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Senators 3, Flyers 1: The dawn of a new era doesn’t look so bright

Flyers fall to the Senators in a spectacularly boring game

Philadelphia Flyers v Ottawa Senators Photo by André Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

So the Flyers played a hockey game tonight. Though, truthfully, it didn’t really feel right. The post-Claude Giroux era has technically not started yet. He is still officially under contract with the Flyers, and until either a trade is finalized or the deadline passes, we won’t really experience the true post-Giroux era (P.G.E.). But our captain didn’t even travel with the team to Ottawa to take on the Senators tonight and we all (I all, at least) had to watch a Flyers team that, in my immediate period of mourning I realized, I have no real interest in watching. Again: it just felt wrong. Is this what cheating feels like? Because it’s not exhilarating, it’s just downright uninteresting.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. The Flyers—already one of the worst teams in the NHL and now without their best player—lost to the Ottawa Senators—one of the other worst teams in the NHL. It was a close game, if only because nobody really did much of anything for a majority of the 60 minutes of ice time, but an empty netter all but sealed with almost 3 minutes left on the clock.

So, the Flyers gain some ground in the race to the bottom on one of their biggest competitors, falling to 19-31-11 on the season. They’re back to last place in the Metro, dropping below the New Jersey Devils once again, and they’re now tied in points with the Senators.

First period

Flyers went to a power play after Erik Brännström sent a puck clean over the glass. The Flyers looked competent during the two minutes, but predictably came away without a goal. The best chance of the opening 10 minutes came on a Joel Farabee shot off a turnover and the two teams were tied in shots at the midway mark. Just past that point, Tim Stützle picked up a stray pass in the offensive zone and just wired it over Martin Jones’ right shoulder and just below the crossbar.

With around 7:00 left in the first, Brady Tkachuk and Zack MacEwen came together, resulting in a high-sticking penalty for the former and a pending trip to the team dentist for the latter. The Senators killed off the penalty and once we were back to evens, it was just a few minutes before Rasmus Ristolainen took a pretty obvious interference penalty on Connor Brown and spent the rest of the period in the box. Risto decided to take that whole “defenseman puts himself in between a charging offensive player and the recently dumped puck he’s chasing” thing to the next level and just completely body Brown.

By the end of the period, the Senators had outshot the Flyers 11-9, including 9-6 at even strength, and outscored them 1-0.

Second period

The Flyers killed off the remainder of the penalty to start off the second, and then both teams slid the puck around the ice for 6 more minutes before the Flyers broke through for a goal when James van Riemsdyk made a bank pass to the point from behind the net to Ristolainen, who fired the puck to the net where Cam Atkinson tipped it just enough to deflect into the net. The goal was Atkinson’s 23rd of the season and first as an alternate captain of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Everything else about the period was basically the same as the first. The Senators outshot the Flyers 13-9 at all strengths and 13-7 at even strength, but the Flyers outscored them 1-0 and brought a tie into the second intermission.

Third period

There wasn’t a ton of notable action throughout most of the third, at least until around 8 minutes in, when there were suddenly a rash of penalties from both teams. A Risto-Tkachuck scrum put them both in the box, then a Justin Braun-Alex Formenton altercation but them in the box as well, and just a few seconds later Morgan Frost was sent to the box for hooking without an Ottawa counterpart, putting the Flyers down a man. The Senators scored on the 4-on-3 relatively quickly on a big one-timer from Josh Norris, his 25th of the season.

Patrick Brown would send the Senators back up a man in the second half of the final period when he was caught tripping Tim Stützle. The Flyers killed it off, and Joel Farabee, streaking through the neutral zone, got tripped up by Austin Watson and the Flyers had a prime opportunity to tie the game. Flyers coach Mike Yeo elected to make it a 6-on-4 with a full 3 minutes left, and after a few Flyers attempts, most notably from Cam Atkinson at point blank range, Alex Formenton hit the empty net from long range to put the Senators up by 2. The Flyers went right back at it, and Atkinson got a full two more excellent scoring chances, both right at the lip of Anton Forsberg’s crease. The Flyers made a go of the rest of the game, but couldn’t solve Forsberg and left Ottawa winless on top of captainless.

Stray observations:

  • The Flyers power play no longer really feels like there’s a first unit and a second unit. With no Wayne Simmonds, no Jakub Voráček, no Sean Couturier, and now no Claude Giroux, there’s really no discernible difference between the two units that they’re rolling with. The unit that started was mostly run through Kevin Hayes, but also featured Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee. You know, the quote-unquote future.
  • The Tkachuck high-sticking penalty that chipped MacEwen’s tooth but did not draw any blood is just more proof to me that penalties that draw blood become double minors. An action’s consequences shouldn’t be determined by the outcome, but by the action itself. Innocuous plays can draw blood and egregious ones can not. Or, instead of drawing blood, they can break your tooth into multiple pieces.
  • Cam York took a puck to the face and left the ice at some point in the first period. He came back for the second and continued to look pretty strong both with and without the puck.
  • All season long, as the Flyers have played Western Conference opponents that they haven’t played in like two full years, there’s always one or two guys who I either did not realize were on a new team or did not realize were even still in the league. I feel like I have that thought every so often about Derick Brassard. Like, every so often I just go, “Wait, Derick Brassard is on the Flyers?”
  • I don’t know if anyone else is getting those Drew Brees gambling commercials, but I just want it on the record that sharks do sleep, it’s just like random periods of rest throughout the day, not a full sleep that they then wake up from to start the day. Ok?

Stray stats:

  • This was the 101st time these two teams have played each other. The Flyers are now 50-35-8-8 (W-L-T-OTL) in those games, and 20-20-6-4 in Ottawa.
  • Kevin Hayes led all Flyers forwards in ice time with 22:12. Hayes seems to be back to form, deflecting passes, showing incredible patience with the puck, and making sneaky-good passes. With no Couturier and no Giroux, Hayes is by default this team’s number one center.
  • The Flyers are now 2-4-5 on the second game of a back-to-back, with one of those wins coming against the Arizona Coyotes. Both wins also came after winning the game the prior day.
  • Cam Atkinson had 7 shots on net tonight, his second-highest total of the season after his 8-shot game against the San Jose Sharks.
  • Gerry Mayhew, entering the lineup for Giroux, was the only Flyer to come out positive in shot attempts while on the ice, and one of only two to break even in shots on goal. He was on the ice for 10 Flyers shot attempts to the Senators’ 6.