Flyers ransacked by Maple Leafs, 6-2

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Flyers' Felix Sandstrom
Philadelphia Flyers’ Felix Sandstrom, left, blocks a shot as Toronto Maple Leafs’ Tyler Bertuzzi looks on during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

If this is an indication of what is to come on this seven-game gauntlet, buckle up. If you’re already buckled, then rebuckle.

“Take our lessons from this one and move on. We have to approach these games one game at a time. It’s not the result we wanted, obviously not the effort we wanted, but let’s move on and focus on Saturday. That’s exactly how we all feel.”

Brad Shaw; 3/14/2024

The Philadelphia Flyers (34-25-8) need to prioritize a defensive approach to create offense as they take on the best of the NHL Eastern Conference. They were pulverized by the Toronto Maple Leafs (38-19-8) at the Wells Fargo Center, 6-2.

Sam Ersson had another rough start, akin to when the Flyers visited the Tampa Bay Lightning on the night John Tortorella was ejected and received a suspension and fine. He finished the first period, but Felix Sandstrom took over for the final two.

Tyler Bertuzzi put the Maple Leafs on the scoreboard first. He got in between Marc Staal and Ryan Poehling at the top of the crease, deflecting what seemed to be a deliberate pass-shot by Auston Matthews, 1-0. Bertuzzi didn’t have a ton of separation in close on Ersson, but enough space for the deflection goal.

Garnet Hathaway seemed very alert in the offensive zone. Ilya Samsonov denied the offensive effort from Hathaway and Poehling, then Pontus Holmberg doubled the lead, 2-0. After a faceoff win, the puck is passed to Conor Dewar, who mishandled the reception. Morgan Frost couldn’t recover the puck, and it bounces off his skate to Holmberg, who takes a quick wrist shot. A broken play resulted in a goal after a Toronto bounce.

Bertuzzi would’ve scored again, but the goal was overturned after Philadelphia challenged for a hand-pass by Matthews. He did nudge the puck with his hand behind the net, and without Tortorella on the bench, the Flyers were successful in another challenge this season. Unfortunately, Timothy Liljegren took the puck through the neutral zone, shooting upon entry on Ersson to make the 3-0 score accurate. It was a save Ersson should’ve made. Ersson saved 7/10 shots on goal.

Sandstrom took over after the first intermission and Philadelphia went on their second powerplay. Owen Tippett sniped the far corner on a sharp angle after Frost caromed the puck off the back boards behind Samsonov, 3-1. The Flyers finished their night 1/3 on the powerplay.

Far and away, the strongest period from Philadelphia in this losing effort was the second. Cam York, Scott Laughton, Noah Cates, Poehling, and Hathaway were dialed in on the penalty kill almost particularly. Frost was at his best, too. It’s no coincidence that Frost notched an assist in the second period. He seemed more decisive with the puck, and without it, he disrupted passing lanes in the neutral zone, but keeping possession remained an issue.

Many plays that required immaculate timing, such as lead passes or stretch passes, were just not executed. Those looks were there, but the Flyers weren’t hitting like they did versus the San Jose Sharks.

At the start of the third period, Philadelphia had the opportunity to be the cockroaches of the NHL. They were down, 3-1, but not out.

“One of our strengths this year has been our resilience mentally. When a bad thing happened, or a goal goes in the net, we seem to be able to weather the storm, and gather ourselves, and get back on the attack for whatever reason. They put another one in the net right away and it just feels like a bit of a tsunami coming at you. We’ve done such a good job of staying away from those scenarios previously throughout the year, and I have no explanation for it.”

Brad Shaw; 3/14/2024

Matthews streaked directly down the middle of the ice seemingly undetected. Hathaway finished his check on Ilya Lyubushkin into the boards, but as the puck kept moving toward the defensive zone, Travis Sanheim was behind in stepping up to Matthews, and Poehling was trailing along the wing. Sandstrom was effectively one-on-one with Matthews and lost that battle, 4-1.

Moments later, William Nylander scored after a complete meltdown by the Flyers after the center-ice faceoff proceeding the previous goal by Matthews. Some tic-tac-toe passing from David Kampf and Max Domi turned into a shot by Nylander, front-and-center, 5-1. Matthews and Nylander scored within :08 of each other.

No matter the situation, whether the puck was loose or moved deliberately, the Maple Leafs were in position to regain possession, and Philadelphia kept fighting to recover. An elite offense showed itself against a Flyers lineup, with or without Tortorella, that’s seen healthier days.

“We still have to find a way. Our defense core is good enough to have success in these games, in big moments, and we just have to perform a little bit better. I think the whole group; the five-man units have to perform better. It all plays into it. I wouldn’t point a finger at any one aspect of the game.”

Brad Shaw; 3/14/2024

Matthew Knies added another, 6-1. Toronto was on the powerplay, but it expired before Knies added to the lead. Erik Johnson, York, and Laughton all discarded broken sticks on the penalty kill. A five-on-four seemed more like a five-on-one with Travis Konecny the lone skater equipped to support Sandstrom. Knies lifted the puck over an already sprawled out goaltender.

Hathaway and Domi received ten-minute misconducts for slashing at each other before the faceoff. They both exited the game with a handful of minutes remaining. Before the final horn, York served a minor penalty for roughing. On the penalty kill, which Philadelphia finished 4/4, Tyson Foerster scored, 6-2. Sanheim fed Foerster a one-timer.

The Maple Leafs are 2-0-0 against the Flyers in 2023-2024, securing the season series. These two teams meet one more time during this current seven-game gauntlet on March 19th at the Wells Fargo Center.

Up Next

Next, the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Boston Bruins on Saturday at the TD Garden Arena. The puck drops at 7pm.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)