NEW YORK – One promising subtext to the Flyers’ unexpected five-game winning streak has been the resurging play of their youth corps.
Second-year guys like Travis Sanheim and Oskar Lindblom jump out at you.
Sanheim endured a somewhat rocky rookie season last year but now is establishing himself as a steady top four defenseman.
Lindblom went 30 games without a goal before coach Scott Gordon promoted him to a second line with Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek.
The Swede has responded with two goals in his last four games, including the only marker in Tuesday night’s impressive 1-0 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
One could also mention second-year defenseman Robert Hagg and sophomore center Nolan Patrick in that group as well. Hagg continues to block shots and deliver hits at an eye-opening pace and Patrick recently had a career game with a four-point night.
Sanheim quietly has fit in with young defenseman Ivan Provorov to form a top ice-time contingent.
In this five-game winning streak, Sanheim has gone plus-5, his best stretch of the season.
Consequently, the former first-round draft pick’s time on the ice has gone up, including a season-high 25-minute game against Calgary earlier in the month and a 24:40 against the Rangers.
“I think with more minutes comes more responsibility,’’ Sanheim said. “I’m just trying to thrive on that, get better each day.
“You know, I play better when I play more. I’m getting more confident. . .just going out and playing hockey.’’
Provorov is such a dynamic two-way defenseman that Sanheim has had to lift his game to keep up, so to speak.
“He’s a special player,’’ Sanheim acknowledged. “There are things that he does on the ice that not many players do. So I try to pick up on little things that he does.
“I think we’ve definitely grown (as a pair). And I think we can continue to get better.’’
Meanwhile, Lindblom is rewarding Gordon’s faith in him and his placement on a top-level unit. In recent wins over Montreal and Winnipeg, Lindblom hit the 18-minute mark for the first time this season.
Participating in special teams plays into that.
“You get more confidence when you play more,’’ he said. “When you play the penalty kill, power play, right now you have fun out there. That’s all I can do. I feel good right now, I can’t complain.’’
With rookie Carter Hart and semi-veteran Anthony Stolarz coming off impressive road wins (Hart at Montreal, Stolarz over the Rangers), Gordon has an interesting choice to make for starting netminder at Boston on Thursday night.
It’s a pleasant quandary to have. After all the uncertainty in goal this season – the Flyers’ have used a team-record seven goalies – it’s a bit comforting to have two goaltenders who appear to be healthy and at the top of their games.
>Does winning streak impact Fletcher’s trade deadline plan?
After Monday’s morning practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., general manager Chuck Fletcher was asked if his team’s performance leading up to the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 25 might impact his plans.
That was before his team took impressive decisions over Winnipeg and the New York Rangers, running its season-high winning streak to five games and cutting its playoff deficit from 14 points to 10.
Fletcher gave the impression he could be a buyer, a seller or maybe even both.
“We could both buy and sell,’’ Fletcher said. “But I guess my point is, every decision we make, if we’re going to try to improve our team going forward and we can get that player now, great. There’s always opportunities.
“So for me it’s not the next eight games or the rest of the year. From this point forward, we have to get better. To be better next year, we may have to try to get better this year. That’s what we’re trying to do, whether it’s the coaches on the ice (and their teachings), or adding players, or whatever we have to do.’’
Regardless of what the Flyers do in the short term, Fletcher wants to build on this current foundation for consistent longer term success.
“I could see us buying and selling, I guess to use those terms,’’ he said. “But the bigger focus is, we’d like to get some pieces in here that will be a part of this for a few years. That’s really where my focus has been and what we talked to the scouts about this (past) weekend.’’
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