Flyers starting fast but coach sees plenty of room for improvement

John Tortorella

This fast start by the Flyers might be to coach John Tortorella’s liking but that doesn’t necessarily mean he likes everything he’s seeing on the ice.

Thursday night’s 4-3 win over Florida gave the Flyers a temporary hold on first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Granted, it was only a seven-game sample size but a 5-2-0 record achieved by beating teams such as the Panthers, Tampa Bay, Nashville and the second-place New Jersey Devils has to be somewhat encouraging.

Still, Tortorella believes there’s room for improvement.

The coach did say back in the preseason it was going to take 10 or 15 games for his players to completely master his system so it might just come down to discussing how much progress they have made so far.

“I’m happy with, for the most part, the high percentage of how hard we play in the game,’’ Tortorella said the other day. “But we have quite a bit of work to do and understand how to check, how to defend, all parts of that game.

“(It’s) understanding momentum of games, the clock, the score, playing back-to-backs. All those little things, it’s going to take some time. I think we’re a little stuck. I think we’ve just kind of hung in there and at times we’ve dipped, quite honestly, as far as play away from the puck.’’

Tortorella has made it a point to state he’s not “an analytics guy.’’ He relies on his eyes, his gut and his instincts to decide if the game is being played the right way.

So far, those channels have told him there’s plenty of spirit in this bunch.

“As far as the effort, as far as the resiliency, which I think is very important early in the year to bring you together, it’s been really good,’’ the coach said.

The Florida game typified what Tortorella talked about.

“The only two stats that we probably were good at (against the Panthers) were blocked shots (29) and banging (hits, 34),’’ Tortorella said. “Other parts of our game, it was very sporadic as the game went on.

“Battles weren’t there in the first period and I thought we answered and played much better that way. But there’s so much to work on. The system away from the puck, no, I’m not satisfied at all. This is going to take some time but I’m glad we’re seeing something there. I think that brings you into a little bit of a belief within your group.’’

The Flyers were outshot in six of their first seven game but stats like that don’t seem to bother Tortorella.

The coach said eventually that number should turn around but don’t expect it to anytime soon.

“We’re aways away,’’ he said. “We knew it was going to take some time. The most important part of our job right now, it’s a game of results but we (as coaches) are going to present ourselves to the team as to how they are playing.

“It’s important they found a way to stay together and play well in important spurts. Carter (Hart) has played well, given us an opportunity, that’s his job. We’re just going to keep our thumb on the team and how they’re playing and hope the results take care of themselves.’’

>Allison’s uneven start

Through the first seven games, Wade Allison has generated some scoring threats but only had one goal/one point to show for it.

After blocking three shots in the first 10 minutes of the Florida game, Tortorella basically held him out the rest of the match. The right wing ended up playing only eight shifts for 5:08 of ice time.

Finally healthy, this was supposed to be Allison’s breakout year. Tortorella has tried him on different lines and in some key situations but the engine hasn’t kicked over yet. What’s the problem?

“I’m still trying to learn him, he’s blocked some shots, he’s done some good things,’’ Tortorella commented. “The thing I want ‘Allie’ to work on is to play within himself, I think he needs to be a straight-ahead player. I think he’s made some plays that are a little too rich for him and it turns into turnovers.

“I needed to play the top six forwards more last night (vs. Florida) because it was just too much for us to try to lengthen the bench.’’

Allison knows most of what his coach is talking about. These are problems which can be corrected, starting with not letting things get too complicated.

“I’m trying to do the best I can,’’ he said. “He (Tortorella) has a job to do and that’s win games. I’m here to win games as well. If that’s it takes, that’s what it takes. I’ve got no issue with it.’’

Right now, just staying healthy is a major plus. He’s made it through training camp and the first few weeks of the regular season which is encouraging, since he’s spent big chunks of the last few seasons on the injured list.

“I feel good, I’m stacking each day on top of the next,’’ he said. “I’m just continuing to grow and to learn, become a better player so I can help this team.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2452 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.