Travis Sanheim

Flyers weekly observations: Travis Sanheim's impact on Shayne Gostisbehere's role

Flyers weekly observations: Travis Sanheim's impact on Shayne Gostisbehere's role

The Flyers went to the shootout only once last week.

What's gotten into these guys?

Jokes aside, the Flyers had a solid but unspectacular stretch in which they went 1-1-1 with a quality road win over a divisional opponent. They were bit in the skills competition Saturday and have gone to the shootout seven times during November, which has made for an interesting month.

Let's get into that and more with our weekly observations:

• Shayne Gostisbehere watched Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Flames from the press box. He opened the season as the Flyers' power play quarterback. On Game 23, he was a healthy scratch.

With Gostisbehere looking on, Travis Sanheim saw his role expand and it was noticeable. The 23-year-old played 23:16, his second-highest ice time of the season. He entered the game with a total of 6:22 minutes played on the man advantage. During Saturday's game, he played 2:51 on the power play and looked fluid at the point.

Sanheim, who has good size and a strong skating stride, recorded a goal and an assist over the week. The 2014 first-round pick could be a roadblock to Gostisbehere earning back his role and minutes.

The season is young and Gostisbehere didn't just lose his offensive ability. But the 26-year-old has hardly shown glimpses of his trademark slipperiness that helps the Flyers transition the puck up ice and break down the opposition. When he's not providing that, his effectiveness can drop.

Does Gostisbehere have the best traits of a simpler, bottom-pair guy? It's a fair question and makes Sanheim's job duties worth watching moving forward.

• Entering Monday, only three NHL teams had more points than the Flyers in November. Alain Vigneault's bunch has earned at least a point in 10 of 12 games this month (6-2-4).

Some of that is good, some of that is not so good.

The Flyers are in a playoff spot two games before Thanksgiving. Over the previous two seasons, the Flyers were in last place of the Metropolitan Division on Turkey Day.

Then again, the Flyers have lost four of seven shootouts during November. In three of those four shootout defeats, the Flyers held a lead in the third period. So far this month, eight of the Flyers' 12 games have gone past regulation. In six of those eight, the Flyers had a third-period advantage.

No team is going to close out every single game but the Flyers must start tacking onto leads and securing them. The shootout/overtime trend could eventually become costly.

• On Saturday, James van Riemsdyk played only 9:06 minutes, his lowest ice time in a game (non-injury related) since the 2010-11 season. JVR entered the week playing 16:33 minutes per game but played an average of 11 over the Flyers' three-game week.

He's currently on the Flyers' fourth line and is scoreless over his last seven games. The two-time 30-plus goal scorer might have to notch a greasy goal in limited minutes to climb back up the lineup.

The fourth line is not where he is best utilized.

 

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Morgan Frost provides a highlight but Flyers are left looking for more answers following 4th straight loss

Morgan Frost provides a highlight but Flyers are left looking for more answers following 4th straight loss

BOX SCORE

Morgan Frost offered a snapshot of what the Flyers hope is a prosperous future for the skillful playmaker.

The present on Tuesday night did not depict as pretty of a picture.

The Flyers fell behind 4-1 during the second period, Carter Hart was yanked and a 5-2 loss to the Panthers at BB&T Center marked the final result.

Frost gave the Flyers a highlight on a night that didn't feature many for Alain Vigneault's club. The 2017 first-round pick deposited a dazzling goal in his NHL debut but the Flyers (10-7-4) dropped their fourth straight game, a losing skid that has come directly after a season-best four-game winning streak.

The Panthers (11-5-5) can score goals with the best teams in the NHL. They were also allowing 3.55 per game, fourth worst in the league, but kept the Flyers at bay.

• Hart had been so good in November. When he's not on his game, the Flyers can be exposed, which is exactly what happened against Florida.

The 21-year-old goalie entered 4-1-1 with a 1.77 goals-against average and .934 save percentage this month. He wasn't good Tuesday, the Flyers didn't help him and things unraveled.

The first period set the tone when the Panthers' first goal went off Andy Andreoff's stick. Then Hart allowed Brett Connolly to score from a crazy angle off the netminder's back.

