So far this season, Flyers can’t afford to trail early

John Tortorella.

      The percentages have always favored the team that scores first in hockey but the Flyers have been taking the numbers to the extreme this season.

      Heading into Saturday night’s game in Pittsburgh, the Flyers were a dismal 0-9-2 when an opponent scores first. Maybe that’s why a lot of the energy went out of the building on Black Friday when the Rangers scored first in less than a minute at the Wells Fargo Center.

      It’s not a fluke either because the Flyers are 10-1 when they put the puck in the net before their foes.

      All of this is to ask: Is that 0-9-2 thing just a number or is there an underlying reason why the Flyers can never seem to mount a stirring comeback just once in a while?

      “It is what it is throughout the league,” coach John Tortorella said the other day at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. “That first goal, it’s amazing the percentages. Our percentages are upside down. It’s not like you say, if they score the first goal, (it’s over). Then why are we playing the game?

      “I thought the other night (in the Carolina game), we were right there. I don’t want to say the third goal (in the third period) was a bad goal. But it was a weird goal. But we were still right there (down 3-1). We had chances right before that. So we can’t get caught up in that.”

      Tortorella is emphasizing to his team that it shouldn’t get frustrated when it falls behind early. There’s still plenty of time left. Stick to the game plan and turn up the intensity a bit.

      “You’re not always going to lead,” Tortorella said. “We went through that last year. We weren’t leading a lot last year and we found a way to win some games (14-27-9 when an opponent scored first). We’re going to have to try to break that type of situation.”

      The way things stand right now, the Flyers would have to go on a real rampage to finish with a comeback percentage close to last year. Tortorella has preached a more aggressive approach but so far that hasn’t gained much traction when it comes to producing offense in a deficit situation.

      “No matter what the score is, we’re trying to play a much more aggressive style,” Tortorella said. “And with risk in it to create offense. I do think, although we have struggled here of late, I do think in the first quarter of the season, that’s been one of the biggest improvements of our team – transition offense, stretch passes, leaving the zone early.

      “We are going to stay with that. Does it hurt our style when we’re down? I don’t think so. We’re just going to play and see where it all goes.”

      >Patrick saga all but over

      Remember when the Flyers pulled off a miracle and went from No. 13 to No. 2 in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery?

      A lot of people got excited by the prospect of getting a future NHL star.

      The enthusiasm didn’t wane all that much when Philadelphia took center Nolan Patrick in the runnerup spot either. After all, in his penultimate season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL he had posted 102 points, plus he hailed from the legendary Patrick family with deep roots and a long history in the NHL.

      But after a couple decent seasons of 13 goals, he missed all of the 2019-20 campaign due to migraine headaches. He came back to play in 52 games during the 2020-21 pandemic-shortened season but registered only four goals, nine points. After the season ended, the Flyers traded him to Nashville, who immediately flipped him to Vegas. He played in only 25 games the next season, then sat out all of 2022-23.

      This past Friday the Golden Knights did not tender him a contract offer, which means he’s free to play where he wants. Problem is, no one seems to want him so at age 25, his NHL career might be over.

      It’s a shame, too, because Patrick gave an honest effort with the Flyers. It’s just that he didn’t appear to be totally invested in his hockey career possibly because of the headache situation.

      You can’t blame the Flyers, either, because prior to the draft everyone had Patrick listed in their top five.

      The Flyers had their share of top draft picks turn out to be failures. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen comes to mind. He was highly touted, too, but never reached his potential. He was out of the NHL before the age of 30. That’s why drafting 18-year-olds is such a crapshoot.


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About Wayne Fish 2451 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.