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Senators 4, Flyers 2: Closing time on 2021-22

The Flyers close things out in very Flyers fashion—with a loss

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

And so, the 2021-22 season mercifully comes to an end for the Philadelphia Flyers with a 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators in Philadelphia, opening all the doors and letting us out into the world.

The Flyers finish the season 25-46-11, one of their worst records in the franchise’s 54-year history. What felt like the most distinct Flyers team since 2012, with numerous major roster changes over the 2021 offseason, entered the season with the hope that their decade-long streak of alternating playoff makes and misses would continue and propel them into the NHL post-season after their 2020-21 season was so disastrous. That optimism took a little while to truly come crashing down, but once it did—sometime before the New Year—it crashed hard. The Flyers had multiple double-digit losing streaks this season, traded one of their franchise’s all-time greats, and missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons.

It’s been pretty bleak since then, and tonight’s game was no different. The Flyers were one of the four worst teams in the NHL this season and tonight they found a way to lose to one of those few teams that are worse than them. The game was chock full of messiness, mostly in front of each net, with pileups and scrums and net-crashes galore, but there still wasn’t a ton to get excited for in this game between two non-playoff teams that serves as nothing more than a formality at this point.

They avoid passing the New Jersey Devils—who lost to the Detroit Red Wings tonight—in the standings, though, placing them firmly in fourth-to-last on the season with some potential for a nice lottery pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. And that’s it. So, gather up your jackets, move it to the exits, I hope you found a friend. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

First period

Almost half the period came and went with just a crossbar ping from the Flyers to take note of before Travis Sanheim took the game’s first penalty, a hold on Tim Stützle. The resultant Senators power play did not score a goal, despite a chaotic sequence of events that included multiple Martin Jones stick saves, a Linus Högberg save and near glove-on-puck situation, and finally some feistiness between Joel Farabee and Josh Norris.

The Flyers were sent to their first power play on a weird play where Mark Kastelic and Kevin Hayes came together and Kastelic’s stick broke and went flying over the boards. Kastelic was sent to the box for slashing despite a replay showing Hayes’ stick being the one to break it. The Flyers would then score pretty quickly on their possibly undeserved power play, as James van Riemsdyk received a pass from Owen Tippett where the goalmouth meets the red line and put the puck between his legs and past Anton Forsberg. It’s kind of a signature JvR move, and this time it not only worked out, it gave him the team lead in goals for the season with 24.

The Flyers ended the period with an advantage in shots at 10-7, shot attempts at 18-13, and goals 1-0.

Second period

The first exciting thing in period two came just over a minute in, when a netbound Scott Laughton was shoved hard by Nikita Zaitsev, sending him crashing to his knees and sliding into Forsberg’s chest, just barely getting a shot off mid-check. The net came off its mooring and the officials took another look to see if the puck crossed the line before it did, but nothing more came of it.

Forsberg would get some contact again a few minutes later, when Zack MacEwen attempted a hard move in front of the net and bumped the goaler, sending MacEwen to the box for the Senators’ second power play of the game. The best opportunity of the next two minutes, though, came from the Flyers—a shot from Kevin Hayes on a 2-on-1 that Forsberg saved.

Keith Yandle laid possibly his best hit of the season, a hip check into the boards on Parker Kelly and then on the same play, Egor Zamula caught Tkachuk in the face with an elbow, putting the Flyers back down a man. There was some tame disagreeing between Jim Jackson and Keith Jones on whether or not there was any embellishment on Tkachuk’s part and then on whether or not it was a trait he had inherited from his father.

At some point in the period, Ronnie Attard caught his first NHL puck to the face, a slapshot from Nick Holden that clipped his mouth, bloodying him up and possibly wobbling some chompers.

The Senators would get their first of the game on a play where Tkachuk picked Ivan Provorov’s pocket, scooping a bouncing puck away from the defender as he came around his own net and slinging it to Josh Norris in one motion. The puck came to Norris in front of the net, where he was left uncovered and put the puck past Jones for his team-leading 35th goal of the season.

