Flyers: Too soon to test Andrae and Zamula in same lineup?

Flyers' Emil Andrae
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Emil Andrae (36) collides with Ottawa Senators right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) along the boards during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Ottawa, Ontario. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

Don’t fret. The Philadelphia Flyers will play their young skaters.

Splitting the road trip, 1-1-0, to begin the season, the Flyers were victorious against the Columbus Blue Jackets but lost to the Ottawa Senators.

John Tortorella deployed two versions of a defensive lineup. In Columbus, Yegor Zamula anchored the bottom pair with Nick Seeler. In Ottawa, Emil Andrae replaced Zamula, making his NHL debut.

Tomorrow, they’ll host the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center, and while there is an emphasis on the younger skaters, some might wonder when that’ll fully reflect on defense. Marc Staal is a top-four defenseman in the lineup. Tortorella is managing Staal against the time Zamula and Andrae earn. Zamula and Andrae competed in the lineup, but not simultaneously. How far off are the Flyers from putting Zamula and Andrae into the lineup, making Staal the extra defenseman?

Flyers at Blue Jackets

Zamula earned an assist. He poked the puck from Zach Werenski, leading to a scoring sequence from Joel Farabee. Defensively, he matched the Blue Jackets’ physicality and blocked a couple of shots, especially one from in close by Johnny Gaudreau. Cam York and Zamula had solid performances.

Staal, comparably, blocked three shots, served a minor penalty for tripping, and spent an extra 7:26 on the ice. It wasn’t a strong debut for the veteran, despite the win.

Flyers' Zamula, Seeler, Cates, Konecny celebration
Philadelphia Flyers celebrate a goal against Columbus Blue Jackets’ Elvis Merzlikins, foreground, during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Comparably, Zamula had a more noteworthy defensive impact than a veteran presence. The icing on the cake was the assist starting with a defensive play in the neutral zone. If the Flyers are to assemble a lineup based on merit, albeit early in the season, then Zamula is the correct selection.

Flyers at Senators

Andrae did have a rough NHL debut. He turned the puck over, took his hits, but blocked a shot. A lot could’ve gone more smoothly, but Andrae faced a more tenaciously checking team in the Senators, compared to Zamula, who had 26 games of prior NHL experience, against the Blue Jackets.

Staal wasn’t much better. He turned the puck over, too. Andrae was more assertive to the puck, meaning he was in a position to take more hits. Both skaters were about as practical in the defensive zone. One played like a defenseman making his NHL debut, and the other played like his age is 36.

“Our penalty killing, our powerplay, our offense, our defense; we were outplayed in all categories tonight. We’ll look at the tape, dust ourselves off, and get ready for our game on Tuesday.”

John Tortorella; 10/14/2023

In the loss, Andrae did play 26 seconds more than Staal. To the eye, just about everyone but Carter Hart had a rough outing in Ottawa. Neither stood out as a highlight, but Andrae was fresher than Staal, which showed as the minutes stretched deeper into regulation.

Andrae and Zamula?

When will Andrae and Zamula appear in the same lineup? It could be earlier than you think. Tortorella presented Staal as a veteran who can mentor the young defense. The intention is not to take away minutes from Andrae and Zamula.

“He’s [Andrae] got some fiestiness to him. I thought [he] played well in spots in the exhibition games, he had a really good third period; almost scores in the OT. He’s one of those guys; he’s going to play a role in this somewhere along the way, but right now we feel him and Z [Zamula] will stay, and we’ll see what happens.”

John Tortorella; 10/4/2023

Zamula had a strong training camp, and with more NHL experience between him and Andrae, he earned the nod against the Blue Jackets. Sticking to his word of playing the youth, Tortorella dressed Andrae against the Senators.

Tomorrow night versus the Canucks makes sense.

Next, it’s worth seeing how the defense performs with Andrae and Zamula in the lineup, making Staal the extra defenseman. Sometimes, the NHL pace makes sense when faced with the live speed, knowing your teammates will be where you need them to be. Gaining chemistry with different defensive partners is vital for development, too.

“That’s what I have to referee; is it getting in the way of the development of a guy, or is that guy just not ready, and Staalsy [Staal] plays. Those are things I can’t forecast; we’ll just see how it goes.”

John Tortorella; 10/4/2023

Rasmus Ristolainen skated this morning but did not practice. He remains out with a minor, undisclosed injury. Andrae and Zamula did swap in and out of a revolving door of defensive pairs at practice. Tortorella is still looking for a better recipe, especially after the way the road trip finished. Putting Andrae and Zamula in the lineup tomorrow while sitting Staal helps the method to the madness.

(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)