Reese’s Remarks: Flyers cannot comeback in Sunrise, 4-3

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Flyers' Nick Seeler
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Nick Seeler (24) scores against Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee )

On the back end of a back-to-back, the Philadelphia Flyers visited the Florida Panthers with another chance to spoil a home opener.

Felix Sandstrom got the nod, giving Carter Hart a well-deserved break following a white-hot start. Across the ice for the Panthers was Sergei Bobrovsky, a former Flyer from the last time the franchise began a season with a record of 3-0-0.

Carter Verhaeghe put Philadelphia in an early two-goal deficit, but an unlikely goal by Nick Seeler and a powerplay goal by James van Riemsdyk tied the game, 2-2, entering the third period. The team is scoring by committee; no one is taking the bulk of the responsibility. Zack MacEwen made a small drop pass to Kevin Hayes, who chipped the puck to Seeler to score on the backhand.

“It was a smart play by Zack, good forecheck. [I] wasn’t sure if Hayesy saw me or not, and he made a great pass to the front of the net. I thought I needed to shoot it quick, and luckily it went in.”

Nick Seeler; 10/19/2022

The powerplay goal by van Riemsdyk continued a four-game streak for the Flyers. After an unstable performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the special teams did rebound against Florida. A third effort by van Riemsdyk solved Bobrovsky. It kept the game close heading into the final frame.

“We scored another powerplay goal; that’s been really good in the first four games, scoring a powerplay goal each game. It keeps us in the game, but we need to get more offense out of other people right on through the lineup.”

John Tortorella; 10/19/2022

Seeler helped Philadelphia on the scoreboard, but also participated in a costly hiccup with Egor Zamula; split by a pass to Rudolfs Balcers for a high-percentage goal. It was the play that will eat up Tortorella the most. A two-on-two exchange was lost in translation, allowing the Panthers to take a third-period lead. Additionally, Josh Mahura did put a knuckler past Sandstrom to extend the lead. Before regulation time expired, Travis Konecny scored on a rebound opportunity, accentuating how lethal either one of those third-period goals by Balcers or Mahura was.

“We’re slow coming out. As the game went on, we played better; found a way to crawl back into it. We give up the third goal on just a simple two-on-two. That’s the one that hurts.”

John Tortorella; 10/19/2022

The Flyers suffered their first loss of the 2022-2023 season, 4-3.

Growing Pains

Sam Bennett was the driving force behind the third-period scoring surge from Florida. He had the primary assist on the Balcers and Mahura goals. Bennett was also at the root of the growing pains suffered by Zamula.

The Panthers moved the puck quickly from the defensive, through the neutral, and into the Philadelphia zone. Bennett controlled the puck through the neutral zone, bringing Seeler with him on man coverage. Zamula never dropped back on Balcers down the wing, opening him up for a high-quality scoring chance. Tortorella made sure to speak with Seeler and Zamula about what they’re thinking in that scenario:

“We just went over the coverage just to try to make sure we’re on the same page. We do two-on-two’s every day for this reason. I wanted to get to him right away just to see what they’re thinking.”

John Tortorella; 10/19/2022

These growing pains are expected for Zamula. In all reality, he wasn’t the odds-on favorite to make the opening night roster, and he’s currently exceeding expectations.

“We just talked to Torts about it. When they stack like that, I’m sticking with my guy, and Z just absorbs that second guy coming to the net. One of those learning experiences.”

Nick Seeler; 10/19/2022

On the road trip, Seeler and Zamula were positively impactful, but this one bugaboo acted as a critical blow.

Resiliency (+)

The Flyers aren’t the team scoring first, but they’re the antithesis of a listless team. No longer undefeated, they still hang in closely during every game. In four games, they’ve successfully combated more successful teams in the faceoff circle or time of possession with their physicality and defensive structure. That is ‘Camp Tortorella’ paying dividends.

“I think that shows how strong we are, to be able to keep getting back into games. Even though we’re not the team scoring first, we’re still in the games and keep coming back.”

Felix Sandstrom; 10/19/2022

Philadelphia has come a long way in a short time since 2021-2022, or at least the first four games suggest. Is this sustainable throughout the season? That much is left to be determined, but this roster is playing hard for each other. They’re showing that mental toughness is as critical as skill and talent. Those intangibles fill in the gap as to why they’re 3-1-0 despite analytics stacked against them.

“There’s no quit in this room. Everybody’s on the same page, everybody wants to battle together until the very end. If we keep that mentality, it’ll go a long way for us.”

Zack MacEwen; 10/19/2022

Felix Sandstrom

He did what any coach or player asks of their goaltender. Sandstrom gave his team a chance to compete. It simply wasn’t his night to secure his first NHL victory.

“He played really well. The one goal; if you’re talking about the fourth goal; I thought it hit his stick, but it was a knucklepuck. It was a hard one. Do we want it? Yeah. I thought he made some real good saves to give us a chance.”

John Tortorella; 10/19/2022

The Florida lineup isn’t shy. They can score in bunches, especially if they sense an opponent playing on their heels. The Flyers did but battled back as the game progressed. Before they could make a full recovery, Verhaeghe already potted a pair.

“We might’ve fed their transition a little bit too much early in the game. A couple bounces here and there can turn the tides early in a game like that. I thought we stuck with it.”

Zack MacEwen; 10/19/2022

Sandstrom made incredible saves that prevented the Panthers from making the game out of hand. Unfortunately, the puck shot on edge by Mahura served as the game-winner.

On the night, Sandstrom was 31/35.

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee )