Flyers take care of business against last-place Blackhawks

Travis Sanheim

      As early as last Saturday night’s outdoor game in New Jersey, Flyers coach John Tortorella worried out loud a visit to the last-place Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night might wind up being a trap game.

      Apparently his team was paying attention.

      They took care of business with a workmanlike effort, putting away the young Hawks for a 3-1 win at the United Center in Chicago and ending a two-game winless (0-1-1) bump in the road.

      Goaltender Sam Ersson picked up his 16th win of the season, putting him well ahead of the field of NHL freshman goalies.

      The Flyers played to a 1-1 tie after one period, then broke it open with a pair of goals in the second.

      Travis Konecny lugged the puck end-to-end for an unassisted goal at 3:15. Konecny dodged a pair of checks at center ice, then sailed in alone on goal for a shot past netminder Arvid Soderblom.

      Then Garnet Hathaway put back the rebound of a Noah Cates shot at 11:55 and this one was pretty much over.

      A fortunate bounce led to the Flyers’ first goal.

      Travis Sanheim fired a fairly harmless looking shot on goal and the puck appeared to be going wide. But the puck nicked off the stick of defenseman Alex Vlasic and past Soderblom at 6:18 of the first period.

      It didn’t take long for Chicago to respond.

      Just a minute and 17 seconds later, Colin Blackwell eluded the sliding check of Flyers defenseman Jamie Drysdale with a brilliant toe-drag move, then wristed a shot beyond the grasp of Ersson for the 1-1 tie.

      Even though the Flyers outshot the Blackhawks by a 16-7 margin in the first 20 minutes, Konecny said the Flyers gave up too many odd-man rushes.

      “Yeah, we don’t like the rushes going back the other way,” Konecny said in a televised interview. “We talked about being above the puck. It’s a cliché but it’s winning hockey. We just got back to the basics in the second.”

      >Frost stays steady

      After some ups and downs early in the season, Morgan Frost seems to be finding his stride once again. Last year, the center enjoyed a breakthrough season with 19 goals and now he’s finding the range again.

      Frost wasn’t satisfied with his performance in the 6-3 loss to New Jersey in the Stadium Series game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. last weekend and he sounds determined to make that a one-and-done.

      “I still have a fair amount of mishaps,” he said of his season although he’s sporting a plus-6. “Like in the outdoor game. I’m working hard to be good on both sides of the puck.”

      Coach John Tortorella has noticed the difference and Frost appreciates that.

      “I think he sees that I’m kind of feeling it out there,” Frost said. “He’s giving me more ice time. I think if I’m having a good game, he’s more willing to put me out there in those last few minutes.”

      It’s somewhat eye-opening to remember Frost was a first-round pick (27th overall) way back in the 2017 NHL Draft. For Frost, it’s been a rather long road but he seems to be finding his stride now.

      Frost has been benched on three different occasions this season but whatever was bothering Tortorella seems to be settled for the time being. The coach wants Frost to make more and better use of the vertical dimension of center ice.

      “Just trying to attack defenders a little bit more in the open ice,” Frost said. “I’ve been a little bit on the perimeter, that’s always the way I’ve played. Trying to make a conscious effort to get to the net more, drive through the middle of the ice. That’s what I’m focusing on.”

      >Short shots

      The Flyers get back into action with a pair of weekend games, first playing the New York Rangers on Saturday (3 p.m.) at the Wells Fargo Center, then taking on the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Sunday (3 p.m.). . .Chicago head coach Luke Richardson, a former Flyer player, played briefly for Tortorella in 2006-07 when the two were together in Tampa Bay. . .The Flyers went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Both defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (upper-body injury) and Tyson Foerster (lower-body injury) remain sidelined with injuries. . .On the national TNT broadcast, commentator Brian Boucher, who played goaltender for both the Flyers and Blackhawks, said Ersson deserves some consideration for the NHL Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. Ersson has been pressed into a No. 1 role after the recent departure of former regular starter Carter Hart. . .The Draft Kings odds board for the Jack Adams Trophy (best NHL coach) currently looks pretty familiar. Vancouver’s Rick Tocchet (ex-Flyers player) stands as the odds-on favorite with Tortorella third. . .Flyers improved to 16-8-4 on the road. . .Konecny extended his point-scoring streak to seven games.

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About Wayne Fish 2472 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.