still in the process of learning how to continue to develop their games.
One day removed from the win and filling in for an ailing coach John Tortorella, assistant coach Brad Larsen said Tortorella was in charge of the forwards at that point and would have to speak on Panarin. But as the coach in charge of the defensemen, Larsen had some insight into Werenski.
“The second half of shifts, there are times where he’s got to gut it out and find ways to be stronger in those situations,” Larsen said after an optional skate on Friday morning at Nationwide Arena. “That’s part of the growth of any
defenseman. He’s going to be fine.”
With the Jackets leading 3-2, Werenski turned the wrong way while challenging for a puck and then Panarin pulled up as if expecting someone else to pick up his man as Sanheim skated into the zone unabated. After the game, Larsen called it a “coverage breakdown.”
Werenski was mostly mum on the situation, saying he didn’t receive an explanation for why he didn’t get back into the game but that he is “taking it in stride” as he prepared for the Capitals.
“I always want to play,” he said of watching late. “I don’t know.”
Is it a teachable moment for the thirdyear veteran?
“I guess,” he said. “I guess we’ll see how it goes.”
Larsen was quick not to pile on Werenski or Panarin while also pointing out that they are still relatively young players still with room to grow. Captain Nick Foligno said the late-game breakdowns amounted to giving the Flyers “freebie” goals with the types of mistakes that can cost a team when the stakes are raised late in the season.
He put it this way: sometimes the only way to grow in the NHL is to take some lumps along the way.
“Those guys are good pros,” Foligno said. “Z is only going to get better. Bread learns pretty quickly, as we’ve learned in this league. It can happen to anyone, it just happens to be those guys that night. It’s a good thing for everyone to see that accountability goes around the room.”
Werenski’s defensive game has been under a spotlight, particularly after playing with a significant shoulder injury last year that necessitated offseason surgery.
Although Larsen said Werenski needs to be more physical, he added that the shoulder injury has not impacted the defenseman’s season. He has spent time paired with Seth Jones as the top unit but was switched off to Markus Nutivaara midway through the Flyers game and replaced with Ryan Murray.
Asked how he has handled the juggling of the pairings, Werenski shrugged.
“I think fine,” he said. “I think I’ve done what they’ve asked me to do. It’s out of my control. Just going with whatever I’m told.”