The Flyers managed to steal a point in a back-to-back situation against the San Jose Sharks last night thanks to the terrific play of Felix Sandstrom in his NHL debut. Falling 3-2 in overtime after a goal from Tomas Hertl with 30 seconds left, the Flyers now have points in their last seven games and a record of 5-0-2 in that span. If this point streak is to continue, the Flyers need to clean up their team game and not rely on their goalies to be a brick wall night in and night out.
A New Flyers Record in Net
Felix Sandstrom became the fourth Swedish netminder to play an NHL game for the Flyers following the likes of Pelle Lindbergh, Johan Backlund, and Tommy Soderstrom. To say his debut was impressive would be an understatement. I know that the Flyers are only handing out the Starter jacket to players after a win, but man did Felix deserve it after that game. The Sharks were able to put bodies in front of Sandstrom all night long while shooting from every angle to throw the rookie goalie off his game. He wouldn’t be shaken though, as he saved 43 of the 46 shots on net and ended the tilt with a .935 save percentage. With his 43 saves, Sandstrom now holds the Flyers record for most saves in an NHL debut. The previous record was 42 saves, held by Michael Belhumeur.
What stood out to me about Sandstrom’s performance was how ready he was for the moment. The 24 year-old goalie has battled injuries in the past and has bounced between Sweden’s HockeyAllsvenskan, the ECHL, and the AHL in recent years before finally getting a crack at the NHL. Many players, especially goaltenders, feel the spotlight on them in this moment and crumble a bit under the pressure. This wasn’t the case for Sandstrom. Save after save was made, and he seemed confident as well as poised in between the pipes. Perhaps his best save of the night came on a cross-crease pass that found Alexander Barbanov all alone. Barbanov expected to tuck the puck on an easy backhand opportunity but Sandstrom stretched his leg in amazing fashion to beat the chance. With COVID-19 surging and the Taxi Squad making a comeback, I’m glad that the Flyers have a good third option should Sandstrom get the nod again this season.
Other Positive Takeaways
It is no secret that the Flyers looked like a tired team after playing back-to-back games after dark on the West Coast. However, there were some positives from the game that the team can build on. Travis Konecny has quietly put up nine assists in his last nine games. Though Flyers fans would like to see him score some more goals, I think we’d all take production in the form of assists over nothing. Morgan Frost and Oskar Lindblom were on a line with TK against the Sharks, and they performed well as a trio. Lindblom ended the game with two helpers and Frost slammed home the wide-open chance off of a Konecny pass in the slot. Another bright spot was seeing Joel Farabee tie the game at two a piece with minutes left in regulation. Farabee now has five goals in his last seven outings, and his goal was a huge one to lock up a point for the Orange and Black. With Sean Couturier placed on injured reserve earlier in the week, this group of young forwards will need to step up their game in his absence.
THE Negative Takeaway
So it seems that firing Michel Therrein didn’t magically solve the Power Play woes of this team. With almost two minutes on the 5-on-3 man advantage, the Flyers left much to be desired. The group looked too passive and willing to accept passes along the outside of any real danger areas. As a result, the Sharks gained momentum on what should’ve been a great opportunity for the Flyers to score at least one goal. If that weren’t bad enough, what sparked the Sharks’ offense was a shorthanded goal from Logan Couture in the second period. Keith Yandle wasn’t ready to handle an awkward bounce off the boards and the Sharks’ captain made him pay for it. Minutes later, Brent Burns would score another goal as momentum was flipped 100% in his team’s favor. With Cam York on the Taxi Squad for this trip, I think it is time to start considering putting him in the lineup over Keith Yandle even with his Ironman streak. Yandle did make some nice plays and even started the breakout for some Flyers goals, but his defensive abilities have hurt the Flyers more often than not as of late. Let’s hope that the Flyers ring in the New Year with a more inspired Power Play.
Before returning home to Philly, the Flyers have two more games on their road trip. The Los Angeles Kings will host the Flyers on New Year’s Day and a few days later on January 4th the boys will head to Anaheim. The Kings currently have a record of 15-12-5 and are tied with the San Jose Sharks for fifth place in the Pacific Division. In their last outing against the Vegas Golden Knights, Anze Kopitar passed Wayne Gretzky with his 673rd assist as a King. This moves Kopitar into sole possession of second place in the all-time assist category in Kings’ history.
Sitting at 17-9-7, the Anaheim Ducks are currently in the second spot in the Pacific Division. This team has surprised me with their quick turnaround, and it is all thanks to their injection of talented youth. Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras have 30 and 25 points respectively, and have taken the burden off of veteran captain Ryan Getzlaf to produce consistently. Blueliner Jamie Drysdale has complemented Cam Fowler and Keven Shattenkirk nicely, and just like that this Ducks squad is competitive again.
The Flyers themselves are now 13-12-6, and sit one point outside of the second Wildcard spot that Detroit currently holds with 33 points. Their play against lackluster opponents hasn’t been too impressive as of late, but it has been crucial for them to be picking up points at the pace that they have been. If they want to keep that streak alive, they need to start playing more in the offensive zone and reduce the number of chances that opposing teams keep getting on net. It’s a simple formula, but it’s one that the Flyers should continue to work on.
By: Jacob Hollamby (@Jaqueezyyyy)
Photo Credit: (@NHLFlyers)