It lasted 56 seconds. It had 41 words. Most of them not useful at all, but that didn’t matter.

It was the tone. The tenor. The message. That’s what mattered.

Frankly, the messages are all that matter now for the free-falling Flyers, losers of 12-of-13 following a 3-2 defeat to New Jersey Saturday, a game they probably deserved to win, but didn’t.

Not counting the time in Columbus where he simply blew off his postgame press conference, this was the shortest post game press conference from John Tortorella to date.

And yet it told you everything you wanted to know:

In case you couldn’t hear the “dumb questions,” they were:

  • Did this game have a similar feel to you to the first Islanders game where guys put in an all-around strong effort and then a few lapses kind of bury you?
  • You talked a lot before the game about wanting to come out and play a game with better structure, where do you feel like you were able to –
  • I saw you talking to the referee after the disallowed goal, did you guys see anything you could’ve challenged for-
  • What in your evaluation was the reason for the loss?
  • Are you happy with the effort tonight?

I actually had a question teed up ready to go when he walked off, but honestly, I’m glad I didn’t get to ask it. This was better.

Some may look at it and just dismiss it as Torts being Torts – being difficult with the media, or making himself the story and – yes, Anthony, you are falling into the trap of writing about it. But it’s not. It’s much more than that.

What should be crystal clear now is just how committed Torts is to this team-building from the basement up that he is constantly talking about. He’s not lying when he talks about doing the most video work of his long coaching career. He’s not just saying it when he talks about the level of teaching and instruction that he’s doing – way much more than he’s ever had to do at the NHL level.

Sixers fans can cover their ears for a second, but if Tortorella dropped a “trust the process” at some point, it would be hard to doubt him and not buy into it.

And Saturday’s loss to New Jersey, which now has them just three points out of last place in the Eastern Conference (but just six points out of the Wild Card, Chuck Fletcher! Let’s Go!), was everything that should have been expected from this team if you believed in what Torts was saying all week.

Let’s review.

After being flat out embarrassed on National Television in a Black Friday home loss to Pittsburgh, Torts was tasked with teaching his “young and dumb” team to flush an effort like that and bounce back quickly.

They did, and played a spirited game in New York against the Islanders, despite losing 5-2 in a game that was significantly closer than that score would indicate.

He liked his team’s play. They brought it to a good team and for two periods were the better team, but didn’t know how to close it out. How to finish off a good team. How to find that extra juice needed to elevate yourself for the final 20 minutes when you know the opponent has that know how to  do that same thing.

So, after an off day Sunday, Torts pushed his team in a hard practice Monday. They needed it. They needed to know there was another gear. They needed to know what that gear felt like. They needed it to become muscle memory. How to push harder, even if you are fatigued or feeling a little pain.

Tuesday rolled around and it was Islanders again, and this time, the Flyers found that extra step. In another physical and emotional game – one that started with two fights in eight seconds – the Flyers did what they did on Saturday only longer – and better – and were rewarded for it with a 3-1 win.

Then came Thursday. You remember that day. That was the day where Tortorella and Fletcher sent mixed messages to the fans about the state of the team.  

It was also the day they played the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion (and two-time Stanley Cup-winning) Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s even another step up from the Islanders, and by the second period, the Flyers were overwhelmed by Tampa’s dominance and almost seemed in awe of it.

After that game, Torts told us he knew exactly what practice on Friday was going to focus on. It was another teaching moment. And basically, without saying it specifically, it was a message of “fear no one.” It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, you play your game, and never stop playing your game to allow them to play theirs and you will have a chance to win no matter the opponent.

He must have hammered that in for 48 hours because Saturday, against the first place Devils. It landed. And Torts was right with he last thing he said before he walked off the podium. They played their asses off.

In the first period, they held the Devils – who are undefeated on the road since losing opening night to the Flyers – to just four shots. A season-low for a period. In fact, they held the Devils without a shot on goal for 16 minutes between the first and second periods, absolutely controlling puck possession.

There was structure. There was excellent puck support. Team defense was sensational and Carter Hart looked sharp in goal. The Devils looked frustrated, confused, and frankly, mortal.

The only negative for the Flyers in the first 40 minutes was not being able to take advantage of opportunities. Yes, they scored a power play goal – finally (see below). But aside from that they couldn’t cash in against New Jersey backup goalie Akira Schmid, despite having a ton of chances to do so:

But then things started to go south in the third period. Not because of a fall off in effort, or energy, or intensity, but two misplays – mostly by Hart, although his defense didn’t help him on the Jack Hughes goal – ended up in the back of their net and they faced a 3-1 deficit.

First, Hart mishandled the puck behind the net. Whether it was bad communication or Hart just not rimming the puck out of danger, or both, he didn’t anticipate New Jersey’s Miles Wood to be on him so quickly and, well, it wasn’t pretty from there:

And then Ivan Provorv simply lost an edge defending Hughes on the wall. The talented Devils winger saw some space and took advantage:

Noah Cates and Rasmus Ristolainen need to recognize him coming toward the net with speed and try and prevent him from getting into that scoring position and Hart’s body angle was a little off too, but these things happen in hockey games and you have to be able to over come them – and the Flyers almost did.

From that point on, down 3-1 and the game slipping away, it would have been easy for the Flyers to go into the tank. They could have chalked it up to giving a great effort but just losing to a better team – much like the Islanders game a week earlier.

But they said, “Screw that. We’ve worked for this one. We deserve this one.

They didn’t relent. In fact, they found that next level. That level that was missing against Tampa. That level that basically flips the Devils status of being top dog in the division the double bird and says we’re still coming for you.

And they did. The final six-plus minutes of the game the Flyers were actually incredible. They controlled everything. They had the Devils on their heels and wobbly.

Lukas Sedlak cut it to 3-2 with a shot that had eyes and was through a great screen set by Zack MacEwen:

And they kept it up. The pressure intensified even more in the final two minutes wen Torts pulled Hart for an extra skater.

They did everything but score the tying goal, and the Devils escaped with a win, becoming the first NHL team to win 20 games, but they knew they got away with one. The Flyers deserved more. They deserved better. Ad yeah, the loss stings.

“You can probably see it on my face,” Provorov said after the game. “It is what it is. We will move on and try to figure out the next game.”

But the only thing missing was the result. Everything else was there.

“We did a lot of good things,” Konecny said. “I love that we stuck with it, no matter what was going on out there. They got the first one. We come right back. We just battled until the end. There’s a lot of good things to take from tonight.”

Including the coach being pissed off at the media for not asking the right questions – which would have pertained to this process he has been walking us through for a week.

He wants us all to see where the team is at the bottom and be able to appreciate with him each step in the rebuild (the right way). He wants us all to understand where the important checkpoints are in that process too. It doesn’t always have to come in wins. Sometimes, losses can be those checkpoints too.

And that was the question I was going to ask before he walked away – “Is this a checkpoint in your mind when it comes to building that foundation for future success – in playing a certain way not deterring from it, even in an adverse situation?”

And while one day soon I’ll ask him that in a reflective manner, him walking off after five questions citing dumb questions because they weren’t about what was most important in this game with a, by the way, “We played our asses off,” was exactly was all the answer I needed in the moment.

And it should be all the answer you needed, too.