It’s deja vu all over again. A goalie is hurt, the backup gets drilled in the appearance, and then comes out strong the next time out. The circumstances are a little bit different for the Flyers this time around. However, Sam Ersson had a dominant performance against the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-1 win to help end a three game slide and to give the team confidence, at least for now, that things could be okay.
In his first appearance a year ago, Errson was thrown to the wolves…err…the Hurricanes, rather. You could see he was a little star struck and somewhat shell shocked as the Canes hit him up for four goals pretty quick. He was pulled and replaced by Carter Hart. However, Hart got injured and had to leave the game after just 10 minutes.
With Hart down, the team turned to the duo of Ersson and Felix Sandstrom. Sandstrom had struggled previously as the team’s backup. Philly gave the keys to the net to Ersson.
Ersson quickly turned it around. He shook off his poor performance against Carolina and ripped off four straight wins, including his first career shutout against the Buffalo Sabres. This was also part of a post-Christmas stretch of games where the Flyers, sans-Hart, found themselves and went on a successful stretch of games where, following the loss to the Hurricanes, they won nine of their next eleven games.
Ersson would go on to have a successful season for a backup and would, again, take on more of the starting duty role when Hart got injured again near the end of the season. He had a 6-3 record in 10 starts and 12 appearances. He sported a .899 save percentage with a goals against average of 3.07. In comparison, Sandstrom appeared in 20 games, 18 as a starter, and had a .880 save percentage with a GAA of 3.72.
The Flyers rewarded Ersson with an extension this offseason. They also named him as the backup during training camp as he outplayed both Sandstrom and offseason acquisition Cal Petersen.
Truth be told, Ersson has struggled a bit this season. In his previous three games, he lost an OT game to Dallas giving up five goals and was tagged for seven goals against Anaheim. Recently, he was hit with the loss to Buffalo as he came in with the game tied when the Sabres scored after Hart’s exit.
Looking at it pragmatically, he’s looked uneasy in net. However, John Tortorella has stood by him. That paid off in the victory over Buffalo last night. That will continue to pay dividends as he gets more comfortable in net.
For Ersson, and the Flyers, his performance against a young, high powered offense shows he is making a statement. He wants to be the starter in the short term, and maybe long term as well. Hart has been a good goalie for the Flyers, but he has been rather injury prone and, because of that, has not been super reliable. Ersson’s performance is a statement that he wants the job.
It’s too early to tell if Ersson is the Flyers’ guy or if one of their prospects in the pipeline is the goalie of the future. One thing is sure, as long as Ersson gets a chance, he will play his heart out. Right now, he is in net. He’s not going to use this time to get playing time to remain the backup. No. He’s using this as an audition to prove he belongs in net permanently.