Felix Sandstrom took the lead in the duel for the Philadelphia Flyers’ backup goalie spot Saturday night, but this is going to be a battle that probably won’t be decided until late in training camp.
In one corner is Sandstrom, 25, who was solid with the Phantoms and in five games with the Flyers (.910 save percentage) last season.
In the other corner is journeyman Troy Grosenick, 33, who was stellar with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, compiling a 2.00 GAA and .933 save percentage.
Both played in the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2-1 preseason win over the Boston Bruins at the sparsely filled Wells Fargo Center. It was the first of six preseason games for Philly.
Grosenick was good.
Sandstrom was excellent.
“They were great,” said Phantoms coach Ian Laperriere, who directed the Flyers on Saturday as John Tortorella watched from the press level. “They’re battling for the backup spot, and they showed why.”
The goalies divided time. Sandstrom stopped all 17 shots he faced in the first half of the game. Grosenick turned aside 14 of 15 in the second half.
“It’s tough for Grosenick to come in in the second half,” Laperriere said. “You’re cold. You go in the back for warmup, but both of them made huge saves on the (penalty) kills.”
The Flyers were 6 for 6 on the penalty kill, largely because of their goalies.
“I feel it’s going to be a battle for the next couple weeks to see who’s going to get the backup job,” said Laperriere, mindful that Samuel Ersson is a dark-horse candidate to be Carter Hart’s backup. “So far, it’s a great start for both of them.”
Flyers right winger Wade Allison goes back a long way with Sandstrom. He wasn’t surprised by his strong showing Saturday.
“He was elite tonight,” said Allison, who stuck up for teammate Antoine Roussel by fighting Connor Carrick in the first period. “The stops he made were fantastic. … I’ve been with him for six or seven years (including development camps) and I expect that from him. I see it all the time. I see it in practice every day; he’s unbelievable.”
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) September 25, 2022
Sandstrom, a third-round selection in 2015, said his brief time with the Flyers last season gave him confidence entering camp.
“It’s something I took with me all summer,” the Swede said. “It’s motivation, too. You know how much fun it is to be here. Good motivation for summer and for camp, and I just have to keep going now.”
Grosenick played for the Boston Bruins’ AHL affiliate last year, so he faced a lot of former teammates Saturday.
“Fun,” he said. “I’m old enough now that I’ve probably played against or with at least one player on just about every team we play against. … But it was fun to share some laughs out there, and it helped me play loose.”
Grosenick was asked about the competition with Sandstrom for the No. 2 spot.
“You’re always competing against your teammates anyway — no matter if it’s training camp, the American League or the NHL,” he said. “And that’s what makes teams better. Friendly competition. Pushing each other.”
At the end of the night, he said, “you’re supporting one another. It’s a team-first game. We’re going to compete and have fun doing it.”
Said Sandstrom: “You’re competing all the time, but it’s so much more fun to play when you’re friends. He’s a great guy. Great to hang around with.”
The loser of the Sandstrom-Grosenick competition would have to pass through waivers to go the the AHL’s Phantoms.
The Flyers will practice Sunday in Voorhees, and also hold intrasquad scrimmages at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. It’s free and open to the public. … Philly plays a preseason game Tuesday in Buffalo, then hosts Washington on Wednesday. … The Flyers open their season Oct. 13 against visiting New Jersey.