Do injuries excuse Flyers for first quarter woes?

John Tortorella.

Injuries are one thing.

Injuries to key players are quite another.

Even with that in mind, it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much blame can be placed on missing players for the Flyers’ uneven first quarter.

Are the Flyers as good as their 7-3-2 start?

Or are they a 7-8-5 team (going into Friday action) destined to miss the playoffs for a third straight season regardless of which vital parts return from the first-aid wilderness?

As the cliché goes, only time will tell. However, this much we do know: If the Flyers don’t get their act together soon, they’re going to be staring at another meaningless campaign by early 2023.

Asked to evaluate his team’s first quarter, coach John Tortorella said the teaching process remains at the top of his priority list.

“I can’t evaluate who the Flyers are,’’ Tortorella said prior to Friday’s game against Pittsburgh. “Because I haven’t seen them enough. We’ve had so many guys out for so long. I can certainly evaluate some of the opportunities the kids have gotten because of all the injuries.

“To me, there are some really good things going on with that, how the kids are improving. Hopefully you see some improvement. When you get some guys back (healthy) you put them in a spot in the lineup where they should be. Maybe that makes your team stronger.’’

Tortorella has been coaching in the NHL for two decades and this as much videotape work as he’s ever done.

“We’ve done a lot of teaching,’’ he said. “I’ve never done this much tape work in the first 20 games of a season. But I think it’s needed. And I think it’s gone very well. I think we’re going on the right road.’’

With that in mind, we go to the first quarter report card:

 

PLAYERS

 

>Carter Hart/goalie: A – Got off to a red-hot start and probably the main reason team still has its head somewhat above water.

>Travis Konecny/right wing: A – Playing a more mature game this season and scoring touch has returned. Out for about two weeks.

>Nick Seeler/defenseman: A – Leads team in plus-minus; he hits, fights, blocks shots. Playing way above his career resume.

>Ivan Provorov/defenseman: A- — His offensive production might be down but he’s much better this season on defensive side of puck.

>Owen Tippett/right wing: A- — That two-goal performance the other night wasn’t a fluke. His confidence is growing by the game.

>Joel Farabee/left wing: B+ — Don’t forget, came back earlier than expected from neck surgery. Competing at both ends of the rink.

>Zack MacEwen/right wing: B+ — Any time a bottom six forward is a plus-player, that’s a plus. Underrated skater, big hitter, can energize the bench.

>Tony DeAngelo/defenseman: B – Plays a big role in Provorov’s bounce-back year. Good trigger man on the power play. Not afraid to mix it up.

>Kevin Hayes/center-left wing: B – Averaging a point a game but seems to be in coach’s doghouse for possible defensive shortcomings. Recent move to wing might help the situation.

>Felix Sandstrom/goalie: B — He’s been used a lot on the second half of back-to-backs with a tired lineup in front of him. Don’t forget, he’s still a rookie.

>Scott Laughton/center-left wing: B – Although not the official captain, he’s the leader in the locker room. Double-digit plus-minus a bit concerning. Out another two weeks.

>Wade Allison/right wing: B — If this guy could just stay healthy. He’s hurt again (oblique, hip pointer; out about three weeks). Is it his physical style or just plain bad luck?

>Noah Cates/center: B – A coach’s favorite and it shows in his promotion to a front-line center. He’s still a rookie but doesn’t play like one.

>Travis Sanheim/defenseman: B- — No doubt not having last year’s steady partner, Rasmus Ristolainen, back with him has put a little uncertainty in his game. Signing that big contract obviously has added some pressure.

>Morgan Frost/center: C+ — Went 17 games without a goal but was still a plus-1 after 18 games. Goal at Washington on Wednesday night could get him back on track.

>Nic Deslauriers/left wing: C+ — Just the right fit on an energy line. Strong forechecker, holds other teams accountable for taking liberty on Flyer stars.

>Luke Sedlak/center: C+ — Nice waiver wire pickup from Colorado. Can still skate and fits into coach’s system.

>Egor Zamula/defenseman: C – The Russian rookie has shown flashes of future promise. Have to like his size and mobility.

>Kieffer Bellows/left wing: C – Has only played nine games so far, thus difficult to get a sense of where he fits in.

>Justin Braun/defenseman: C – Gets the job done night in, night out. An important veteran’s presence in the locker room.

>Tanner Laczynski/Center: C – Finally got rewarded with his first NHL goal the other night. A lot of people rooting for this popular player to succeed.

>Rasmus Ristolainen/defenseman: C- A lot was expected of the big backliner this season but early injury set him back. No points after 11 games somewhat unacceptable and that’s why he’s been dropped to third pairing.

>INCOMPLETE: Sean Couturier (back surgery), Cam Atkinson (upper-body injury), Patrick Brown (back surgery, just returned), James van Riemsdyk (fractured finger); Ryan Ellis (pelvic area injury, out indefinitely).

 

/n

 

COACH

 

>John Tortorella: B – Probably would be a significantly higher grade if he had something close to a full lineup. He does deserve credit for instilling a better culture in the locker room, including more accountability and strong work ethic. The Flyers might be losing games but it’s not for a lack of trying.

 

GENERAL MANAGER

 

>Chuck Fletcher: B – Like the coach, the GM has to be cut some slack because of the rash of injuries. When you’re missing four or five of your top six forwards, it’s hard to gauge what areas of personnel have to be addressed. Even with a healthy lineup, this figured to be a “bubble’’ playoff team this year at best. Where it goes from here would appear to depend on how quickly the walking wounded can get back into action. . .and stay there.

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About Wayne Fish 1948 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.