Tortorella honest about Flyers not losing perspective on ‘weird situation' in net

Tortorella honest about Flyers not losing perspective on ‘weird situation' in net originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers are having their worst losing streak of the season at the worst possible time.

They've dropped seven consecutive games, a stretch in which they've been outscored 33-15. They've gone from holding a playoff spot since December to chasing one in the final week and a half of the season.

"We're all working hard, we're all trying," Travis Konecny said Monday after practice. "Everyone believes. We've just got to do our job, go out there, win as many games as we possibly can and see what the result is."

Goaltending is often deemed the most important position in the game. And the Flyers have experienced obstacles at that all-important position this season, so much so that they're riding two rookies in gut-check time.

One rookie is 24 years old and has had to play more than anyone imagined he would at the start of the season. The other rookie is 27 and just arrived to North America after a challenging journey.

On the season, the Flyers have the NHL's second-biggest shot differential, outshooting opponents by 465 shots. But they own the league's second-to-lowest save percentage at .885.

Through this costly seven-game skid, the Flyers have really struggled to score despite outshooting their opponent in every loss (plus-81 differential).

"It's not a blame game, but we've struggled a little bit in goal," head coach John Tortorella said Monday after practice. "Some of the games have been tough for the goalies because we have given so few chances and then it's hard to play those type of games. But it's the time of year where we're trying to get in, goals are going in and we're not scoring. So it's kind of a perfect storm where we're at right now. I think our concept is there, I think we're trying, but we just haven't found our way."

The Flyers lost their No. 1 goalie Jan. 23 when Carter Hart requested a personal leave of absence because of a sexual assault case. Samuel Ersson handled the lead role admirably but has undoubtedly become worn down.

"I've played the hell out of him," Tortorella said. "And he's tired."

Since Jan. 18, Ersson has appeared in 28 of the Flyers' 34 games. Only the Sabres' Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has played in more games over that stretch (29). The Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Capitals' Charlie Lindgren have also appeared in 28.

In his first full NHL season, Ersson has gone 21-17-7 with a 2.88 goals-against average, an .889 save percentage and three shutouts.

"Let's face it, things got thrown into a really weird situation when we lost Carter," Tortorella said. "But having said that, we had discussions in the summer about the situation with Carter and figured something was going to go on, right? We've got to be honest about it, it's not a great situation for our team when we lost him. But it showed me a lot of good things about a specific guy in Ers, how he handled it. But it has been a lot. I made the decision — I made the decision — that I'm going to live or die with Ers when I played him all those games."

A week ago, Ivan Fedotov became the fifth goalie to play for the Flyers this season. Three days ago, he made his first career NHL start. Not even two weeks ago, he was suddenly being introduced by the Flyers after a long and uncertain wait.

With two rookies in net for an unexpected playoff race, the Flyers' coaches and management have to keep it all in perspective.

"Yes, absolutely," Tortorella said. "Everybody throws the numbers that are out there and the numbers are bad, right? But we're not even talking about these games meaning anything for us if Ers doesn't play the way he has played. Then I throw Ivan in a situation, who knows where the hell he came from. He has to play a game. We have Ers penciled in at maybe playing 18 to 22 games this year. Look where he's at now. So there's no blaming.

"Everybody has to give skin here, it's everything. Coaches, offense, defense, goaltending — we're all involved in this to try to get this turned around and we're running out of minutes."

The Flyers have four games to go, starting Tuesday when they visit the Canadiens (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).

"Just to get a result and I think we'll get some of the swagger back," Tortorella said. "We're teetering there and just feeling it that way as a group. My responsibility is to just try to instill some confidence within them."

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