Hart had allowed only one first-period goal over his previous five starts. Florida got him twice in the opening frame and ended his night midway through the second period with its fourth goal.

• The Flyers have now allowed more goals (61) than they've scored (60). During the four-game losing streak, they've scored 1.75 goals per game.

Vigneault continues to plead for more from his veterans. They simply have not answered his call and the Flyers are more than a quarter way into the season. The Flyers' record is very indicative of what they've received from their big boys.

Kevin Hayes recorded his first point in 10 games with a first-period assist on Travis Sanheim's goal. He played 19:01 minutes, four-plus at shorthanded. James van Riemsdyk went scoreless and played 12:56, his second-lowest ice time of the season. Jakub Voracek went scoreless, as well, in 15:31 minutes.

That trio has combined for 30 points in 21 games. The Flyers have to find a way to spark those three, along with Claude Giroux.

• Frost was a nice positive. He played with pace, he was active and was consistently a threat. His goal was very Frost-like.

Expect Vigneault to give him another game with Giroux and Travis Konecny.

• Joel Farabee made a costly turnover that led to Aleksander Barkov's second-period goal, which put the Flyers in a 3-1 hole. The Flyers were also slow to get back on the play. Bad all the way around (see highlights).

The 19-year-old was a minus-2 with three giveaways. He's a kid and there will be growing pains. Farabee snapped his stick in frustration when he went to the bench. Now it's a matter of seeing if he can play his way out of some struggles.

• Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen were a combined minus-5. Shayne Gostisbehere played only 14:33. While the Panthers pounced on mistakes, the Flyers couldn't fend them off or get much going at 5-on-5.

The Flyers went 0 for 2 on the power play.

• The Flyers stay on the road and visit the Hurricanes Thursday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

 

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Alain Vigneault, Flyers making right call to trust Travis Sanheim's 'money in the bank'

Alain Vigneault, Flyers making right call to trust Travis Sanheim's 'money in the bank'

On April 18, the day he was initiated as Flyers head coach, Alain Vigneault introduced a phrase he likes to use when discussing accountability.

“Certain players have a little bit more money in the bank,” he said.

Vigneault is new to Travis Sanheim this season. Fortunately for the Flyers, he’s aware of Sanheim’s savings, which the 23-year-old started stashing last season.

The fluid-skating defenseman has fallen down badly during three consecutive games, all on plays in which the opposition scored a goal. It happened for the third straight time Saturday night in the Flyers’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs at the Wells Fargo Center.

Such a development would make some coaches think twice about the player’s ensuing shift or next game.

Vigneault isn’t there yet and that’s good.

“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,” he said. “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.”

The Flyers have other concerns greater than a promising defenseman who was one of the team’s biggest highlights in 2018-19, a season that was severely short on them. Through 13 games in 2019-20, collectively the Flyers’ blueliners have been too feast or famine. The group has the potential to be the Flyers’ backbone (see observations).

"In saying our defense corps is young, I do believe it's the strength of our team going forward,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in June.

Sanheim is a key to the corps when he’s confident.

“Obviously I’m a pretty good skater, can’t say I’ve ever had a stretch where three straight games I’ve fallen and it ends in the back of my net,” he said. “Hopefully I can figure that out here pretty shortly. It’s tough to see those.

“When you’re down a little bit, things tend to not go your way and vice versa — when you’ve got a ton of confidence, it seems like everything’s going in for you. I know there’s going to be a stretch like that coming up for me. Right now, I’m just trying to fight through, be better and that’s putting in the work, coming to the rink with the right mindset that I am going to be better and improve my game.”

In a game Saturday that featured six goals and an 11-round shootout, what may turn out to be the Flyers’ most important play was a third-period tally off Sanheim’s stick. The marker gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead, which didn’t stand.

But, in the grand scheme, it was money for Sanheim and the Flyers.

“On our bench when he scored that goal, it was funny, we had three or four guys just sitting in front me saying, ‘Watch him skate now,’” Vigneault said. “Obviously he’s feeling a little bit of heat, a little bit of pressure. We need him to be the player that he can be. He’s fighting it right now, he’s going through some growing pains. When he comes out of it, I’m very confident that he’s going to be a very useful player for this team.”

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