Flyers analysis

Tortorella: Flyers wouldn't have ‘a sniff' of the playoffs without Ersson

The 24-year-old rookie goaltender has appeared in 27 of the Flyers' last 32 games

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VOORHEES, N.J. — Samuel Ersson didn't need to hear from John Tortorella when the head coach turned over the Flyers' net to Ivan Fedotov after the first period Monday night.

The 24-year-old rookie got it. The Flyers needed a spark and he wasn't providing it.

"I haven't talked to him," Ersson said Thursday following practice. "I don't think he needs to say anything. It's one of those moments when they feel like they need to make a change for the team just to try to muster up some energy into the team. Those decisions are going to be made from time to time. For me, obviously you never want to get pulled, but it's going to happen. I just reset and focus on the next challenge ahead."

Tortorella has not lost faith in Ersson, who has been pulled from three of his last 10 starts. In that span, Ersson has gone 3-4-2 with a 4.09 goals-against average and an .848 save percentage.

He has played a lot, more than anyone ever imagined he would at the start of the season. Since Jan. 18, Ersson has appeared in 27 of the Flyers' last 32 games. Entering Thursday, no NHL goalie had played in more games over that stretch. The Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Sabres' Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen have also played in 27.

With six games to go, the Flyers are trying to stabilize and finish off a surprise playoff push. They've lost five straight (0-3-2) and 15 of their last 22 (7-10-5), the most recent loss coming three days ago when Tortorella summoned Fedotov for Ersson to start the second period.

Like they did earlier this season, the Flyers are going to need Ersson if they want to make the playoffs.

"We're not even talking about trying to be better to get in at this time if it wasn't for Sam," the Flyers' head coach said Thursday. "It's a crazy situation with our goaltending this year. We don't have a sniff of having an opportunity with six games left to get in if Sam Ersson doesn't play the way he has played.

"He has played a ton of hockey of late. That was the decision we made, I just didn't have confidence in some of the situations with our backups at that particular time. He has probably played too much. But we have not lost a moment of confidence in Sam."

More: Flyers happy to have Fedotov, don't see a distraction 'at all'

Tortorella is right about Ersson's impact.

From Nov. 3 to Jan. 18, the Flyers went 21-9-5 over a 35-game span. In that stretch, Ersson went 12-3-2 with a 1.82 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

Prior to struggling over his last 10 starts, Ersson had gone 6-3-2 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .908 save percentage out of the bye week and All-Star break.

On the season, he's 21-16-7 with a 2.81 goals-against average and an .891 save percentage. He was thrown into No. 1 duties Jan. 23 when Carter Hart requested a personal leave of absence because of a sexual assault case.

The question then was how far could Ersson take the Flyers?

"The amount that he has played, it's almost unfair to look at his numbers because we've put him in that spot," Tortorella said. "He accounts for himself very well. I'm sure he's licking his chops, he wants to make a difference to help us get through it here."

Ersson has looked worn down recently. The Flyers had 15 games in March and he played 12 of them. This week, they've had three days between games, a much-needed break for the rookie goalie.

"We've played a lot of games, especially last month," Ersson said. "It felt like we played every other day for a whole month. It's a lot and you have to take advantage of these moments, if you get a couple of days in between games to kind of reset and do things to save some energy. Just get back to it."

The Flyers have a back-to-back set this weekend when they visit the Sabres on Friday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and the Blue Jackets on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP). They probably have already made their decision on how they'll split the net.

"Just when you think you're losing him, he bounces back," Tortorella said of Ersson. "That's a great thing about him. So we'll see."

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