There’s never a dull moment with this Philadelphia Flyers squad, huh?
When the Flyers took the ice for warmups ahead of their Presidents’ Day tilt against the Calgary Flames, defenseman Travis Sanheim was suspiciously missing from the ice. Turns out Sanheim, who just signed an eight-year, $50,000,000 contract extension in October, was a healthy scratch in favor of veteran Justin Braun.
Sanheim, selected in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, has posted four goals and 12 assists in 57 games this season.
The decision to scratch Sanheim certainly was a curious one, but Sanheim’s absence didn’t seem to negatively impact the Orange & Black that much in Alberta. The Flyers went into the Scotiabank Saddledome and took care of business to end their four-game losing skid, taking down the Flames by a score of 4-3.
Wade Allison scored the game-winner at the 11:33 mark of the third period. His goal was the Flyers’ first shot on goal in the final frame.
Travis Konecny broke the ice in the opening stanza with his third goal in as many contests. But just as it appeared Konecny was starting to heat up after struggling to produce over the last month, a hit from MacKenzie Weegar in the middle period sent the feisty fan favorite to the locker room early.
Konecny did not return, and head coach John Tortorella had no update on his condition after the game.
“Really big loss for us in the middle of a type of game like that,” said Tortorella.
Here's the hit from MacKenzie Weegar that sent Travis Konecny to the dressing room. pic.twitter.com/I2Dw2vfcOD— Ryan Quigley (@ryanquigz) February 20, 2023
Even excluding Konecny’s injury, the second period was a highly eventful one for both teams. Nic Deslauriers (!) scored his fourth goal of the season, Calgary’s Mikael Backlund answered with a marker of his own and Tony DeAngelo fired a dart past struggling Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom to give the Flyers their second two-goal lead of the game.
The Deslauriers goal was the big highlight from the middle frame, though. Just as a Flames power play expired, Scott Laughton pounced on a loose puck in the defensive zone and fired it down the ice as Cam York exited the penalty box. York then gained possession, entered the offensive zone and saucered the puck over Chris Tanev’s leg for Deslauriers to redirect past Markstrom.
A gorgeous play from the Flyers’ prized youngster, even though it pretty much was only made possible by an unfortunate tripping penalty.
“Obviously not a good penalty by me, but kind of a gift to get one right there coming out of the box,” said York. “I saw him driving the net hard and just kind of wanted to get it into an area for him and he made a great deflection there.”
Flames turn the puck over, Scott Laughton fires the puck down the ice as Cam York exits the penalty box, and then York feeds Nic Deslauriers for the goal. Amazing. pic.twitter.com/0wRhGqc6aT— Ryan Quigley (@ryanquigz) February 20, 2023
York wasn’t the only young Flyer to impress in the contest. Swedish goaltender Samuel Ersson put together a strong performance of his own. The 23-year-old earned his sixth NHL victory and made several key stops, particularly early in the game, to keep the Flyers in the driver’s seat.
It wasn’t a perfect evening for Ersson, though. While it’s hard to blame him for Backlund’s goal in the second period — he was heavily screened on the play — he let a very stoppable puck get by him in the third period that reduced the Flyers’ lead to one goal, and he allowed a juicy rebound on Andrew Mangiapane’s game-tying marker. He also came centimeters away from allowing Blake Coleman to tie the game at four goals apiece, but Coleman’s five-hole backhander bounced off the post.
Still, a win’s a win for Ersson, who now has a 6-0-0 record as an NHL netminder.
“Obviously it’s fun, it’s special, but I’m just trying to make my spot here on the team,” said Ersson, who stopped 32 of Calgary’s 35 shots on the night. “Every game is huge for me here, so I really gotta focus on taking it game by game here.”
The Flyers desperately needed this win after losing eight of their last 10 games, but losing Konecny is nothing short of a massive blow for a Flyers team short of elite offensive talent. If Konecny’s injury is significant, it’ll be interesting to see who steps up in the scoring department as he recovers.
The Flyers will finish off their four-game road trip Tuesday against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. They’ll then return home for another back-to-back set, starting with a home tilt against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday, followed by a quick trip up to Newark for a contest against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.