Flyers

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Travis Sanheim

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Travis Sanheim

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Travis Sanheim.

Destra

Sanheim has been a player that continues to grow with each season he plays — when he’s given the opportunity to succeed, that is. Through his first three years in the NHL, he has become a vital asset to the blue line for the Flyers, only further solidifying the defensive depth within the organization. 

His partner shifted a few times this season between Philippe Myers and Justin Braun, but as time progressed, he and Myers were able to create a pretty exciting, dynamic second pair for the time they were together. Given Sanheim is only 24 years old and Myers 23, that’s one heck of a pairing to look forward to for years to come. 

Sanheim also averaged 20:09 of ice time for 2019-20, which is a new career high. It’s a subtle indication that he’s earned the trust of head coach Alain Vigneault — and rightfully so. 

Sanheim gets a B+.

Fordyce 

Sanheim struggled early on, with several mistakes resulting directly in goals against, and it appeared that Sanheim had lost his way a bit. As the season wore on though, Sanheim stuck with it, found his groove and at times looked every bit the part of a first-round pick.

The thing that stands out most about Sanheim when he’s doing well is his skating ability for the size, which is a huge advantage. This season we saw Sanheim show why he could have a bright future in this league. After the early portion of this season, Sanheim’s plus-minus rating wasn’t looking great but he rebounded and finished the season with a plus-4. 

Sanheim gets a B from me.

Hall

Sanheim went through a head-scratching three-game stretch early in the season when he had trouble staying upright with the opposition on the attack.

The stumbles were head-scratching because skating is one of Sanheim's biggest strengths.

Vigneault wisely maintained his trust in the young blueliner.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to let things work themselves out, by putting him back there, showing him that we’ve got faith in him,” the Flyers' head coach said Nov. 2. “Different guys have different money in the bank. He doesn’t have a lot of money in the bank but he’s got a little bit of money in the bank. I’ll give him time to work his way back. He’s a real good kid. Coaches have a tendency to be behind real good kids.”

Sanheim continued to take positive strides in the 2019-20 regular season after earning the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy last season as the club's most improved player. This season, Sanheim played the most minutes per game (20:09) and shorthanded minutes per game (1:48) of his career, while forming a high-upside defensive pair with Myers.

Sanheim is 24 years old, starting to gain all-situation responsibility and hasn't reached his ceiling yet, which is exciting.

A promising B for Sanheim as he put more on his plate and didn't take a step backward.

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2020 NHL playoffs: Standings in round robin, series updates as Flyers, Lightning eye No. 1 seed

2020 NHL playoffs: Standings in round robin, series updates as Flyers, Lightning eye No. 1 seed

The Flyers have earned at least a point against every Eastern Conference team this season except one:

The Lightning.

On Saturday at Scotiabank Arena, the Flyers will meet Tampa Bay in what has become the East's round-robin championship of the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

In the round-robin fight for top seeding, the Flyers have set themselves up well with a 4-1 victory over the Bruins and a 3-1 decision over the Capitals.

"I think it’s just important to play the right way and keep building on this momentum we’re gaining right now," Sean Couturier said in a video interview Thursday night after the Flyers' win over Washington. "We want to win, we want to finish the highest possible seed, but I think as long as we’re at our best once the real playoffs start, that’s the biggest thing."

Let's answer four questions heading into Saturday's showdown against the Lightning:

What's on the line?

The winner of the game will earn the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs, while the loser will settle for the No. 2 seed.

Both seeds are obviously advantageous, but there's certainly a difference between them. The No. 1 seed will hold home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. With no fans, that distinction still holds importance because home teams are awarded the last line change in games, which can be critical to matchups when outcomes are in the balance.

Below are the current round-robin standings:

1. Lightning — 2-0-0, four points
1. Flyers — 2-0-0, four points
3. Capitals — 0-1-1, one point
4. Bruins — 0-2-0, zero points

Who could Flyers play in 1st round?

Given they will finish with either one of the East's top two seeds, the Flyers cannot face the fifth-seeded Penguins or sixth-seeded Hurricanes in the first round.

It's still possible the Flyers can face the No. 7 Islanders, No. 8 Maple Leafs, No. 9 Blue Jackets, No. 10 Panthers or No. 12 Canadiens in the first round.

If the Flyers earn the No. 1 seed, they'll meet the lowest seed to advance past the qualifying round. If they're the No. 2 seed, they'll get the second-lowest seed to advance past the qualifying round.

Here's the latest on the best-of-five qualifying series:

No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets (CBJ leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, 8 p.m. ET)

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers (NYI leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, noon ET)

No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers (CAR wins 3-0)

No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens (MTL leads 2-1; Game 4 — Friday, 4 p.m. ET)

When are final round-robin games?

The Flyers-Lightning round-robin game is Saturday but the start time is TBD. We'll know the time of puck drop at some point Friday.

The Capitals and Bruins finish the round robin Sunday (start time TBD).

The first round of the playoffs is scheduled to begin next Tuesday.

How do Flyers fare vs. Lightning?

Among the round-robin teams, the second-seeded Lightning were the club that gave the Flyers the most trouble in the regular season. The Flyers dropped two games in regulation to Tampa Bay — albeit one was a 1-0 defeat and the other was a chippy 5-3 loss with an empty-netter during the final 22 seconds.

The Lightning can flat-out score, putting up a league-best 3.47 goals per game during the regular season.

However, the Flyers hung with Tampa Bay in other statistical categories and didn't have trade deadline acquisitions Derek Grant or Nate Thompson during the two regular-season matchups.

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NHL playoffs: Flyers fans are losing their minds after win against Capitals

NHL playoffs: Flyers fans are losing their minds after win against Capitals

Yo, the Flyers. 

We can’t get enough of this team right now — but can you blame us? After entering the round robin as the fourth seed, its 3-1 win against the Capitals on Thursday now guarantees at least the second seed moving forward. Top of the East will be on the line Saturday when the Flyers face the Lightning. 

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start acknowledging Alain Vigneault’s team for all that it is this season — but if you’re a Flyers fan, being the underdog is nothing new.

This team does more than simply go through the motions. Its chemistry is off the charts and makes for an entertaining game from start to finish. 

Now, having a 2-0-0 record in the round robin so far, reality is setting in across the league about just how talented this team is. Even if you’ve been keeping an eye on the Flyers, it’s been a long time since the franchise has seen a roster with this much talent — so, it’s OK if you’re still in shock. 

Running over the Capitals though certainly started to put things into perspective for Flyers fans. 

Who knows what this game would have looked like without the line of Scott Laughton, Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny? 

Well, we’ll never know … and that’s a wonderful thing. The Flyers’ second line dominated play and combined for eight points on the day. Since they seem like an inseparable line, is it time to start thinking about nicknames for it? 

It has to have something to do with chirping, don’t you think?

The Capitals also had a lot riding on this game. After an overtime loss to the Lightning earlier in the week, this was essentially a must-win. 

And if the players didn’t realize that during the game (their six minor penalties sure made it seem like that) — fans certainly made enough noise following the loss. 

Oh, did I mention Alex Ovechkin didn’t tally a single point against the Flyers in five games this season? Just something to think about. 

Buckle up Flyers fans, this is only the beginning. 

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