Both teams stuck to a winning game plan last night. The Ottawa Senators didn’t start hot but changed the tide by commanding the pace in the second period. Travis Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen disrupted the trade wind by making themselves available in the offensive zone. There has to be a winner and loser in this age of hockey.
Overtime was required. Not the best feeling for the second straight game against another franchise with less than ten wins.
Martin Jones and Anton Forsberg stood toe-to-toe. Jones was rewarded with the 4-3 victory when Sanheim buried the game-winner on a one-timer drafted by Cam Atkinson. The point streak continues for the Philadelphia Flyers, now tied for fifth place in the Metropolitan Division with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
December started awfully. It’s rapidly improved since defeating the Vegas Golden Knights on the road. Currently, the Philadelphia Flyers are one of the hotter teams in the league. They haven’t remained stagnant in the standings. Whether it’s one or two points, they’re quietly stalking from the rear, towards the middle of the Metropolitan Division.
Throughout the points streak, there have been two constants:
- The middle six forwards are cooking with Cam Atkinson and Claude Giroux offering a helping hand. Atkinson had a hat-trick versus the New Jersey Devils and made plays against the Ottawa Senators.
- Travis Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen are the best defensive pair on the Flyers through the last three games.
Nine points in five games make for a near-perfect recovery through that timespan. Philadelphia is regaining their ability to score lately, too. The competition may not be as intense in this stretch, but this team needed to find its footing. With players missing due to COVID or injury, the ones recalled are playing hard for a place in the NHL and Mike Yeo.
Claude Giroux scored the opening goal versus the Senators. With that goal, he tied Bill Barber for second place all-time in franchise history for points with his 883rd. Just another nugget to the legacy for Giroux with a win attached.
“I don’t know if it was a blind pass or if he knew I was there but [smiles,] I’ll take it.”Claude Giroux; 12/18/2021
Spotlight: Sanheim and Ristolainen
As someone concerned about this pairing heading into 2021-2022, it’s exciting to see them mesh.
They compliment each other. Ristolainen takes the body, and Sanheim gets in the shooting lanes. If one pushes the pace offensively, the other can get back defensively in transition.
Last night, both were clutch in different ways. Ristolainen continues to be a volunteer goaltender, making saves as a last line of defense with his body. Sanheim continues to be a sneaky scorer, securing the game-winner against the Ottawa Senators in overtime. At this rate, Ristolainen should receive an extension to grow with Sanheim, like the plan was after 2019-2020 with Philippe Myers.
“You could just see in the offensive zone; taking the extra second to make the right plays and holding onto pucks rather than throwing them away. When I’m doing that, I’m at my best.”Travis Sanheim; 12/18/2021
Statistically, Sanheim could recover to his 2019-2020 self. Ristolainen is performing better than his career advertises.
“I think the thing for Sanny [Sanheim] is his skating ability, what that allows him to do both offensively and defensively, we felt this was a year he could bust through.”Mike Yeo; 12/18/2021
Suffering Second Period Succotash
Why is it that the Philadelphia Flyers generally compete in the first period but routinely drop off in the second? Coaches make adjustments against the Flyers, that’s for sure, but what about Philadelphia?
Comparably, using scoring at the general metric, let’s compare sample sizes between Alain Vigneault and Mike Yeo.
Since Yeo became the head coach of the Flyers, the team averages 1.28 goals scored in the second period. During the best scoring run for Vigneault, the first seven games of this season, this team averaged .86 goals in the second frame. These lineups are similar in terms of health. Ryan Ellis played a few games for Vigneault, where Rasmus Ristolainen makes his absence in the sample size for Yeo. Kevin Hayes was more available for Yeo for the sake of comparing these two sample sizes, but Vigneault didn’t need to rely on as many recalled players.
Both were able to get the special teams going at the same rate in the second period. These sample sizes report one powerplay goal and one shorthanded goal scored in the second period. Of course, there were fewer goals in the second period of the first seven games this season, making the rate of special teams scoring plays appears better for Vigneault.
(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)