Flyers-Senators Observations: ‘A Good, Gritty Win’
At every Flyers home game, there is usually a montage of moments from the franchise's history against that day's opponent. Many of the clips are fairly recent, from the last year or two, but there are a handful of classic clips that make their way into the video. On Saturday, with the Ottawa Senators in town, a clip from the infamous fight-filled game in March 2004 was there.
It's a sight that is almost extinct in hockey today as the game has changed. In fact, entering Saturday's game, the Flyers had just three fights on the season and none since Nov. 1. They nearly doubled that total in one afternoon.
The game took a turn after Travis Konecny was knocked from the game after a hit by Mark Borowiecki. The Flyers were thrown off their typical approach trying to settle the score with the Senators. The frustration and animosity was apparent in the moments following the hit, and turned up again late in the third period.
In the end, the Flyers came away with the 4-3 win, but perhaps something bigger than just two points. It was just another example of a team that continues to show a closeness and ability to overcome adversity that wasn't there in the past.
Here are some observations from the Flyers victory over the Senators.
The Hit on TK
This is obviously the talking point of the game. Konecny opened the scoring for the Flyers just 1:45 into the game and has been the team's leading scorer this season since the beginning. He takes a hit from Borowiecki in the neutral zone that knocks him to the ice in a heap and after a few moments, heads off the ice and to the locker room. He did not return and a further update is expected on Monday.
Konecny is put in a vulnerable position by Justin Braun. The pass from Braun is at Konecny's feet and he's just looking to make a tip to get the puck deep, avoid icing and probably head off on a line change. Konecny does just that, only to be met by Borowiecki with a big hit.
At first glance, the hit does look fairly clean. It's hard to call it a high hit given the disparity in height between the two players -- Borowiecki is 6'2" and Konecny is listed at 5'10". That said, the hit is certainly a little late. Now again, in real time, it's hard to fault Borowiecki. This is who he is as a player and he's already in the act of starting to go for the hit when the puck is tipped down the ice by Konecny, so he can't stop from there. That said, it still appeared like a dangerous hit. Konecny crumbles to the ice and immediately stays down with his hands near his head.
The Flyers are certainly hoping that Konecny is not out for long, but it's tough to say what will come of this. The only update after the game was an upper-body injury, which was expected, but it does have all the makings of a potential concussion, which would bring about an uncertain timeline for return.
Answering the Bell
In the immediate, no Flyer took exception to the hit. That is likely because the play was happening in the opposite end of the ice and no one saw the hit in real time. But once everyone realized what had happened, there was some powder-keg hockey on hand.
On the next shift, the Flyers were throwing their weight around and the Senators weren't letting up either. Matt Niskanen threw a good check on Brady Tkachuk near the Ottawa bench. Jean-Gabriel Pageau leveled Joel Farabee and knocked his helmet off near the Flyers bench. Tkachuk and Scott Laughton start chirping each other and Tkachuk makes a motion requesting a fight. Laughton, who is just a few games back from a broken finger and still playing with extra padding, is not allowed to drop the gloves, so he declines, and continues along by throwing another hit on Thomas Chabot. While this is happening, Jake Voracek and Nick Paul start to jaw and finally decide to drop the gloves.
Early in the second period, more animosity. Laughton catches Pageau with an open-ice hit entering the offensive zone. Ron Hainsey immediately looks for a fight, dropping the gloves as a scrum starts along the boards. Back in the middle of the ice, Pageau and Farabee start jawing and again the gloves come off.
Good on both Voracek and Farabee for answering the call and standing up for themselves and the team.
The second and third Ottawa goals were the result of miscues. The second goal is simply inexcusable. Shayne Gostisbehere is going back on a power play while Carter Hart controls the puck. A miscommunication makes the entire play look slow, and as Hart goes to drop the puck behind the net, where he assumes Gostisbehere will pick it up, Anthony Duclair swoops in and scores on a wraparound.
Duclair's second goal is the result of two things. Farabee has the puck in the neutral zone and fails to get it deep when he has the chance. The Flyers try to make a line change, which allows Ottawa to have the space to execute a play and get the puck to Duclair in the slot where he can fire it past Hart with a quick release. Alain Vigneault also noted that three players in front of the net were caught puck watching, leading to a complete breakdown that gave Duclair the room needed.
It nearly cost the Flyers the game, making it much closer than it might have been if the Flyers had been able to execute much more like they have in previous games this season.
Authoritative Response from Scott Laughton
At this time last season, the Flyers were a team that seemed to crumble when faced with in-game adversity. So a late tying goal by Ottawa with five minutes left in an overall frustrating game where tensions were high would have likely meant at minimum overtime and probably a loss. This season is very different.
Just 11 seconds after the Senators got the tying goal, the Flyers emerged with the puck in a two-on-one. Kevin Hayes fired a shot that was stopped by Anders Nilsson, but the rebound shot out perfectly to Laughton's side of the ice. He fired home the rebound into the yawning cage as Nilsson desperately tried to dive back for the save.
This is the second time this week the Flyers have had a quick answer for a tying goal before getting back in front in a regulation win. This team just stays the course. A goal against doesn't seem to rattle them like it did before. They stick to the process, try to make a push and put the outcome back in their favor.
Laughton's goal set up a wild ending to this game. As Laughton led the celebration back to the bench, he turned to the Senators bench and yelled something in that direction. It appeared to be toward Tkachuk.
With under 30 seconds to play, Tkachuk let the frustrations boil over. He threw a cross-check at Laughton, knocking him to the ice. A penalty was going to be called, and Tkachuk appeared to take a look toward the officials to notice this before just deciding to jump Laughton and start a scrum in front of the Ottawa bench.
"I knew it was coming," Laughton said. "It’s part of the game when you do that stuff and chirp that stuff you know it’s going to come. I just can’t fight right now with my finger and everything and I got some padding there so once I do that, I guess it’s a penalty or something."
There are certainly times in hockey to settle the score and if the Flyers had already scored into an open net, you would have probably seen this coming. But this is still a one-goal game with 30 seconds left and Ottawa had been arguably the better and more opportune team throughout a majority of the game. There was a chance to tie and force overtime and Tkachuk took that right out of their hands. For what it's worth, Tkachuk was fined the maximum for a cross-check very shortly after the game, but his actions effectively ended any chance the Senators had. With that, a wild afternoon of hockey was complete.
"Sometimes it is not always going to be pretty and we just have to grind it out and that is what we did tonight," Hart said. "They get one to tie it up in the third, and we get one back right away. That was huge it really set the tone for the rest of the game. We kept them on their heels and forced them to take some bad penalties. It was a good gritty team win."