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John Tortorella Comes Out Swinging After Flyers’ Dismal Performance Against Islanders

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

With the Philadelphia Flyers mired in a 5-game losing streak – two of those defeats coming against the Montréal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks – it was high-time for a classic John Tortorella honest postgame interview.

The Flyers played in their most important game of the 2023-24 season to date against the New York Islanders and completely stunk up the joint in the second period. Ivan Fedotov made his NHL debut after replacing Samuel Ersson and was peppered with 16 shots in the period – to the Flyers’ 3 – and the outcome could have been a lot worse than just the one goal they allowed.

The Flyers bounced back in the third period and forced overtime after Morgan Frost tied the game up with just 9.6 seconds remaining but then he turned the puck over after an egregious error in his own zone to hand the Islanders the all-important second point. After the game, Tortorella was only applauding the effort of Fedotov and then mentioned that there are a few players who have no idea what they’re doing out there – and he’s not wrong.

When asked about his assessment of the momentum shift after Travis Sanheim’s game-tying goal at the beginning of the second period:

“Soft. One guy played, the goalie.”

His opinion on Ivan Fedotov’s game:

“Terrific, he’s the only guy that played.”

He was asked if it was a surprising effort tonight considering he trusts the team, how they generally play, and how he doesn’t have to constantly remind them to play hard:

“You’re finding things out here, okay? When these games are a whole different plane, okay? It’s still regular season, right? But it’s a whole different plane, so we’re finding things out.”

After another terrible performance and perhaps lingering effects from the previous two games, is there any concern moving forward especially after labelling this a “soft” game:

“Not the whole game and not the whole group, there are certain people that don’t have a clue how to play or just don’t have it in them to play in these types of situations and this is why I’m glad we’re playing them. We have to figure things out as far as what we’re going to become as a team here. That was embarrassing the second period for the Philadelphia Flyers uniform, the way we played, embarrassing. High marks as for how we came back in the third, some guys.”

Why he made the decision to bring in Fedotov and if he was impressed by his play:

“I wanted to bring him in, it just didn’t look right with Ers, and I’m totally impressed. I put him in a hell of a spot and he’s the only goddamn player that played in the second period.”

And Tortorella was not wrong in his postgame assessment of how his team played last night. The first period was great outside of the 18-second burst that saw the Islanders score twice. The second period started out with a bang but then they went lifeless and fell asleep at the wheel as Fedotov was being peppered in the first 10-12 minutes. The third period was a lot better but the last three games have been a complete 180 from what we saw between October and February.

A lot of that can be attributed to the fact that playing that specific style of hockey will take its toll on you by the end of the season – especially if you’re not used to it or have never played to that standard. The hard forechecking, the shot blocking, and the aggressiveness is missing in bunches and at the most critical juncture of the season.

Losing Carter Hart was probably the toughest pill to swallow because they went from having a very capable tandem to having to force Ersson to play the lion’s share of games with just 10 games of NHL experience under his belt before then. Then to make matters worse, you don’t have a competent backup goaltender between Cal Petersen and Felix Sandström that you could trust to put in between the pipes to ease the burden. Ersson is having issues with the medium-danger chances he made look easy between November and February, let alone the routine saves every goaltender should be making.

Losing four regular defensemen in a span of a month and three of them in less than two weeks also completely changed the landscape of their game. Rasmus Ristolainen last played on the 10th of February, Jamie Drysdale was forced out of the game on the 25th of February, Nick Seeler was injured on the 4th of March, and Sean Walker was traded to Colorado on the 6th of March.

An overused rookie goaltender, an inexperienced back-end, and a shortage of offense while trying to retain a playoff position is very hard to do but the Flyers managed to do so over the last 119 days and counting.

Now for the fun part; trying to figure out who Tortorella could talking about when he said that certain players don’t have a clue.

Since March 4th, the Flyers have gone 4-6-4 while being outscored 51-30, their power play has gone 5-for-41, and their once pristine penalty kill has allowed 11 goals in their last 36 attempts. Yes, they had to endure a gauntlet with two games against Boston, Toronto, and Florida while also playing Carolina, Tampa Bay, and the New York Rangers, but their efforts against Montréal, Chicago, and even San Jose were concerning.

