Saturday night's loss in Arizona was further marred by what appeared to be a serious injury to Flyers captain and star center Claude Giroux, who was boarded by Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
You can see that hit here.
Hanzal was given a major penalty for boarding and was tossed from the game. As for Giroux, there was speculation that he may have briefly lost consciousness on the play before getting back up and heading into the locker room for the remainder of the game.
Given the nature of the injury as well as Giroux's concussion history, there were plenty of reasons to be concerned despite some optimism from the player and team post-game. As Charlie wrote in his observations about the game:
A long-term injury to Claude Giroux, on the other hand, would cut down on Philadelphia's postseason chances dramatically. The Flyers' top line center was pushed into the boards head-first by Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal, and was prone on the ice for at least a minute before skating off under his own power. After the game, the media was given full access to Giroux and he claimed to feel fine, but concussion symptoms can appear days after the initial trauma, so he's not out of the woods yet. Most concerning is that Giroux does have a concussion history, and he most likely suffered his last one a little over a month ago courtesy of P.K. Subban. The fact that he seemed fine after the game is definitely a good sign, but the real test will be how he feels on Monday prior to the morning skate.
Any injury to the head is concerning for the well-being of Giroux, who as noted has had problems with concussions before (and, likely, as recently as February). In addition, from a hockey standpoint, it goes without saying that the Flyers are a much worse team if Giroux is not on the ice for any period of time.
However, it sounds as though Giroux has recovered nicely since yesterday evening and will be available as soon as Monday against Winnipeg.
#Flyers update on Claude Giroux: Per Ron Hextall, he was fine last night after the game and he is fine today.— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) March 27, 2016
Per #Flyers, Claude Giroux is "fine" with neither an injury not illness.— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) March 27, 2016
It's always tough to tell with head/neck injuries and potential concussions, even hours and days after the fact, so we're left hoping that the Flyers have done their due diligence here when it comes to their star player if they're outright declaring Giroux to be fine (and that he's still feeling fine at this time tomorrow). With that said, for the time being, the team's insistence that he is OK is certainly a positive, and the fact that he's expected to play tomorrow is good news for him personally and for the Flyers.
In other news from last night's bloodbath of a hockey game, the Inquirer's Sam Carchidi says that there will be no hearings on either Hanzal for his hit on Giroux or on Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas for his earlier hit on Coyotes captain Shane Doan.
The news that Hanzal will not face additional discipline likely will not sit well with Flyers fans, who were surely left furious at their captain being unavailable for the final minutes of a game due to a hit that was deemed illegal. But it's possible that the NHL Department of Player Safety figured that the 5-and-a-game penalty already levied to Hanzal on the ice was a sufficient penalty for his actions, or that Giroux lost his balance on his way towards the boards and that factored into the apparent severity of the hit. It's unlikely we'll get further explanation at this point.
As for Gudas, it was this hit early in the third period that took Doan out of the game and had Coyotes coach Dave Tippett looking for discipline after the game:
Gudas hit on Doan pic.twitter.com/1GhBO7f1Vx— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 27, 2016
The two were a bit tangled up as Gudas nudged Doan towards the boards from the faceoff circle, and as they headed into the boards, Gudas got up just in time to lay what was essentially a hip-check into Doan's head as Doan himself hit the boards. Doan's immediate reaction to the hit was worrisome, and it was unsurprising that he didn't come back to the game (though, Tippett stated that that was done as a precaution and that Doan "[seemed] fine", which is good to hear).
Gudas was not penalized for the above hit in the game, and it seems he won't be punished further by the NHL. It's another near miss for Gudas, who's found himself just avoiding discipline for a few hits in the past couple of months. With that said, it's possible for one to see the contact to the head as an accident that was a product of the way the two headed towards the boards and the timing of Gudas getting his body back upright. Like with the Hanzal hit, it's tough to say without further insight from the Department of Player Safety itself.
Regardless of whether you saw the hit as dirty or an unfortunate accident, Tippett's anger at there being no penalty on the ice is understandable, and you can be sure he won't be happy about the NHL's decision to not pursue additional punishment. But it appears that what's done is done.