Flyers lost much of the shot statistic battles in the second period, with Ottawa leading them 13-6 in shots and 21-12 in attempts.

Third period

Somehow, the third period also basically began with a Flyer crashing into the Senators’ net when a nice pass from Morgan Frost got Owen Tippett behind both Senators defenders and eventually crashing into the pipe, just missing Forsberg this time. The net came off and it took Tippett a minute to get off the ice.

The Senators scored off the very next faceoff, a one-time point shot from Travis Hamonic that beat Jones cleanly to his left.

A few minutes of back and forth play followed the goal, including a number of Kevin Hayes shots and yet another chaotic crease situation, with Travis Konecny finding a loose puck that slid free from Forsberg’s pads but failing to connect.

Erik Brännström took a holding penalty at 10:38, and while the Flyers powerplay didn’t look particularly dangerous, it was given a greater opportunity on a bizarre sequence from noted domestic abuser Austin Watson, who slashed Travis Konecny in the ankles away from the puck and followed it up by continuing to give TK the business. There was no response from the Flyers, though, sending them to an abbreviated two-man advantage, which came to an end thanks to Owen Tippett’s fourth goal as a Flyer. The play began with a faceoff win by Morgan Frost to Ivan Provorov, who slid the puck quickly to Tippett for a one-timer that bounced off Forsberg and into the net over his right shoulder.

A Flyers penalty—Linus Hogberg’s stick on Thomas Chabot’s hands that sent him away for hooking—led to some time with the puck on Ottawa’s sticks for a 6-on-5 that resulted in yet another big pileup in the crease, but nothing to show for it except for some upturned Senators gloves.

No worries, though, as Tkachuk would score the game-breaker just a few minutes later, which was followed shortly by an Austin Watson empty-netter to close out the game and the season.

Stray observations:

  • The Flyers handed out their team awards in a ceremony before the game tonight: Cam Atkinson won the Bobby Clarke Trophy for team MVP and the Yanick Dupre Trophy for best character, dignity, and respect; Travis Sanheim won the Barry Ashbee Trophy for best defenseman and the Pelle Lindbergh Trophy for most improved; and Zack MacEwen won the Gene Hart Memorial Trophy for most heart. Congratulations to those men.
  • I wonder why Tim Stützle gets a diacritical mark on his jersey—in his case, the umlaut over the u—when a lot of other NHL jerseys don’t include them. For instance, Felix Sandström’s jersey in his five starts for the Flyers this year did not. You may be thinking that maybe Sandström is just too new, too young to ask for it. It’s possible, but Jake Voráček’s jersey has also never included either of his diacritics, which I believe together are called a háček. Maybe it’s literally just that you have to ask and most guys don’t care enough to ask. Maybe some teams do it and some don’t. These are the things I had plenty of time to wonder about during this hockey game.
  • Speaking of Stützle, does he have the most unique tape job in the NHL?
  • If you were hoping to put this miserable Flyers season to rest and throw your full heart into a 76ers playoff run—sorry! News broke during this game that Joel Embiid has an orbital fracture and a concussion with no timeline for a return! There is nothing for you here!

Stray stats

  • The Flyers were 1-2 against Ottawa this season, falling to 50-36-8-8 (W-L-T-OTL) against the franchise all-time.
  • The Flyers were 18-22-6 in games that I wrote about this season; unsurprisingly, not good. But! that .456 points percentage is technically better than their .377 on the season, so I guess it could have been worse. They were 11-12-4 in games I previewed and 7-10-1 in recaps.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers played nearly 9 minutes at 5-on-3 in the 2021-22 season, accumulating 11+ shots on net and did not score a single goal until the very last second of those 9 minutes.
  • The Flyers this season were 20-10-7 when scoring first (as they did tonight) and 5-36-4 when the opponent scored first.

You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. Go. (Chickah-chickahhh).