Flyers' younger players thriving under interim coach Scott Gordon
Players like Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Oskar Lindblom are excelling since Scott Gordon took over for the fired Dave Hakstol.
NEW YORK -- Late in games, Flyers public-relations whiz Zack Hill asks media members which players are needed for interviews, and as the final minutes disappeared in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over the New York Rangers, he was given these names: Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Oskar Lindblom, and Anthony Stolarz.
Their respective ages: 22, 22, 22, and 25.
Lately, requesting younger players hasn’t been unusual. That’s because younger players have played a more-active role since interim coach Scott Gordon replaced Dave Hakstol on Dec. 17.
The prime example is Carter Hart, the 20-year-old goalie who has thrived since being promoted from Lehigh Valley, where Gordon was his coach.
Lindblom and Sanheim, who have played for Gordon’s AHL Phantoms, are two other examples. Both have taken advantage of expanded roles under Gordon.
Lindblom, in his last 10 games under Hakstol, was demoted to the fourth line or was a healthy scratch. Now, he is playing on the second line with Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek and is being used on the power play and penalty kill.
“I get more confidence when I play more,” Lindblom said after scoring the game’s only goal, his sixth of the season, in Tuesday’s win in Madison Square Garden. “I feel good now. I can’t complain.”
Lindblom said he has “more to give” and that he is “getting better every game now. I just have to keep building on it.”
Sanheim has also had a larger role under Gordon. He has been placed on the No. 1 defensive pairing, alongside Ivan Provorov.
“Obviously, he’s a special player, and there are things he does on the ice that not many players do,” Sanheim said about Provorov. “I try to pick up on little things he does, and I think we’ve definitely grown, and we continue to get better.”
Under Hakstol, Sanheim played 20-plus minutes in just two of 31 games this season, frequently getting just 15 or 16 minutes a night. But he has averaged 21:44 of ice time in 19 games under Gordon.
“I think with more minutes comes more responsibility, and I’m just trying to thrive on that and get better each day,” Sanheim said. “I play better when I play more. I’m getting more confident.”
Stolarz also has a comfort level with Gordon, having spent parts of four seasons with him at Lehigh Valley. Coming off an injury that sidelined him for more than six weeks, Stolarz was flawless Tuesday, making 38 saves in the first game he played with Gordon as the Flyers coach.
Gordon was impressed but not surprised by Stolarz' performance. He saw similar efforts in the AHL and called Stolarz an “athletic goaltender” and a “workhorse.”
“There were games when we played three in three, and his third game in three nights would be his best,” Gordon said. “Those are the nights where sometimes you play a team that’s been sitting there waiting for you, and he would steal games for us. And he certainly did that” Tuesday.
The defenseman, who has struggled throughout the season, has looked like his old self in the last two games.
“They were his best two games since I’ve been here,” Gordon said. “There’s no comparison. He’s carrying the puck with confidence. He’s moving his feet. He’s getting up in the rush. His gaps have been great.”
So why has Provorov turned things around?
“I think he went to Turks and Caicos and got sunburned,” Gordon deadpanned about Provorov’s whereabouts during the bye week. “Peeled off a layer of skin.”
Hart will face Boston on Thursday, He made 39 saves and Couturier had a hat trick in a 4-3 win over visiting Boston on Jan. 16. The host Bruins defeated the Flyers, 3-0 (with an empty-netter), in October. ... Goalie Mike McKenna was sent to the Phantoms for conditioning. He played in one game for the Flyers, a 5-3 loss to the Capitals, who clinched the Jan. 8 win with an empty-net goal. ... The Flyers have scored a power-play goal in just two of their last nine games.