Separated by a few overtime losses, the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets are nearly identical in the standings. Pending on your perception of the 2022-2023 season, that is either great or miserable.
The Flyers hosted the Blue Jackets for the first time this season. In previous tilts, Columbus won by tallies of 5-2 and 5-4, an overtime loss for Philadelphia. Securing a 5-3 victory at the Wells Fargo Center, John Tortorella and his lineup returned the favor.
The Flyers are 1-1-1 versus the Blue Jackets in 2022-2023, with a chance to split the season series.
Despite a couple of good shifts to begin the first period, Philadelphia found themselves on the penalty kill. On the kill, Scott Laughton cleared the puck out of the defensive zone, where Travis Konecny outhustled Marcus Bjork to the puck. Konecny turned a good penalty kill play into a scoring play, notching a shorthanded goal for a 1-0 lead.
Tony DeAngelo nearly turned the puck over in the defensive zone while Carter Hart was out of position at the beginning of the second. Columbus turned prolonged possessions into a back-to-back scoring affair. Kirill Marchenko deflected a shot on goal from the blue line by Jacob Christiansen, and Kent Johnson finished a two-on-one rush with Johnny Gaudreau as his running mate. The Flyers did answer. Morgan Frost scored after cycling the puck through the offensive zone, and Owen Tippett helped the cause via a beautiful give-and-go with Joel Farabee moments after an expiring powerplay for a 3-2 lead.
Konecny put on a clinic, scoring his second of the evening after driving the puck end-to-end. He put a hit on both of the top pair defensemen on the Blue Jackets, dangling Vladislav Gavrikov on the way to a backhanded snipe. Andrew Peeke did respond with a snipe on Hart, but it wasn’t the last laugh. Tippett, like Konecny earlier, earned his second goal of the contest with the empty-net insurance en route to a 5-3 victory.
Travis Konecny (+)
He earned the trust of Tortorella. Benched earlier this season in a shutout loss to the San Jose Sharks, Konecny responded to the challenge from his head coach. Typically, you don’t see him on the penalty kill. Konecny began the scoring with a shorthanded goal, and by the sight of his usage in situational hockey, Tortorella trusts him positively impact the team:
“You see how I use him, so I trust him. I’m always looking for him. He does some crazy stuff at times; we need to work [on] situational play with him. He’s a reaction-type player. You got to be real careful how you coach him because I need to let him go. Teach him a couple things a long the way, but I need to let him go because that’s when he’s at his best.”John Tortorella; 12/20/2022
Konecny is scoring at higher than a point-per-game pace. He’s creating as many scoring plays as he is finishing. As importantly, Konecny continues to evolve his two-hundred-foot game. The balance of defensive and offensive instincts allows Tortorella to trust Konecny. In 2022-2023, Konecny has at least a goal and an assist during even strength, powerplay, and shorthanded scenarios.
van Riemsdyk, Frost, Tippett (+)
This line, centered by Frost, hummed since the beginning of the game. He and James van Riemsdyk created space on the forecheck, where Tippett used his electric shot to rattle Daniil Tarasov.
“He’s growing, and he scores another goal tonight. I see him carry the puck more instead of just getting rid of it. A big part to his game is carrying the puck, bringing people to him so he can make plays. For a big part of this season, he was just getting rid of the puck. He feels more confident.”John Tortorella; 12/20/2022
Some nuances by van Riemsdyk helped Frost and Tippett score their even-strength goals. His netfront presence isn’t exclusive to the powerplay. He stood up both of the second pair defensemen for the Blue Jackets, Tim Berni and Erik Gudbranson, while Frost ripped his goal past Tarasov.
Following this performance, Tippett has five points over his last five games.
Cam York (+)
He made a tasty dish to Frost, creating space at the faceoff circle. Without York walking the blue line, that space isn’t guaranteed for Frost to shoot a quality shot while van Riemsdyk takes position with two defensemen.
Since the road trip, York steadily impresses. He has four points (1G, 3A) in his last five games. During this 5-3 victory, he tallied his first multi-point game of 2022-2023. Over the same five-game span, York is a +6.
What did Tortorella have to say about that?
“I’ve seen players get better each game. I’ve seen our back end get better. Cam York, [the] minor leagues worked. That whole situation you guys were pissing and moaning about when we sent him down worked. Cam comes up and is trying to make a difference.”John Tortorella; 12/20/2022
While his absence from the opening night roster was shocking, it’s tough to argue these results. York seems more confident at the NHL level. Tortorella challenged him to play more urgently, and York contributed to recent victories; Philadelphia won two of their last three.
Kevin Hayes (+)
According to Tortorella, it is the media who is trying to drive a wedge between him and Hayes:
“I’m not giving an update on Haysey’s game. I’m not going to have the ‘Kevin Hayes update.’ You guys are trying to pit him against me, me against him, which is so ludicrous. So, I’m not giving you any update on Kevin Hayes.”John Tortorella; 12/20/2022
Against the New Jersey Devils, Hayes didn’t play a shift in the third. He wasn’t in the lineup versus the New York Rangers. Hayes sounded off that he didn’t think he deserved the benching.
He didn’t score a point last night, but he did play with more balance. Hayes recorded a hit with three shots on goal. He wasn’t on the ice for any of Columbus’ scoring plays. An overall quiet evening for Hayes, but a performance that contributed to maintaining a lead. Overall, that’s contributing to winning hockey.
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)