March 22, 2023
Travis Sanheim needed a game like this.
He needed to be able to join in on the rush, to help keep possession alive, and biggest of all, to be able to sneak his way down below the dots on an opposing backcheck caught napping.
The payoff was two goals and a plus-3 rating in the Flyers' 6-3 win over the Florida Panthers Tuesday night, Sanheim's best game in a while and one that had him closer to last season's form – when he was the Flyers' best defenseman – rather than the struggle that much of this one has been at the onset of a massive eight-year contract.
"Getting there," Sanheim said of where his play is at. "Obviously a big part of my game is contributing and joining offensivley, and that's something in the past where I've been getting goals like I got tonight right around the net. So that's something I want to continue and hopefully the last strech here I can put together some good games."
Joel Farabee needed a stretch like this.
Jockeying for position in front of the net during the first, a Noah Cates shot bounced right off his back and in, giving him three goals in his last three games, and later, an assist after a chip up the boards jumpstarted the play the led to Sanheim's second goal.
"He's in front of the net," head coach John Tortorella said postgame. "He's going to the areas where he should be... Joel's playing better and he's being rewarded."
And like Sanheim, much of this season has been a struggle for Farabee, from neck surgery over the summer and no time to build strength because of it to offensive flashes that he couldn't consistently maintain.
In the March 7 loss to the Lightning down in Tampa, after each were called for penalties that led directly to power-play goals against, both were benched for the second period and Tortorella seemed at a loss for what to do with them afterward, which didn't look good for either's standing within the organization.
But both Farabee and Sanheim were back in the lineup the next game, and though the numbers didn't show – because up until this past Friday, the numbers weren't showing for the Flyers in general – their play was slowly but surely improving.
Both have been more aggressive, Farabee has been more active in front of the net, Sanheim started getting after the puck a bit more again, and the ice started tilting a little more downhill in the Flyers' favor as a result, to the tune of 15 goals and a 2-0-1 run over the past three games.
That production isn't entirely all them, of course – Owen Tippett and top prospect Tyson Foerster especially have been huge of late, and Carter Hart stopping 41 of 44 shots Tuesday night was a massive lifesaver – but Farabee and Sanheim have certainly helped, which lends promise to the idea that they can finish these last 12 games strong and, hopefully, bounce back much better next year.
They got a long way to go, the Flyers as a whole do in general, but they needed something to signal they were at least heading in the right direction.
They needed a game like this.
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