Felix Sandstrom eager to compete with the Flyers

Felix Sandstrom will have an important chance to impress the Flyers and earn himself another contract.
Felix Sandstrom will have an important chance to impress the Flyers and earn himself another contract. / Rich Graessle/GettyImages

Changing things up with their backup goaltender was a strong possibility after Cal Petersen's dismal performance against the Penguins on Sunday. The Flyers, while scoring six goals, didn't necessarily play well as a whole. But Petersen's individual performance left plenty to be desired.

Petersen would be the backup as Sam Ersson helped the Flyers to a win over the Lightning on Tuesday. Coincidentally enough, Philadelphia scored six goals in that game as well. This time, their goaltender surrounded two goals. Goaltending can often help a team, especially when you feel confident said player can bail you out if need be.

Petersen was playing his third game since being called up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Jan. 23rd. His first game was four days after and came in relief of Ersson. With the All-Star break, Petersen would not play again until Feb. 10, giving up two goals in a 3-2 win over Seattle. And then came the disastrous outing against the Penguins.

While Petersen was put in a tough spot having mostly played down with the Phantoms, his numbers with the Flyers were not good enough. Hence the move to waive him on Wednesday and call up Felix Sandstrom on Thursday.

Glancing at Sandstrom's numbers, there is not a whole lot to like there either. He has struggled at the AHL level, though he has missed some time this season. He suffered an upper-body injury during a conditioning stint in November. Sandstrom would miss a little over three weeks before returning to action with the Phantoms.

Sandstrom himself classified his season as "up and down" but felt he was playing better over the last month. The numbers themselves don't necessarily agree, at least not in recent games. He is coming off a five-goal outing against the Charlotte Checkers, though the Phantoms would win that game in overtime. Going back to January, he gave up more than two goals in seven of his 10 games and more than four goals in four of those games. He did come out the winner in seven of those 10 games, including a streak of four straight wins before the call-up.

It's been said on numerous occasions this season, but Sandstrom is running out of time in this organization. Drafted in 2015, Sandstrom first appeared with the Flyers for five games during the 2021-22 season. He did not win a game, posting a 3.23 GAA and a .910 SV%. He gave up three or more goals in every game. Sandstrom would get a longer look the following season, appearing in 20 games. He earned his first NHL victory, though he only won three total games. He posted a 3.72 GAA and a .880 SV%.

He was often lamented for allowing a tough goal, or not making a key save when the team needed him the most. It was often clear that John Tortorella did not have an interest in what Sandstrom provided the team. That may have been clearer when Sandstrom hardly got into games this past preseason. He appeared in parts of two games, giving up one goal each to the Devils and Islanders.

Sandstrom likely has a lot to prove to his head coach when it comes to his abilities. He should get at least four or five starts the rest of the season, according to how Tortorella is looking at his goaltender rotation. He should get into one of the games this weekend as a starting point.

"I just didn't feel that Cal was good enough the last game," John Tortorella said after practice. "There hasn't been a big discrepancy down there with Sandy and Cal. It's not criticizing Cal, but we have probably four or five left that I think we'll use the backup. Sandy deserves a chance, too.

Sandstrom is a free agent after this season. With Alexei Kolosov on the way and other goaltending prospects in the pipeline, Sandstrom will need to impress if he wants to remain in the organization. He is certainly going to get a chance to do so.