John Tortorella and Don Granato mentioned in their pregame press conferences that the Buffalo Sabres would be better tonight than on Wednesday. The Philadelphia Flyers kept at it. For the second time in three days, the same teams went to battle, but Tortorella didn’t overthink strategy.
“For me, it doesn’t matter. I think you can overthink playing a team a second night. When you play in playoffs, that’s when you really may change part of your game; when you’re playing against a team for two weeks. Buffalo is back-to-back with us; it’s another team, we’re trying to find our way to get back into the win column, we’re going to try to do the things we think is best to try to find our way.”John Tortorella; 11/3/2023
Nor should he. His lineup outshot the opposition 40-15, including upward of 20 high-quality chances in a much-improved system.
In the rubber match, the defense helped the goaltending, and the forwards finished scoring chances, returning a dramatically different result.
Philadelphia Flyers at Buffalo Sabres
Scott Laughton put the Flyers onto the scoreboard almost immediately. Nick Seeler intercepted the puck from Tage Thompson and progressed it to Laughton. Laughton tapped the puck to Joel Farabee to lead the entry. Farabee dropped the pass back to Laughton, then back and forth between Laughton and Bobby Brink. Finishing the scoring play, Laughton snapped a shot from the faceoff dot, 1-0, with 18:57 remaining in the first period.
“We’ve been working really hard, pressing forward, and creating a lot of chances for ourselves. They haven’t been going in. Hopefully, this starts us to get going a little bit, and find the back of the net.”Scott Laughton; 11/3/2023
Louie Belpedio didn’t waste time following up. In the offensive zone, Travis Konecny cycled the puck to Yegor Zamula along the blue line. Over to his right was Morgan Frost, who put the initial shot on net. It was blocked near Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, but Belpedio pounced on the loose puck, 2-0, with 18:29 remaining in the first period.
“It’s exciting. All the guys were happy for me, too. That makes it a little better. I’m sure my family and friends will have a couple [of] text messages on my phone for me. I’m excited to get back and read those.”Louie Belpedio; 11/3/2023
Tyson Foerster played well away from the puck. In the first period, he drew two penalties to give Philadelphia two powerplay opportunities (finished 0/2) and backchecked to help break up a Sabres shorthanded rush.
Another example: Foerster forced a takeaway against JJ Peterka, and Konecny didn’t wait to turn the recovery into a breakaway. In alone on Luukkonen, Konecny extended the lead, 3-0, with 5:04 remaining in the first period.
Speaking of playing effectively away from the puck, Frost put together his best game of the early season. He carried some momentum from Wednesday versus Buffalo, but an added emphasis on defensive positioning shined. Frost is beginning to blend his playmaking tendencies with what Tortorella wants and looks very effective.
“We just wanted to continue trying to play after we ended the last game. We wanted to play as fast as we could, just stay with our game; we felt we played really well in the loss the other night, and we just wanted to get back to it.”John Tortorella; 11/3/2023
On the puck, Foerster helped settle in the offensive zone by engaging in puck battles deep behind Luukkonen. The Flyers sustained pressure on offense due to better checking and passing. They successfully maintained possession of the puck while performing a line change, which is rare.
“We checked forward; we tried to stay aggressive with our checking, and not back off and be on our heels.”John Tortorella; 11/3/2023
All the energy sided with Philadelphia, and the ‘PhD Line’ fed off of it. Sean Walker slapped the puck away from Owen Power, which Ryan Poehling recovered in the offensive zone. Poehling passed to Nicolas Deslauriers in the trapezoid behind Luukkonen before receiving a pass back along the extended goal line. Thinking quickly, Poehling moved a pass to Garnet Hathaway for the tip-in, 4-0, with 5:25 remaining in the second period.
Henri Jokiharju torched the shutout bid for Sam Ersson. Poehling couldn’t get the puck out of the defensive zone, and Casey Mittelstadt forced a turnover. Mittelstadt found Jokiharju, who snapped the open shot past Ersson, 4-1, with 17:36 remaining in the third period.
“Somehow, he [Ersson] figures it out. He gets himself back on track. I’m happy for him.”John Tortorella; 11/3/2023
Thanks in part to Walker, the Flyers finished 2/2 on the penalty kill. He cleared pucks when he had a stick, or when he didn’t, he never surrendered his positioning, maintaining a physical presence along the boards without all of his equipment. So far, he’s been a valuable addition to the defense, clearing expectations.
Farabee earned another assist, setting Brink up for a point-blank shot on Luukkonen, 5-1, with 8:32 remaining in the third period. After Philadelphia established their second four-goal lead, Hathaway and Dylan Cozens fought toe-to-toe. It would be the final action before regulation time expired on a vital rebound victory.
Next up, the Philadelphia Flyers host the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, November 4th, at 7:30pm.
(AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)