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Flyers vs. Devils 2024 Stadium Series: Sights, scenes and Tortorella’s trust

In Sports
February 17, 2024

Flyers vs. Devils 2024 Stadium Series: Sights, scenes and Tortorella’s trust originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — John Tortorella has said it before and he reiterated it again Friday.

He trusts his team.

With the Flyers in the stretch drive of a surprise playoff push, they’re breaking away from the norm this weekend.

The 2024 Stadium Series, an outdoor event and the festivities that come with it, a venue lit up with attractions and national promotion.

The Flyers square off with the Devils in prime time Saturday at MetLife Stadium (8 p.m. ET/ABC).

And Tortorella isn’t worried about reining in his players.

“I’m leaving them alone,” the Flyers’ head coach said Friday after his team’s outdoor practice and family skate. “We had our practice, we probably won’t meet tomorrow. I’m thankful we were able to get them out there for a half hour with their families to let them enjoy it. I trust our team. I want them to enjoy the experience. They’ll be ready to play. I don’t have to worry about that because I know they’ll be ready to play.”

2024 NHL Stadium Series

2024 NHL Stadium Series

‘The word belief is huge for us’

Sean Couturier echoed his head coach.

Named the team’s captain just two days ago, Couturier doesn’t anticipate making a pregame speech.

“I trust every single guy in the room,” he said. “I think we’ve done a great job all year of handling ourselves and growing as a team. I haven’t really had much to say all year, to be honest, because guys are on the task and ready to go.”

The Flyers have flipped a rebuilding narrative into a postseason run. They’re in third place of the Metropolitan Division and entered Friday with a 78 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com’s probabilities report. At 29-19-7 and with 27 games left, they’re only three wins away from surpassing last season’s total (31-38-13).

“The word belief is huge for us,” Tortorella said. “We’re not a team full with stars, we certainly don’t have things figured out here at the beginning of our process of rebuilding this, but belief brings in a lot of good things. If you have the effort and you have the mindset that we’re going to do this together, you can stay competitive in this league.”

More: Flyers release new 2024 NHL Stadium Series jersey

‘Jersey is on right on our tails’

Outdoor spectacle aside, the Flyers’ matchup with the Devils is a critical game for the Metropolitan Division race.

The Flyers are seven points ahead of fourth-place New Jersey. But the Devils have played two fewer games than the Flyers and meet them again in April.

“We’ve put ourselves in a pretty good spot here and obviously Jersey is on right on our tails,” Joel Farabee said, “so this is a really big game in terms of the standings.”

The Flyers are 1-3-1 all-time in outdoor games. History and records tend to matter less when there are uncontrollable factors of playing outside.

“You just never know where these games go,” Tortorella said. “There are a lot of things going on around the players. It’s my job, after they’re done with their families, just to get them ready to play a very important game for us.”

Same style outdoors?

After hammering home defensive principles last season, his first as the Flyers’ head coach, Tortorella has wanted the Flyers to push the envelope offensively this season. They’ve been a team that is not afraid to make mistakes.

When the Flyers are playing to their identity, they’re taking away time and space, which then generates speed and scoring off the rush.

In an outdoor game, though, there always seems to be an emphasis on simplifying. The Flyers will look to strike the right balance.

“I think you’re still trying to treat it like any other game, but just the circumstances of it, you might have to change the game a little bit,” Morgan Frost said. “I think that’s a good thing about our group, I think we’re versatile in that way, we can play a few different styles.”

Nick Seeler has almost personified how the Flyers want to play. He’s a team-best plus-18 and leads the NHL in blocked shots with 161. It’s a hard, aggressive style with little hesitation.

“The reason we’ve had success this year is because we’ve kind of taken risks, jumping up, trying to kill plays early, surfing,” the Flyers’ defenseman said. “Tomorrow, I think we have to do the same thing, but obviously know the conditions, keep it simple early just to gather yourselves in a way. That first five minutes is going to be really important to set the tone for our team. I think keep it simple early, but at the same time, we have to play our game to be successful.”

Memories and thrills

One season during the holiday break, Frost asked the trainers if he could bring home his backup skates.

He wanted to play outside like he did as a kid in the Toronto area.

“I went on the ice with my buddies during Christmas,” Frost said. “When I was growing up, that was all we did, all winter. Kind of cool to bring back a few memories. It’s obviously a little different — you’re not in someone’s backyard, you’re playing in front of however-many-thousand people.”

In June, the NHL said it was anticipating over 75,000 fans for each Stadium Series game. On Sunday, the Rangers and Islanders will meet to cap off the outdoor event.

Temperatures are expected to dip below 30 degrees for Flyers-Devils. Frost and Farabee said the ice surface was “really good” for practice.

The Flyers are also enjoying the spacious Jets locker room.

“This is incredible,” Frost said. “It’s so big, the guys are on the other side of the room, it feels like it’s a different locker room.

“This facility is unbelievable. I’ve been saying that all day, every turn I make around the building, I’m just like, ‘Wow, this is awesome.’ The setup out there is so cool, too. Very fortunate.”

Hello, old friend

The Flyers know well of the damage Jack Hughes can do for the Devils.

But if they need any more tips on the scouting report, Cam York would be a good guy to ask.

The Flyers’ defenseman played with Hughes on the U.S. national team development program’s star-studded 2018-19 squad.

“We grew up together, played together for two years at the program,” York said. “We’re really good buddies. I’m excited for him, I know he’s excited to be here and play in this game, like we all are. It’s going to be just a really fun atmosphere.”

More: Couturier fine after stinger, York practices but unsure on Stadium Series status

2024 NHL Stadium Series

2024 NHL Stadium Series

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