Flyers close 2023 with a tough loss in Calgary

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Flyers' Yegor Zamula celebrates.
Philadelphia Flyers’ Egor Zamula, second from right, reacts to his goal with teammates during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

In one of the roughest stretches of the Philadelphia Flyers (19-12-5) season, the Calgary Flames (15-16-5) took advantage of an opportunity, outlasting for a win, 4-3.

A back-to-back to enter and follow the holiday break hasn’t helped. They’ve quietly lost four of their last five games, even if two decisions ventured beyond regulation time. John Tortorella was short after the loss, not one to use the travel as an excuse for a dip on the ice.

Returning to the Wells Fargo Center could help reset, but they’ll visit Edmonton tomorrow. Here’s to hoping for a quick turnaround after a bitter end to the 2023 calendar year.

Sam Ersson

If not for Sam Ersson, the Flyers are likely out of the game in the first period.

Ryan Poehling set up Rasmus Ristolainen on a quick stick to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead, but as time elapsed in the opening twenty, Ersson stood on his head to preserve that advantage. He denied Rasmus Andersson, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Andrew Mangiapane to stay ahead while the Flames led the shot totals.

“I got a lot of shots on me and I think that I found my way into the game and felt good, but maybe came up a little short there at the end.”

Sam Ersson; 12/31/2023

Mikael Backlund, Dennis Gilbert, and Nazem Kadri all had goals on Ersson. At least for a moment, something that ruffled the feathers was a delay of the game minor penalty called on Ersson for taking off his goaltending mask when one of the straps broke. He was criticized for not doing it, surrendering a powerplay goal to the Washington Capitals on December 14th. It was an irritating penalty, putting four skaters on the ice, even after Poehling drew a penalty to present four-on-four hockey. The technicality here is that Ersson removed his helmet; he didn’t shake it off his head, though there is video evidence of the broken strap.

“He threw his helmet off. It’s a penalty.”

John Tortorella; 12/31/2023

That is the blunt truth. However, it is worth considering the perspective of what a goaltender is supposed to do. Officials will not blow a whistle. They don’t know if a strap is broken on a helmet, which is dangerous for a goaltender.

“That’s on me. Maybe I did it a little bit too obvious. It’s happened before and it’s some sort of dangerous for us goalies that they [the officials] don’t blow the whistle. Goalies, we have that mentality that we’re going to try to stop the puck no matter what, even if we don’t have that mask on. When they don’t blow the whistle when the straps come off, they usually blow it when the mask comes off. It’s on me. It’s stupid that I put the team in a bad spot.”

Sam Ersson; 12/31/2023

Ersson took accountability. He also has a point. The Flyers had to eat the consequences, but it’s hard to fault Ersson.

How Do the Flyers Respond?

Philadelphia fought to the bitter end. In most cases, when an empty-net goal serves as the game-winner, there is a serious rally.

Tortorella got aggressive, pulling Ersson with about four minutes remaining in regulation. A six-on-five man advantage was a last-ditch effort to beat Jacob Markstrom. Bobby Brink crowded the crease, jamming the puck home but trailing, 3-2.

Blake Coleman scored the eventual empty-net game-winner after Owen Tippett whiffed in the defensive zone, trying to move the puck away from the Calgary press, but there had to be a response to generate a 4-3 final score:

Yegor Zamula (+)

Yegor Zamula is making quite the impression on the man advantage. That isn’t limited to the powerplay, a place Tortorella wanted to try him in the search for a quarterback to lead the 1-3-1 formation. His patience, movement, and shot selection followed the empty-net goal scored by Coleman, though the Flyers couldn’t find another with 1:22 remaining in the third period.

Zamula created space along the blue line, waited for the pass by Travis Konecny, then rifled a one-timer past Markstrom. That is his second goal, on the man advantage, in three games.

The call to put Zamula on the ice came from Brad Shaw, per Tortorella.

Up Next

Next, the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Edmonton Oilers tomorrow at 9pm.

(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)