Flyers

Travis Sanheim's mini-offensive burst could be sign of things to come

Travis Sanheim's mini-offensive burst could be sign of things to come

This had been the expectation from Travis Sanheim dating back to his offensive clinic during the Flyers' 2017 preseason. 

It took the second-year defenseman 74 games to score his first two goals in the NHL. His next two came just two minutes and five seconds apart Thursday night in the Flyers' 4-3 overtime loss against the Blue Jackets (see observations).

For the most part, it was situational play in that third period, when Sanheim logged a few more extra shifts with his team down a pair of goals in an effort to generate a little more offense from the back end.

“I think I read the play where we had clean possession going into the zone on both plays," Sanheim said. "I’d like to think at any point in the game I’m going to make that play. I think they were pretty smart reads and not high risk.”

However, in eight of his last 13 games, Sanheim hasn’t registered a single shot on net, which could be attributed to a refusal to take chances or at times, pinch in the offensive zone. There's also been a lack of opportunity when surrounded by bottom-six forwards, coupled with a limited role on the Flyers' power play. Sanheim ranks 10th in power-play minutes, just a notch below Jordan Weal.

Since entering the league as a rookie, Sanheim consciously has been trying to prove his reliability in the defensive end and his trustworthiness in all situations, but the confidence comes from his offensive upside.

“For a defenseman, his skill is pretty high,” Claude Giroux said. “When he plays with confidence, he’s a very dangerous player.”

Still, for Sanheim it’s hard to gain that confidence if he isn't putting up offensive numbers. 

“You want to make sure you’re picking the right chances and not giving up too much on the other side," Sanheim said. "I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job of it.” 

Receiving offense from the defensive unit has become a premium around the NHL and general managers are constantly on the lookout for those blueliners who have the ability to change the outcome of a game with the puck on their stick.

The Flyers tied the game as a result of Sanheim and the Blue Jackets eventually won it with their All-Star defenseman Seth Jones leading the way, scoring twice.

Last season, the Flyers were among the league leaders in goals from their defense as that group combined to score 50 goals. This season, blue-line offensive production is way down. Collectively, that unit had scored only nine goals through its first 25 games until Sanheim popped home a pair against the Blue Jackets.

“Would I like to help out more and contribute more? Maybe," Sanheim said, "but I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job of picking those chances.”

And if there’s one area where new assistant coach Rick Wilson can have a profound impact this season, it could be in the development of an offensive-minded defenseman like Sanheim with a good deal of untapped potential.

“He was there. He’s starting to learn how we play,” Sanheim said. “Certain situations he helped give his input, and he’s learning all of our games.”

If Wilson’s input leads to more offensive output for Sanheim, he could very well develop into that player the Flyers projected with their first-round pick in 2014. 

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Why Flyers fans should be concerned about post-NHL All-Star break playoff chances

Why Flyers fans should be concerned about post-NHL All-Star break playoff chances

On Saturday, we broke down why Flyers fans should be hopeful for the post-All-Star break stretch. Today, we look at the reasons for concern.

Alain Vigneault has 11 playoff berths on his résumé. He knows the requisites for a postseason club and the Flyers have failed to look like one in a key aspect.

"As a team that considers themselves a playoff team, you need to have a good road record," Vigneault said last month.

The Flyers do not through 25 road games. As stingy as they have been at home, they've been the polar opposite away from home. On the road, the Flyers are 10-13-2, have a minus-30 goal differential and are allowing the NHL's second-most goals per game at 3.80.

The figures above are a major concern and the Flyers must stem the tide over their final 16 road games. Vigneault's team still has two trips to Washington, D.C., two to Tampa Bay, Florida, two to Madison Square Garden and one more to Pittsburgh. Those matchups with the Capitals, Lightning, Rangers and Penguins will be stiff tests.

Speaking of the schedule, the Flyers are battling in the NHL's deepest division and have 14 games remaining against Metro teams. The Flyers are in sixth place of the Metropolitan Division (three points out of third place) but would be in first place of the Pacific Division.

The Flyers will be challenged the rest of the way and so, too, will their depth at forward. The Flyers are a middle-of-the-pack scoring club (15th in the NHL with 3.06 goals per game) and without Oskar Lindblom (Ewing's sarcoma) and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder).

Is the team's youth in the bottom six enough for the playoffs and a competitive shot? Or will (and can) general manager Chuck Fletcher add at the Feb. 24 trade deadline?

Big questions and we'll have answers soon.

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2020 NHL All-Star Game: Flyers' Travis Konecny shows off his career-high stuff for Metropolitan Division

2020 NHL All-Star Game: Flyers' Travis Konecny shows off his career-high stuff for Metropolitan Division

BOX SCORE

Travis Konecny stormed into the NHL All-Star break already with a new career high in assists. The Flyers' winger has 26 helpers and is projected to finish with 44, a sign of significant growth in a breakout 2019-20 season for the 22-year-old.

On Saturday night in the 2020 All-Star Game at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Konecny put his facilitating on display during the 3-on-3 action featuring the world's best players. He finished with three assists in the Metropolitan Division's 9-5 semifinal loss to the Atlantic Division.

"I had a lot of fun," Konecny said Saturday, via Flyers senior director of public relations and communications Zack Hill. "It was pretty funny, I was watching my parents in the stands and my mom didn't understand why we weren't playing like a real game.

"It's my first game and it's her first time seeing it. I don't know if she was expecting me to be blocking shots and forechecking, stuff like that. I had a lot of fun with it.

"It was a really cool experience, getting to play with some players, too, that I usually won't get the chance to play with was fun."

Konecny playing in his first All-Star Game at 22 years old should be exciting for the Flyers. Claude Giroux was 23 years old for his first All-Star Game back in 2011. The future looks bright for Konecny, who signed a new six-year, $33 million contract back in mid-September.

With 17 goals and 43 points through 47 games, Konecny is eight goals and seven points away from setting career highs across the board.

A breakout, indeed.

Here are more sights and scenes from Konecny's first All-Star Game:

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