Flyers special teams resiliency responsible for hot start

Note: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links, Schneps Media may earn a commission.
Flyers' Scott Laughton
Philadelphia Flyers center Scott Laughton (21) celebrates his goal past Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko, left, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

Starting the 2022-2023 season with a homestand sweep is nice. Analysts and critics, including the one writing this, wouldn’t have guessed a home sweep.

On opening night, there is an elevated level of adrenaline. The fans showed up for the Philadelphia Flyers. A roster of players who buckled down well before training camp looked like a group that couldn’t wait to get on the ice in a competitive way.

In the first two home games, the Flyers had to battle from a deficit to turn in a winning effort. First, it was the New Jersey Devils following a goal by Alexander Holtz. Then, it was the Vancouver Canucks following scores by Kyle Burroughs and Connor Garland. John Tortorella conditioned and prepared his team to find their way, displaying team resiliency.

Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny echoed that sentiment.

“You guys were there during camp. This team’s in shape; there’s no question about that. I think that was his whole gameplan. You got a bunch of guys that work hard. We might not be the prettiest team; if you don’t work hard, you don’t play. He’s a demanding coach, and I think it helps our team.”

Kevin Hayes; 10/15/2022

Philadelphia isn’t fooling anyone. They don’t have the superstar player that jumps out of the lineup. Playing aggressive, but stable defense and scoring by committee is the hard grind Tortorella planned for. On the ice, this team carries a different attitude from last season. It’s extremely noticeable in only two games.

“That’s what they’ve been preaching all camp: it’s hard to keep that tempo and play that way. Everyone’s got to buy in to do it, and it’s a hard way to play, but it’s playing the right way, and you’re going to get rewarded. You’re not going to win every single game, but it’s going to keep you in games, and that’s what you need.”

Travis Konecny; 10/15/2022

Even more encouraging than a homestand sweep to open the season are the ways the Flyers are combating their opponents. They’ve opened this campaign with a powerplay goal in consecutive games. Konecny and Tony DeAngelo are supplying a surge.

The last time Philadelphia scored powerplay goals in consecutive games was back in January 2022 versus the San Jose Sharks, then against the Boston Bruins, both resulting in losses.

The Flyers aren’t just dangerous with an extra man. Scott Laughton wiped the Canucks lead with a shorthanded goal.

Brad Shaw deserves a lot of credit. His penalty kill, while creating hard entries into the offensive zone for opponents, is opportunistic. The extra seconds taken off of a penalty when pushing up-ice for a scoring chance are valuable. Additionally, he is implementing more offensive skaters on his penalty kill to induce more scoring chances. Laughton scored that shorthanded goal versus Vancouver, but Konecny made a very aware pass to break the play open.

“I’ve seen him, from afar, play. I just like his energy. We kind of switched up the PK pairs tonight, tried to get him more time there. He’s had a really good camp. He’s one of those players that you’re looking to put into all situations. He has so much ‘try’ in his game, you can’t help but look at that.”

John Tortorella; 10/15/2022

Konecny is one of the best forwards on the ice. Early on, he’s reunited with his scoring touch. Combine that with the stress on his two-way game since the 2020-2021 season, and we’re seeing Konecny evolve into something newer, and more dangerous. Tortorella sees a lot of Konecny in another player he continues to coach:

“Very similar, quick players. Cam is more of a ‘darter,’ but Travis has that too. Same stature as far as height and all that; same willingness to play in the areas. Very similar. Cam was a guy, for six years, I leaned on in all situations like I’m doing with Travis.”

John Tortorella; 10/15/2022

Quickly, Tortorella and Shaw are finding success with forwards who aren’t as familiar with their role. Quality depth, on special teams, could be the weapon to steal victories. Konecny is going to grow with his opportunity, especially with Cam Atkinson and Sean Couturier recovering.

“I don’t know how well I’m doing. I’m trying to learn as I’m going, I haven’t done a lot of it, but I definitely feel good. I’m in the game a lot, and it keeps my legs going. However I can help, I just want to keep building, and if I can help on the kill, I’ll help on the kill.”

Travis Konecny; 10/15/2022

Philadelphia hits the road tomorrow, a road trip beginning in Florida and working their way back north, through Nashville, to host the Sharks on Sunday. Their resilience is shining through their work on special teams, meeting the expectations set by Tortorella with passion and energy on the ice.

(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)