If the Flyers are a work in progress, then some of their young defensemen are the equivalent of the PennDot construction project on I-95 at Girard Avenue. Doesn’t feel like it’ll ever be finished.
Travis Sanheim had a particularly tough week, one that resembled an oil tanker spill, a disabled vehicle at rush hour, and a freezing rainstorm hitting the congested highway all at the same time.
Three times in the last week he stumbled while trying to catch up to a speedy opponent entering the Flyers’ defensive zone. Three times the results were predictable.
“I can’t say I’ve ever had a stretch of three straight games where I’ve fallen and it ends up in the back of my net,” said Sanheim, 23. “Hopefully, I can figure that out here shortly.”
Saturday night’s miscue allowed Kaspari Kapanen to walk in on Brian Elliott and score Toronto’s first goal. It preceded another tentative outing for the third-year defenseman up until the hockey gods sent down a lifeline.
With Saturday’s game tied at 2, Sanheim had some open ice entering the Maple Leafs zone. He fired a shot that Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen flicked away. But Sanheim stayed after it and beat Andersen for his first goal of the season.
“On our bench,when he scored that goal, there were three or four guys who said to me, ‘Watch him skate now,’ ” said Flyers coach Alain Vigneault. “Obviously, he’s feeling a little bit of heat, a little bit of pressure. [But] 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.”
Sanheim said the goal -- his first since March 3 (29 games) -- was nice but diminished somewhat because the Flyers did not win the game.
Vigneault said Sanheim, who played in all 82 games last season, has some equity built up even though this is Vigneault’s first season coaching the Flyers.
“Sometimes, you’ve just got to let things work themselves out,” Vigneault said. “By putting him back there, showing we’ve got faith in him – different guys have different [amounts of] 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 time to work his way back. He’s a real good kid. Coaches have a tendency to be behind real good kids.”
Sanheim played 19 minutes, 21 seconds Saturday with two giveaways and four shots on goal.
The Flyers have a couple of days off before playing the Hurricanes on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p..m., NBCSP). Afterward, Sanheim had no answers for being unable to stay on his feet. He said it could be his skates, the blades, or just his using poor technique. He’s determined to fix whatever the problem is.
“Obviously, I’ve been given a ton of opportunities and I’d like to think I’m a big part of this hockey team,” he said. “We know that’s on me, that it’s uncharacteristic and I’m going to be better and I’m trying to be better. That’s the biggest thing: just battling through it.”
♦ The 11-round shootout loss Saturday was the second-longest in team history. Here’s how the Flyers’ shooters fared, in order: Sean Couturier (stopped by Andersen’s glove hand), Claude Giroux (glove), Oscar Lindblom (high), Jake Voracek (missed 5-hole), Joel Farabee (missed net), Kevin Hayes (missed 5-hole), Shayne Gostisbehere (missed net), Travis Konecny (goal), Michael Raffl (missed), James van Riemsdyk (failed backhand), Ivan Provorov (glove). Brian Elliott was terrific stopping nine of 11 by Toronto.
♦ Asked his strategy for picking players when it gets to the 10th and 11th rounds of shootouts, Vigneault jokingly motioned that it was like holding dice at a craps table. “Oh jeez,” he said with a laugh. “That’s the way we were.”
♦ Claude Giroux won 15 of 19 faceoffs (an incredible 79 percent). Kevin Hayes was 10-for-14 (71 percent). Sean Couturier, who is clearly bothered by a hand or shoulder injury, still managed to win 4 of 10.
♦ The Flyers killed both penalties they committed and went 2-for-6 on their power play, which included a rare opportunity in the overtime. “Obviously, the special teams were good,” Jake Voracek said. “We got that power play in overtime. We probably should have scored there to get a win. Like I said, it’s tough not to get that second point.”