’s still biting us in the butt a little bit. I thought we played a really good game. I think we’re right there. We just need to turn that corner.”

“Can’t pinpoint one thing. It’s just got be better,” Wayne Simmonds said. “Yeah, they’re going to score. You take a ton of penalties, teams are good enough in this league. Individual skill in this league is through the roof. Guys are going to make plays, especially when they’re up a man. Best form of penalty kill is not to be in the box at all.”

Hakstol even elected to switch up his shorthanded personnel in an effort to create a different look and hopefully provide some beneficial change. The Flyers even attempted to light a fuse be calling up Morin and Danick Martel from Lehigh Valley. Martel had six attempted shots (three on net) in just 12 minutes of action in his NHL debut.

“You’ve got to be ready every game,” Martel said. “I got my chance today and I had a really good game and I’m proud of it. I think my stick was a bit tight today, so that’s why I missed the net a couple of times.”

The Flyers did finally receive some secondary scoring to complement their top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Coming into this game, that group had accounted for 46 percent of the team’s goal production. Taylor Leier opened the scoring with his first goal of the season and Michael Raffl scored his first point in 43 games with a breakaway goal that gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead.

“It’s a little bit different role playing with T.K. (Travis Konecny) and Fil (Valtteri Filppula) out there,” Raffl said. “You get a little more offensive looks and a little more ice time out there. You’ve got to take advantage of that. I feel pretty good out there. I’m fit. I have nothing bothering me right now, so that helps for sure. I told myself, scoring or not, you’ve got to play confident. You can’t get down on yourself.”

After consecutive shutouts to start the losing streak, the Flyers have scored the first goal in each of their last four games with an inability to play with a lead: 2-0 at Winnipeg, 3-1 vs. Calgary 1-0 vs. Winnipeg and 2-1 at New York Islanders.

Four games, four leads and just two points to show for it. 

“It stinks to work real hard to earn that point, and then we gave it away too easily,” Hakstol said. “That’s the part that hurts a little bit. I’m looking for growth in all the areas. Really, tonight, I was looking for the true test of the character of our team, and our team answered and played a helluva character game.”

Friday, it’s Chapter 2 against this same Islanders team. The Flyers are hoping it doesn’t continue to read like the rest.