Tortorella benches Hayes as Flyers defeat Devils, 2-1

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Flyers' Scott Laughton
Flyers’ Scott Laughton. (Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)

The Philadelphia Flyers hit double-digit victories in the 2022-2023 campaign with a road victory against the New Jersey Devils.

To add insult to injury, in three games between the rivals, the Flyers are getting the best of the Metropolitan Division leaders. Twice the Devils lost in regulation, once at the Wells Fargo Center and tonight at the Prudential Center.

“Every team in this league is an NHL team, and you can win any given night. We just got to keep believing in ourselves that we’re right there, and we believe that we should be competiting against the best.”

Travis Konecny; 12/15/2022

Starting tonight’s tilt, New Jersey seemed like they could run away with this one early. Jack Hughes split Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny on the powerplay, walking in on Carter Hart for the 1-0 lead. Konecny had a breakaway chance, but Vitek Vanecek gloved the puck. An indication of puck possession: the Devils led the shot totals, 17-7, where Philadelphia blocked an additional seven shots from reaching Hart.

Carrying a four-minute powerplay into the second, the Flyers had a chance to tie the game. All hope seemed lost after a double minor, man advantage where Noah Cates took the only shot in the waning moments. Then, New Jersey began to play without discipline, tallying the penalties. Scott Laughton made them pay with a one-timer on the second powerplay chance, tying the game 1-1. Hart remained dialed in, helping the penalty kill finish 2/3.

In the second period, both teams had a 5v3 advantage. When Philadelphia couldn’t take advantage, Nicolas Deslauriers and Joel Farabee fought Michael McLeod and Brendan Smith, trying to keep momentum on their side. Eventually, the Devils had their two-man advantage. Hart stood on his head throughout the entirety of this closely contested battle.

“They shot a lot of pucks tonight. [They] did a good job of letting me see the puck, boxing guys out, and not letting them get second whacks at loose pucks.”

Carter Hart; 12/15/2022

After Hughes began the scoring, Hart stopped the opposition in their tracks. Remember when Konecny had a breakaway chance on Vanecek in the first? He made his next one count in the third, pouncing on another errand pass in the neutral zone before pushing up ice for the game-winner. Ending the road trip with a 2-1 victory is a good note as the Flyers return home for the next two games.

Carter Hart (+) 

He got his rest when Felix Sandstrom started against the Colorado Avalanche. Hart saved 47/48 shots on goal en route to this win.

“We all saw how good he was; I just liked his whole demeanor through the game, too. I’m not a goalie coach, but there wasn’t a lot of extra movement; he looked calm. It’s one of the better games I’ve seen him play.”

John Tortorella; 12/15/2022

The number of shots faced didn’t phase Hart. He remained calm against the oncoming onslaught. Additionally, Hart was the best penalty killer after the first period.

Tonight was one of the best performances by Hart, who also saved 48/51 shots on goal in a 4-3 victory versus the Florida Panthers.

Travis Konecny (+)

Konecny doesn’t quit. He stumbled out of the gate in the first period, offering little resistance on the opening penalty kill. Later, Konecny took a bad penalty to give New Jersey a 5v3 powerplay. Ultimately, he had the last laugh, scoring the game-winner.

“We have problems scoring. He’s been probably our best offensive guy all year long. We’re going to need that out of him. I’ve just got to know him this year; I’ve watched him from afar. As I’ve coached him here, he loses himself sometimes through his energy that he brings, but he’s a reactive type player. For most of the time this year, his type of play has really helped us, and it helped us again tonight.”

John Tortorella; 12/15/2022

Chaotic with his energy, you take the good with the bad. Konecny had a short memory, forgetting when Vanecek had his number earlier. Representing the scoring for Philadelphia at large, Konecny consistently grinds out solid performances.

He’s come a long way from his benching versus the San Jose Sharks.

Rasmus Ristolainen (+)

He doesn’t have a point in 2022-2023, but he’s tallying hits. Defensively, Tortorella challenged him to fix his positioning. Lately, Rasmus Ristolainen has improved.

His teammates praised him tonight, especially Laughton:

“Our penalty kill did a real good job blocking shots. In the first, we did a good job. That’s a talented team over there. Our [defefnsemen] did a great job; Risto had a couple huge blocks and helped us out.”

Scott Laughton; 12/15/2022

He blocked three shots, made a hit, and took a shot on goal. Of those, his biggest impact was the blocked shot on Alexander Holtz in the final minute of regulation. On the 6v5, the Devils crowded Hart with chances. Ristolainen made a block that effectively iced New Jersey at home.

Kevin Hayes (-)

A big story is another message sent to Kevin Hayes by Tortorella. In a 1-1 game, Hayes didn’t take a shift in the third period. Ugly turnovers put him in the proverbial ‘doghouse’ that we’re told he wasn’t ever in. Tortorella emphasized that Hayes needs to play the right way. Tonight wasn’t a masterclass in doing so.

“It was my decision not to play him. I’m not going to get too involved in that.”

John Tortorella; 12/15/2022

Additionally, Tortorella had high praise for Cates. Earlier this season, Cates made the switch to C, placing Hayes at LW. It was a move in the lineup to alleviate defensive duty from Hayes, further developing Cates at the position.

“Right now, he is that guy. He was our best player in the first period where we really had a lot of players nowhere to be found. I’m not saying they were lazy; we were just in the fog a little bit. They’ve lost two or three, and they came out hard. I thought Catesy was the one that settled us down and tried to lead the way.”

John Tortorella; 12/15/2022

Hayes will be an interesting contract to watch in 2022-2023. He has a modified no-trade clause and with emphasis on building the future, this relationship between player and coach is becoming seemingly volatile.

(Photo Credit/Alex McIntyre)