Flyers

It's frustrating playing against Travis Sanheim, Phillippe Myers

Flyers

As a 2019-20 Frank J. Selke Trophy finalist, Sean Couturier is regarded for taking on tough assignments against some of the best players across the NHL.

With a 200-foot mantra, Couturier works on finding an edge over the opposition at both ends of the rink. It's not often the 27-year-old center looks outmatched or outwitted.

Because of his completeness, Couturier gives his teammates a Selke-like challenge in practice. But he gets challenged, too.

Couturier is happy Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers are his teammates.

"They’re two great young D-men," Couturier said Monday in a video interview, a day after the Flyers earned a 1-0 win over the Canadiens for a 2-1 first-round series advantage. "A lot of size, they can skate. It’s tough for anyone, even us in practice, going against them. It's two big boys that can skate and have good sticks, so it’s hard to play against; I can imagine how frustrating it can be to play against them in real games."

The organization believes both blueliners are just scratching the surface. And the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs are giving the young defensemen a great chance to continue scratching away at the surface.

Sanheim, 24, and Myers, 23, entered the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament with four combined games of playoff experience. As the club's second defensive pair, Sanheim and Myers started taking more and more on their plate during the Flyers' regular-season stretch run.

 

Postseason hockey can be a different animal, but the Flyers have been determined to trust Sanheim and Myers.

"There’s only so much you can do without actually getting out there and having to deal with it," assistant coach Mike Yeo, who oversees the Flyers' penalty kill and defensemen, said in July. "But I really do feel comfortable that the experience that they got this year is going to go a long way toward helping them be successful in the playoffs."

Through the Flyers' 4-1-0 playoff start, Sanheim and Myers have played like difference-makers — confident in attacking offensively but just as good in the defensive zone. The Flyers have always liked the offensive upside of the 6-foot-3 Sanheim and 6-foot-5 Myers, both of whom are mobile puck movers. The upside was especially evident and exciting out of the postseason chute in the Flyers' 4-1 round-robin win over the Bruins. The more they're orchestrating the Flyers' attack, the less time the team is potentially on its heels.

But the Flyers have to love what they're seeing from the two blueliners in the neutral and defensive zones. They've used their long frames and big strides for improved gap control to cut off plays. They've been important reasons for why the Flyers are allowing a postseason-low 1.50 goals per game.

"You really have to use all your skills and elements to try to get around them a little bit differently than just wide or with speed," Jakub Voracek said in July during training camp. "You have to think about it every time you are going up against them."

Along with a goal and plus-6 rating, Myers leads Flyers defensemen with 14 shots in the tournament. Sanheim is second with 12, while he has a plus-5 mark and leads the club's blueliners with three points (one goal, two assists).

"They’re two young D-men that have tremendous potential," Couturier said. "They’re having a great impact so far in these playoffs and we’ll need them moving forward as much as they've been doing right now."