Travis Sanheim

Flyers weekly observations: No, you don't trade Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim's production, more

Flyers weekly observations: No, you don't trade Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim's production, more

The Flyers are on a five-game point streak (4-0-1) after losing two straight for the first time since Jan. 7-8.

Last week, they won three of four games and had to say goodbye to Wayne Simmonds.

With March underway, here are observations on the state of the team:

• The NHL trade deadline came and went with general manager Chuck Fletcher making only one move last Monday by sending Simmonds to the Predators.

Leading up to deadline day, some buzz actually generated about a potential trade of Shayne Gostisbehere — nothing firm, but the defenseman's name was out there.

A deal never happened and it's head-scratching as to why anyone who follows the Flyers would be so quick to trade away a player like Gostisbehere.

He's not just a power-play specialist.

He's 25 years old, he's elusive, he's dexterous and he gets the puck out of the defensive zone and up the ice. Oh, and he's under contract through 2022-23 on a cost-effective deal.

Sounds pretty good.

And it doesn't hurt that since 2015-16 he has more goals than John Carlson, Drew Doughty, Seth Jones and P.K. Subban, while ranking 15th among NHL defensemen in points.

• Travis Sanheim has been so good.

Who would have thought he'd be leading all Flyers blueliners in goals (nine) and points (29) with 16 games to go?

The production shouldn't be a crazy surprise to us, though. His size, skill and offensive ability are what drew the Flyers to him in 2014.

"Offense is my game and something I want to continue to develop going forward and bring to the next level," Sanheim said in July 2016.

It does make you wonder what he could have done last year in a full season or why he was sent down to Lehigh Valley in the first place, where he quickly proved he was above the AHL competition.

Was he really that behind in his defensive principles? And was Brandon Manning that much better of an option?

The 22-year-old Sanheim is now one of the team's best defensemen and the 28-year-old Manning is in the AHL after not panning out with the Blackhawks or Oilers.

• The Flyers entered Monday five points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. Right now, they still need to jump two teams.

Hockey-Reference.com has the Flyers with a 9.7 percent chance to make the postseason and SportsClubStats.com gives them a 5.8 percent chance.

If the Flyers can pull it off, they'll have certainly earned it. Thirteen of their final 16 games are against teams currently in a playoff spot.

The teams they face are also playing well. The combined record of the clubs remaining on the Flyers' schedule is 93-61-16 since the start of February.

• It's cool to see the impact Simmonds had on the Flyers' youth.

We're seeing it from Travis Konecny, a tiny 21-year-old with first-round pedigree and a goal-scoring background. But he has mixed it up in the past two games, standing up for Nolan Patrick and also fighting Jordan Eberle.

"Simmer is one of those guys you don't want to mess with," Konecny said last Friday. "Teams probably look at us differently. We're still the same team in that we stick together. I think Simmer left a lot of that with us and taught us young guys to stick up for your teammates."

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Flyers 4, Islanders 1: No Jakub Voracek or Nolan Patrick, no problem

Flyers 4, Islanders 1: No Jakub Voracek or Nolan Patrick, no problem

BOX SCORE

Just like old times.

The first regular-season game at Nassau Coliseum in four years was reminiscent of the Flyers' dominance in years past. 

Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim continued their red-hot play with first-period goals, and Brian Elliott stopped 29 shots in a 4-1 victory Sunday over the Islanders.

Here are my observations:

• Jakub Voracek missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury and is day to day. As a result, interim head coach Scott Gordon elected to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen (which he admitted he doesn't prefer to do). However, I question the Flyers' decision to not carry an extra forward on this three-game road trip and/or why they didn’t call one up from Lehigh Valley, which would have been a short drive to Long Island. 

• After losing Nolan Patrick, who took a shot to the back of the head, the Flyers were relegated to just 10 forwards. With that, Gordon was forced to mix and match his lines. One thought was to move a defenseman into a fourth-line wing role, like Shayne Gostisbehere. Patrick missed the remainder of the game with an upper-body injury and is day to day.