In those 14 games, Owen Tippett and Travis Konecny lead the way with 11 points apiece, followed by Morgan Frost with 10, and then a steep drop off to Scott Laughton, Travis Sanheim, Ryan Poehling, and Cam York at 6. Tyson Foerster has just 4 goals and 5 points, Joel Farabee has just 3 goals and 4 points, Sean Couturier has just 1 assist, and Cam Atkinson has seen just 6 games with no points to his name.

Only 4 players have even ratings in Tippett (+5), Frost (+2), Garnet Hathaway (+1), and Ronnie Attard (+1), only 3 players had an even rating in Adam Ginning, Denis Gurianov, and Seeler, and the rest have been minuses with Erik Johnson and Farabee each toiling at the bottom of the list at -11.

Since the 14th of March, the Flyers have scored just 27 goals in 10 games and 11 of them came from the top line of Tippett, Frost, and Konecny. Since the 21st of March, they have scored 16 goals and 7 of them came from the top line. The offensive well has dried up but the overall game play from certain individuals has taken a nose dive as well, which explains why Tortorella said what he said.

Farabee started off the season with 17 goals and 40 points in 48 games with a +11 rating while averaging 16:02 TOI. Since then he has scored 4 goals and 9 points in his last 28 games with a -21 rating but averaging slightly more ice-time at 17:11. He hasn’t scored in his last 8 games, has just 1 assist in that stretch with a -7 rating, and was recently demoted down the lineup.

Laughton has had a rough 2023-24 after what was a career year last season. He started off with just 3 goals and 18 points in his first 43 games but has since scored 10 goal and 19 points in his last 33. His game really clicked after the 10th of February where he has 8 goals and 18 points in 24 games, including a stretch of 11 games where he tallied 12 points. However, you take a look at his ice-time and notice he’s seen games with 12:02 TOI, 14:55 TOI, 13:54 TOI, 13:18 TOI, and 14:46 TOI. However, he has also seen 19:34 TOI, 19:31 TOI, 21:05 TOI, and just last night 21:37 TOI, highlighting that Tortorella is looking for far more consistency from one of his top veterans.

Couturier and Atkinson have not been able to help at all either. Couturier has just 1 goal and 6 points in his last 29 games, holds a -22 rating, and has averaged just under 15 minutes a night. Since being named captain, he has 0 goals and 3 points in 20 games with a -17 rating while averaging less than 13 minutes a night and being healthy scratched a few times. Meanwhile, Atkinson has been a frequent visitor to the press box with just 18 games under his belt in the last 2 months, 0 points in his last 18 games, a -9 rating, and averaging just 14:22 TOI in that stretch.

The Washington Capitals can run away with the third seed in the division if they can take advantage of the three games they have in hand on Philadelphia. The Detroit Red Wings are just one behind the Flyers should they fall into the Wild Card race and the New York Islanders were given hope last night as they now trail the Capitals by three points and the Flyers by four.

Philadelphia has six games remaining until the end of the regular season as they head out on the road for games against Buffalo and Columbus on Friday and Saturday before two more stops in Montreal (April 9th) and New York (April 11th). They then end the season with two home games on the 13th and 16th against New Jersey and Washington, respectively. They might have to win outright to secure a playoff spot with Washington surging and every other team owning games in hand. Winning five of six will help, winning four of six could be helpful, but anything less and it might be too little too late.

The rebuild sprung eternal this season and really showed what this team is really capable of when they play to their strengths. Next season they will surely be a better club with the younger players soaking in all this experience and meaningful hockey down the stretch. However, for the 2023-24 season, they need to end it on a high note and with 3 games against teams way outside the playoff picture, they have to come out on top in every single one of them to give them a shot as they finish things off against three divisional rivals.

Tortorella won’t go easy on them from now until the 16th of April but with three days off in between games, the Flyers can finally rest their weary legs and gear up for a crucial road back-to-back set coming up this weekend.

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation

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