Flyers-Sabres: Postgame Review
It wasn't an easy one by any stretch, but the Flyers came out on the right end of a game that they needed to win.
Facing the lowly Buffalo Sabres was going to be a test to see if the Flyers would play down to the opponent and let it hurt the final result, but the Orange and Black secured a 2-1 win for their fifth straight, which certainly has the team's 10-game losing streak slipping further into the past.
Let's hit it with our Postgame Review.
- Sanheim Scores - It was great to see Travis Sanheim finally get on the scoresheet. The rookie defenseman has come close several times this season, and finally got his first NHL goal in his 28th game.
But it wasn't for a lack of trying. Sanheim had 41 shots entering the game and took three more on Thursday. The rookie had been playing better of late in his own zone, but had a sloppy first period even with the goal. But he did recover nicely in the second and third to put together a strong game.
It doesn't seem like a coincidence that Sanheim's first goal comes with Radko Gudas back in the lineup as his defensive partner. In Gudas' absence, it felt like Sanheim was shying away from those chances. He's been a confident player when jumping up into the play offensively for most of the season, but that looked lost when he was sharing the ice with the likes of Brandon Manning, Mark Alt or Will O'Neil. Since Gudas returned, Sanheim has started taking chances again and that showed on his play to score his first goal.
With his first goal out of the way now too, we'll see if the points start coming a little easier for Sanheim in the games ahead.
- Secondary Scoring Strikes Again - The second and eventual game-winning goal was scored by Valtteri Filppula on a nice quick passing play between Michael Raffl and Jake Voracek.
It was once again that new-look second line finding a way to produce. Since breaking up the top line and moving Voracek down, both lines have stepped up in key situations to score timely goals.
Voracek also got another assist, bringing his season total to 31, which is tops in the NHL.
- Ivan the Warrior - Ivan Provorov continues to impress on a game-by-game basis. In addition to playing over 27 minutes in Thursday's game, there's not much Provorov didn't do. He had four shots, six hits and one blocked shot, a pretty full day for sure.
But more than that, it's the overall calmness that Provorov brings to the ice. There is no panic with the puck and the outlets are essentially perfect every time. He doesn't make bad plays with the puck, plays even better when not in control of the puck and is continuing to play beyond his years.
It was noted on the broadcast that Provorov was drafted by the Flyers in the draft year where the Sabres got Jack Eichel. Without Connor McDavid or Eichel, both potentially generational talents, being in that draft, you have to wonder just how high Provorov would have gone.
There's simply no way to deny what you're seeing. Provorov is 20 years old and 113 games into his NHL career. And he's a bonafide No. 1 defenseman.
- Elliott Stays Hot - This was about as bad a start as it gets for Brian Elliott. All of 90 seconds into the game, a turnover behind the net leads to the first goal of the game for Buffalo into an empty net. Not the way you want to start off a game.
And it looked like the rest of the team followed Elliott's lead early. He had another mishap behind the net trying to control the puck and the first period was sloppy.
But Elliott was steady from there. He made 19 saves on 20 shots in the game, certainly not his highest save total, but many of the saves were ones that test a goalie. Evander Kane had a shorthanded breakaway that was stopped. Elliott had to deal with traffic on some late chances for the Sabres in the third. There were odd-man rushes and shots off turnovers and it was far from an easy game for Elliott despite the low shot total for Buffalo.
That said, Elliott has remained consistent throughout the stretch the Flyers are on. He's been steady as she goes, and that's a good thing for the Flyers.
- Looking Ahead - A five-game winning streak can turn a season around quickly. What was starting to look completely lost 10 days ago now has the Flyers not too far outside of the playoff picture.
It's still early and a lot can change quickly, and while the Flyers have won five straight, they haven't done it in pretty fashion. That said, the Flyers five straight wins has their record in the last 15 games back at an even 5-5-5 with 15 points in the standings in that time. That also has them just two points out of a wildcard spot.
We're not going to get ahead of anything and start an excitement about this being a playoff team, because they will have to show a lot more than this to be one. But let's marvel at the fact that the Flyers lost 10 games in a row, getting only five points in the standings from Nov. 10 to Dec. 3, and have somehow managed to get back to within two points of a playoff spot simply by putting together a streak of a different kind.
This is also two very important wins on home ice. The Flyers have three more at home before hitting the road for the rest of 2017: Dallas on Saturday, LA on Monday and Detroit on Wednesday. Six points are up for grabs there and the Flyers will want to keep things rolling.
Kevin Durso is Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.