Flyers complete season sweep of Canucks, 4-1

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Flyers' Sean Walker
Philadelphia Flyers right wing Owen Tippett, right, celebrates his goal with defenseman Sean Walker during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Beginning a back-to-back after Christmas break is a blessing for the Philadelphia Flyers (19-11-4). They carried their energy from an electric rally in Detroit to Rogers Arena, where they rolled the Vancouver Canucks (23-10-3), 4-1.

Before the puck dropped last night, John Tortorella spoke highly of his locker room. He understands and trusts how his lineup prepares and plays the opposition. To Tortorella, it’s been a crucial part of the fundamental growth of his team:

“You have a little bit of success, and that’s all we’ve had here to this point. I think that helps. You find out about your room when you go through some conflict, adversity; those words we always use. I trust the room. I do. How they go about it, I watch them. That’s been a really big positive to this year, the building of that room.”

John Tortorella; 12/28/2023

Last night, the room overcame conflict and adversity, closing the opposition after Sam Ersson and Travis Konecny left the game in the third period. Carter Hart filled in beautifully for Ersson. Ersson, per Brian Boucher, was dehydrated. After the game, Tortorella cited a ‘bug’ going around the team, but Konecny, ‘will be fine.’

Here are a few takeaways from last night’s victory in Vancouver:

Checking (+)

Rick Tocchet challenged the Canucks work ethic. He knew what to expect from a Tortorella lineup. His message to his players was to set the tone, if not match the intensity.

The Flyers worked harder. They checked in all phases and were rewarded for their effort. Yegor Zamula scored on the powerplay, Garnet Hathaway scored shorthanded, and even strength goals by Sean Walker and Joel Farabee showed that proper checking creates scoring.

Zamula, on the powerplay, handled himself well along the blue line in the offensive zone. Farabee and Cam Atkinson created traffic, and Tyson Foerster recorded an assist on the man advantage. Pius Suter tried to press Zamula, but patiently, Zamula created a shooting lane and let a wrist shot rip, 1-0, with 4:57 remaining in the second period.

“Coach told me, ‘Shoot the puck.’ So, I see [the] lane and I see good traffic. It’s [a] pretty simple shot.”

Yegor Zamula; 12/29/2023

Sean Couturier and Nick Seeler started the offensive transition with effective checking, dishing the puck to Konecny. Konecny jammed up the ice, passed to Owen Tippett, and Tippett, on a slide, found Walker for the finish, 2-0, with 3:36 remaining in the second period.

“I think it was Seels [Seeler] that made a great play in the [defensive] zone to get it up the wall, and they had three caught low. I thought I would get up the ice, [and] see what happens. TK [Konecny] realized that we had them caught, so he tried to make the play to Tip [Tippett]. Unbelievable awareness and pass for Tippett to pass that over to me. I was happy with the shot.”

Sean Walker; 12/29/2023

Bobby Brink made an excellent defensive play in the neutral zone. He did draw some ire from Tortorella, who isn’t happy with his checking overall. Brink poked the puck away from Nikita Zadorov, using his body to break up the possession. Farabee recovered the puck and scored on a mini-breakaway, 3-0, with 2:51 remaining in the second period.

“Brink has got to learn how to check. He’s driving me crazy. I love the kid, but he doesn’t know how to check his ass. He has got to learn that part of the game.”

John Tortorella; 12/29/2023

Ryan Poehling dominated on the penalty kill. He won a critical defensive zone faceoff, outskated Quinn Hughes, and then waited to cross a pass to Hathaway. Hathaway stuck with the rebound, 4-1, with 14:59 remaining in the third period.

A Powerplay QB

Over the last two games, Zamula earned an increased role. He notched two assists against the Detroit Red Wings due to his poise and movement along the blue line with the puck. Before last night’s game began, Tortorella praised Zamula for his improvement and consistency.

Cam York received his flowers, too. Tortorella cited his ability to play big minutes against some very skilled competition, contributing to his growth.

However, Philadelphia doesn’t have an outright powerplay quarterback.

“I think that’s one of the major problems with our powerplay; there isn’t a bonafide quarterback that settles it down. I don’t think Sanny’s [Sanheim] that right now, I don’t think Yorkie’s [York] that, I don’t think Z’s [Zamula] that. We’ve tried Walks [Walker]. I think they’re trying, improving, but to get one to be consistent, we need someone to be able to settle it down, and see it; see the plays. We’re not there yet.”

John Tortorella; 12/28/2023

In Vancouver, Zamula settled down the powerplay when he scored. He and Foerster passed back and forth. Zamula found a lane with traffic and shot. He was rewarded for his poise with his second career goal, both against the Canucks.

“Z [Zamula] has offensive skill. He has good vision. We just haven’t done a good enough job in someone running our powerplay; quarterbacking if you want to call it that. We’ve gone through them all, and I’m not criticizing; they’re trying.”

John Tortorella; 12/29/2023

For Zamula, it’s a new opportunity. He is simplifying his role and prioritizing shooting pucks on goal. Zamula took the high-percentage shot from the point with traffic, and it beat Casey DeSmith.

Goaltending (+)

Yes, Hart did collect himself against the Red Wings. He nearly recovered for a regulation victory, but stealing one point in that contest was better than nothing.

He was clutch again last night. Ersson, after Teddy Blueger scored, left the ice due to dehydration. Hart entered the game without much warning. He finished the third period but was tested by the Canucks every step of the way.

“I thought Carter [Hart] was outstanding. To come in, all the time off that we’ve had, the days off, he got some work today in practice, but to come in at that time of game, I think he probably had five or six shots, but they were ten-bellers. They were great chances. Sam [Ersson] was really good, and I thought Carter cleaned it up for us in the third period.”

John Tortorellla; 12/29/2023

Hart denied all eight chances in 17:24, getting the save as Ersson got credit for the win. Before exiting the game, Ersson stopped 18/19 in 42:36.

Up Next

Tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Seattle Kraken at 10pm at Climate Pledge Arena.