The Philadelphia Flyers have hit the West Coast for their annual road trip while Disney on Ice visits the Wells Fargo Center for the holiday season. They opened with a dramatic 4-3 victory in overtime against the San Jose Sharks. A red-hot Travis Konecny became the first Flyer since Sean Couturier in 2019 to record four consecutive multipoint games. Tony DeAngelo scored the game-winner to finish off a three-point night and give the Flyers their first win after regulation in 2022-23. They will travel to face the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 31 and the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 2 to round out the trip.
Injury to Carter Hart
Carter Hart left a matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, Dec. 23 after a collision with Seth Jarvis in the Philadelphia crease. Some mixed messaging from the organization led to confusion about Hart’s status. He is currently on injured reserve and taking steps to clear concussion protocol. Part of the protocol was practicing with the team in Vorhees, NJ on Dec. 28 before the team left for the West Coast.
The Flyers took three goaltenders on the road trip. Samuel Ersson played in the victory against the Sharks while Felix Sandström backed him up. They have not announced a starter for the New Year’s Eve matinee against the Kings. Hart hopes to be available for the game in Los Angeles and for the final game of the road trip against the Ducks.
Related: Flyers’ Gauthier Could Bring Fans Hope at 2023 World Juniors
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Ersson allowed six goals in his first career NHL start against the Hurricanes. Head coach John Tortorella pulled him in favor of Hart during the second period, but the 23-year-old reentered after the injury. He settled down and kept a strong Carolina attack scoreless the rest of the night. The Flyers cut a 6-2 deficit to 6-5 in the third period. Although they didn’t complete the comeback, they left knowing that their rookie goaltender could keep them in a game even in an unusual circumstance after a rough start.
Tortorella Finally Says Flyers Are “Rebuilding”
Nauseating conversations about retooling and rebuilding have dominated the storylines surrounding the Flyers for the majority of the past two seasons. Prominent members of the organization had been avoiding the label of a rebuild, although the semantics of the situation make minimal impact on the decisions of the hockey operations department. Tortorella finally cracked in an interview with Jason Myrtetus on the Flyers Daily podcast.
“I think you can do some damage to building a foundation of a team if you want it too quickly when you’re just not ready to go there. I’ve made mistakes that way with individuals and with teams. (The problem) is you want it so badly, you forget and you miss some steps. That’s when you start spinning your wheels in the mud. We’re rebuilding here. It’s from the ground floor, and we need to build it the proper way without skipping steps,” he said.
Tortorella’s proclamation of a rebuild doesn’t mean much for the 2022-23 season for a team at the bottom of the league standings. The Flyers were always likely to move a few veterans before the trade deadline to get draft capital in return. However, the larger issue is an apparent disagreement between decision-makers within the organization. General manager Chuck Fletcher has resisted the idea of a rebuild repeatedly. Does the opinion of the head coach outweigh the architect of the team? The Flyers have some major decisions to make in the upcoming months.
Gauthier at World Juniors
Top prospect Cutter Gauthier is representing Team USA at the World Junior Championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick. Bill Meltzer recently compared the fifth-overall pick to veteran sniper Max Pacioretty. He spoke optimistically about Gauthier’s first season at Boston College and the possibility that he turns pro after just one season at the NCAA level.
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“He has a high degree of maturity and a higher hockey sense than I thought he had coming into this year. He very well might be able to play pro next season if that’s what he chooses to do,” Meltzer said.
Team USA holds a 2-1 record at the World Juniors. They opened with a 5-2 victory over Team Latvia but stumbled in their second game with a 6-3 loss against Team Slovakia. They got back on the winning track against Team Switzerland on Thursday, Dec. 29 with a 5-1 victory. They will face Finland on New Year’s Eve in their last game of group play.
Gauthier earned the secondary assist on a highlight-reel goal on the power play against the Swiss. On the play, Rutger McGroarty dished a fancy pass to Logan Cooley for the finish. Gauthier didn’t find the scoresheet in the tournament opener, but he has four assists in the last two games for the Americans.
Gauthier registered five shots on goal (SOG) in 19:21 of ice time with a plus-1 rating against Latvia. He followed it up with four SOG in 17:51 and a minus-2 against Slovakia and two SOG with an even rating in 16:34 against Switzerland.
Brian Zanetti is also playing in his second World Junior tournament in less than half a year for Team Switzerland. Philadelphia’s fourth-round selection in 2021 has one assist in three games played. The Swiss won their first two games in overtime before falling to Team USA.