If Patrick can’t return for Wednesday’s game against the Capitals, it will be interesting to see what direction Gordon goes with his roster. The team could recall Justin Bailey or it could possibly give Greg Carey a look on a short-term basis. Carey has three 25-goal seasons with the Phantoms.

• You don’t see Sanheim overpower a forward too often, but he has a nose for the goal right now as he bulled his way past Anthony Beauvillier to score his fourth goal in his last four games. Sanheim has become the Flyers' best offensive defenseman and he’s putting up the numbers to prove that, with 14 points in his last 16 games.

• Did you notice just how horrific the Islanders' defensemen were in this game? Konecny abused Scott Mayfield on the Flyers' first goal, but the real gaffe came with Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk collapsing on Michael Raffl, leaving the Islanders' forwards to fend for themselves in front of the net. Scott Laughton took full advantage and put home his own rebound.

• Who knows how the goaltending job will be divided once Carter Hart returns, but as long as Brian Elliott continues to turn in solid performances, Gordon needs to ride the hot hand. Elliott hasn’t had a clunker of a game since his return from injury, and while he doesn’t always make a textbook save, he just stops the puck, and this was one of his best against Jordan Eberle.

• The Islanders provided such a lifeless performance, you can’t help but wonder if there’s a letdown following their 6-1 trouncing of the Maple Leafs in the return of John Tavares. Perhaps it’s perfect timing the Flyers face them three times this month, including next Saturday.

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Blue Jackets 4, Flyers 3: OT loss completes futility against Columbus

Blue Jackets 4, Flyers 3: OT loss completes futility against Columbus

BOX SCORE

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It didn't matter which goalie the Flyers had in net against the Blue Jackets, all that mattered was who was in net for Columbus.

Sergei Bobrovsky beat the Flyers for the fourth time this season with a 4-3 overtime decision Thursday night, as the Blue Jackets completed a season sweep of the orange and black.

Brian Elliott was the fourth different goaltender Columbus faced after previously facing Calvin Pickard, Anthony Stolarz and Carter Hart.

Here are my observations from Nationwide Arena:

• The Blue Jackets' penalty kill, ranked third in the NHL, has been so steady this season that it killed off 25 consecutive power-play opportunities over a one-month period. Columbus' forwards get out aggressively and make smart decisions when to pressure.

However, the Flyers scored just 10 seconds into their first power play as they had the Blue Jackets chasing with quick puck movement, something we haven’t seen enough from the Flyers' man advantage this season.

• The problem with the goaltender interference in the NHL is about the context of the rule itself, which has created an enormous grey area to which there is no clear definition.

Rule 69.1 (1) states: “An attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal.”

That clearly appeared to be the case, but the NHL situation room decided that Radko Gudas pushed Boone Jenner into Elliott, creating the contact.

You be the judge:

• I thought Elliott was very fortunate to get out of the first period with a 2-1 lead. He was fighting the puck and had trouble closing it with his glove.

On the play in which he knocked the net off its moorings, which led to a delay of game penalty, I felt that was Elliott’s recognition of the Evgeni Malkin goal in the Stadium Series win in which the puck got behind him for a fluky marker. He was also a little leaky, evidenced by the Artemi Panarin goal.

• Not only did he score for the second straight game and score twice, but you have to admire some of the defensive positioning and stick work from Travis Sanheim in the second period to break up a pair of odd-man rushes that could have led to go-ahead goals for the Blue Jackets. Sanheim had a beautiful backdoor play to tie the game late in the third period.

• We can’t expect Philippe Myers to continue his upward trajectory with every game he plays. The second period was perhaps his shakiest in the five games he’s played so far. Twice Myers was caught pinching, which led to a Blue Jackets breakout the other way. Thankfully for Myers and the Flyers, Columbus wasn’t able to convert on either occasion. It was important for him to bounce back with a strong third period.

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