As Philadelphia Flyers training camp rolls along, the team will begin to take shape over the next week or so. Battles will become clearer as players make their cases for a coveted spot in the NHL. The Flyers have a few of those battles taking place amongst their roster.
Eyes have been on the likes of Tyson Foerster and Bobby Brink up front while the backend features names such as Ronnie Attard, Egor Zamula, and Emil Andrae. But one of the tightest completions appears to be in net. With just one spot available, Sam Ersson and Felix Sandstrom look to have the edge after a disappointing first outing by Cal Petersen.
There are still a few more preseason games to go and all of the above players will certainly have more time to prove their cases to the Flyers’ staff on why they deserve to make the final roster come mid-October.
Battle for the backup spot
It’s well known that Carter Hart is the number one goaltender for the Flyers. He will handle the lion’s share of work during the season. What the team needs is a backup that is capable of giving Hart some much needed rest while also giving the team a chance to win. There was going to be plenty of competition coming into camp with only one spot available.
The ones with the most to prove center around Petersen and Sandstrom. The former is coming off a disappointing season in which he was buried in the AHL after his numbers quickly declined as he lost playing time with the Kings. Once expected to take over the starting role in Los Angeles, Petersen is now hoping for a fresh start in a new situation. He was given the opportunity in the Flyers’ opening game of the preseason against the New Jersey Devils. In two periods of play, Petersen was tagged for five goals.
"”I think I have the ability to stop every goal. I want to do that for my teammates. I’m gonna look at those and look at what I could’ve done to make those saves. Sometimes you do things right and the puck still goes in.” Petersen said about how to evaluate himself after a tough first game."
While the team in front of him didn’t do much to help, Petersen never looked comfortable in net. He was shaky on rebounds and often slow to come across the crease. It was not an ideal first impression for the veteran netminder. It’s only preseason and the Flyers had a relatively inexperienced lineup in front of him. But there are only so many chances for Petersen to show his new team that he can be relied upon.
Meanwhile Sandstrom has appeared in 40 minutes worth of play and has given up two goals on 16 shots. Coming back after a season in which he recorded a 3-12-3 record, Sandstrom has to show the Flyers that he can turn things around before it’s too late. A record doesn’t necessarily tell the entire story. The biggest issues for Sandstrom last season was giving up that one goal a game that caused things to snowball afterward. In his last four starts, he gave up 4+ goals in each one. Two of those saw him give up five goals while the other stood at six. He only came out with the win in one of them.
"“I’m battling to get a shot here and the other guys are too. We’re just battling hard every day and at the end of the day, I hope to play as many games as I can. That’s where my focus is. Play as good as I can and show that I deserve a spot on the team.” Sandstrom said about his current mindset."
Ersson seems to be the favorite to win the role after impressing during a small sample size last season. Winning six of his first seven starts, there is no doubt the Flyers have plenty of confidence in him. They showed that by extending him this past offseason despite the small amount of games at the NHL level. He’s appeared in two periods, taking over for Sandstrom against the Islanders. He looked just as calm and collected at he always has. It’s how he’s always looked, going back to the games he got into last season. It never seemed as if there was a moment where things got too big for Ersson or he seemed like he wasn’t able to rise to the occasion. That is something he will have to continue to prove and is exactly what drew John Tortorella toward him.
"”I think he’s got the right swagger. It’s not on the wrong side of it where he’s not doing his work. I just think he handles himself very well. ‘Alright that didn’t work there, but I’ll be ready. It’s not gonna get me.’ That’s what I kind of appreciate about him.” Tortorella said about Ersson’s mental approach to the game."
None of the three have gotten a full game of work yet so nothing can be decided off of their small sample sizes. Each of them will get more opportunities and will have to win the job based on merit. While Ersson is the only goaltender that is waiver exempt, that isn’t necessarily something that the Flyers will be looking at when it comes to their final roster. It’s important to try and keep as much depth as possible, hence the reason the team has stocked the pipeline with more goaltenders. But this specific job is up to whomever wants it most.
Four more games to go before the Flyers final roster will be revealed.
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