Carter Hart has undeniably been the catalyst for the Flyers’ midseason resurgence and one of the main reasons they’ve crept back into the playoff conversation.
Since the rookie netminder’s first game in December, the team has developed a completely different persona, ultimately leading to their recent eight-game winning streak and stretch of accumulating 23 points in their last 13 games heading into Tuesday night’s against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
However, he’s not the only young player whose contributions have played a significant role. It’s no coincidence that the improved play from Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, and Travis Sanheim has also occurred over about the same time period as the Flyers’ hot streak.
Each of the three players has chipped in with consistent performances as well as clutch goals and plays.
Paired with Ivan Provorov last month on the first defensive unit, Sanheim has elevated his game. He had two assists in last Tuesday’s crucial and gutty 5-4 win in Minnesota and scored the game-winner in overtime against the Bruins for their sixth-straight win last month. He has two goals, eight assists and is averaging 21:23 per game in the last 27 games since Dec. 18.
For the season, he has five goals and 17 assists in 59 games.
“I think with more minutes comes more responsibility,” Sanheim told reporters last month. “I’m just trying to thrive on that, get better each day. I play better when I play more [and] I’m getting more confident.”
The same goes for Lindblom, who was bumped to the second line with Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek. Under Hakstol, he was stuck on the third or fourth line and rarely saw power play minutes. With Gordon’s arrival, Lindblom has seen his ice time and responsibilities increase, especially on special teams.
Between Nov. 27 and Jan. 8, he averaged 9:22 of ice time. Over the last 14 games, that number has shot up to 16:05, including a career-high 18:35 against the Red Wings on Saturday.
Lindblom scored four goals in the first 15 games of the season, went the next 30 without one before tallying five in the previous 11 – and compiling a plus-1.
“Oscar a real good puck management guy, especially down low behind the net,” Gordon said after the Feb. 9 win over the Ducks. “… He’s good defensively, he’s responsible with the puck, and positionally he’s always in the right spot.”
Under Gordon, Patrick has appeared more confident and aggressive – and not as afraid to make a mistake like he was playing with former coach Dave Hakstol.
Patrick, who started the season as the second line center, but is now between Wayne Simmonds and Scott Laughton on the third line, endured a 24-game goalless streak this season and at times looked passive.
In the last month, though, he has responded with nine points and is a plus-1 in his last 12 games, including a career-high four points in a win over the Wild on Jan. 14 and netted his first overtime winner against the Oilers on Feb. 2.
“I think with Nolan, he’s only at the tip of the iceberg at what he’s going to potentially be,” Gordon said.
Gordon could probably say the same thing about Lindblom and Sanheim.