FFR2 Gm 36: PHI 5, OTT 4 (SO) - Tip of the Hogberg
I don't think you could capture Festivus in a hockey game any more perfectly than this.
In the ultimate airing of grievances, the Philadelphia Flyers WIN their third straight game, 5-4, shootout style, over the Ottawa Senators. It was a game that featured a lot more goals and a lot fewer fights than expected, but ultimately, the Flyers came away with two points they should have had along. Hooray!
Well, not so fast. In case you haven't heard of the joyous yet technically made-up holiday of Festivus, let me explain it. The goal of the holiday is to air grievances (which I did to a tee last season), aka complain about everything you want before the goodness of Christmas overtakes society as a whole. Yes, it's technically on December 23rd, just like it was last year when the Flyers beat the Rangers (foreshadowing for this year?), so I could just save it for then.
Or I could use it as an excuse to ask the Flyers WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? This is the Ottawa Senators, one of the worst teams in the NHL on paper, who came into this game missing three of their top four defenseman and starting third string goalie *checks notes* Marcus Hogberg, who I'm pretty sure I saw in one of those math textbook problems falling off a ladder last week. You're telling me that guy stopped FOUR breakaways in 3-on-3? Come on, I thought we had moved past this!
Analytically, the Flyers were the better team in this game, outshooting (56.82% 5-on-5 Corsi) and out-chancing Ottawa (53.06% xGF at 5-on-5). The power play scored for the second straight game, as Kevin Hayes took a stretch pass from Voracek to the hoop, nearly losing the puck in tight but just tipping it past Hogberg for the opening goal 3:16 in.
And yet, the Flyers were never able to kick it into high gear. They played a very sloppy game, reminiscent of their first contest in Ottawa when a poor showing plagued Philly in a 2-1 regulation loss. Giving up 18 shots on goal in the 1st period was an early concern. However, a fluky backhander from James van He's-heating-upsdyk caromed in off a Senator in the first minute of the second, and suddenly it seemed the Flyers might be able to nullify those mistakes and cruise to victory.
Then, the most hockey thing, the most Flyers thing ever - they just had a big o'l fart. There's no other way to describe giving up goals to Tyler Ennis and Mark "TK cheap shotter" Borowiecki TWENTY-FIVE seconds apart. It just can't happen. And to top it all off, the Senators actually took the lead late in the 2nd on a power-play goal by Anthony Duclair, his team-leading 21st of the year.
But how many times have we said these aren't last years Flyers? The Flyers realized their mistakes and were woken up by Duclair's goal, and suddenly looked hungrier than ever. Morgan Frost won a battle on the forecheck in the final minute of the 2nd and worked the puck in front, where Jake the Snake Voracek was able to push it past Hogberg to tie the game with 48 ticks left in the frame. Then, less than two minutes into the third, Nicolas Aube-Kubel called bank with a perfect stretch pass off the boards, springing James van He's-on-firesdyk for a backhand breakaway goal, suddenly restoring the lead.
If only it were that simple. For as bad as the Senators may be on paper, D.J. Smith has done a great job motivating this group and making them tough to close out when Brady Tkachuk isn't imitating the Purge. And sure enough, Tyler Ennis, with the size of an elf but the spirit killing of the Grinch, who took a huge rebound off Elliott's pad and tucked it under the Christmas Tree and the crossbar to even the score once again, tying the game for the final time.
The game progressed to overtime, where Hogberg morphed into the Ghost of Backup Goalies Past and stoned Hayes, Couturier, Provorov, and Sanheim all alone in front. As in, two breakaways, one one-timer/tip play, and one uncontested backhander from point blank range. It wasn't even fair, and when the horn sounded to end an overtime that the Flyers had thoroughly dominated, most fans were probably expecting another frustrating shootout loss.
But leave it up to everyone's favorite ELITE 1st line center Sean Couturier to save face. After Hogberg and Elliott stopped their first two shots (Elliott got some help from the post on the second one), Coots came down off the right wall, stickhandled and then snapped the puck past Hogberg's blocker. Elliott proceeded to stop a 5-hole wrister from Vadislav Namestikov to give Coots his 3rd shootout winner of the season, and more importantly, give the Flyers the win.
It's always disappointing to see your team look poor against inferior competition, especially a team as low in the standings as Ottawa. These are the teams you need to pick up points against, but you also hope to use these games as springboards, to not only establish strong play but maintain it into future contests. That part isn't as important for this game considering the upcoming holiday break.
And while nothing would be for Philly then to complain about this game last year, the Flyers 20th victory didn't come until January 28th against Winnipeg. They hit 20 this year tonight. So I'll lay off. I'm still wary. But I'll lay off. One more game until Christmas. Finish strong, Flyers.
With Stewart returning to the lineup because of his grit Saturday and Joel Farabee's suspension ending, David Kase was sent to the Phantoms on Friday. Kase had a strong showing in his first NHL call-up, but because he can't play center (like Vorobyev) and is waiver exempt (unlike NAK), Kase is the odd man out for now.
Though it doesn't excuse the poor moments, the Flyers were a bit short-handed on defense tonight, with Matt Niskanen sitting out with the flu. Phil Myers was listed as a game-time decision with an illness as well, but played well in spite of it and also received Niskanen's minutes on PP2.
Though it's been another trying season for the Senators on the whole, they've been a tough team to beat at home; they're 10-6-1 at Canadian Tire Center.
This was actually the final game the Flyers will play all regular season in Canada (if we're back again this season, something has gone very right). It's the first time in franchise history the Flyers have played all of their games in Canada before Christmas.
While the penalty kill wasn't bad Saturday, they did allow a goal against for the fourth straight game, their longest streak of the season.
In addition to earning the victory between the pipes, Brian Elliott picked up his 9th career assist, stopping a shot which became a rebound that Voracek flung to Hayes for the game's first goal. Elliott now has a helper in three straight seasons, a new career high.
As for another and slightly more notable milestone, Sean Couturier passed Jimmy Watson for 17th in all-time games played as a Flyer with his 614th on Saturday.
We have a new leader in the POG Helmet Standings!
Moose - 3
Raff, Steady Eddie, TK, JVR - 2
Starter, #OskarStrong, Coots, Phil, Snowman, Jake, Pitsy, Laughts, Kase - 1
1st - James van Riemsdyk (PHI) - 2 Goals
2nd - Tyler Ennis (OTT) - 2 Goals, 58.82% Corsi, 85.04% xGF
3rd - Jakub Voracek (PHI) - 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 68.87% xGF
PHI - 12/23 vs. NYR (16-14-4, L2)
OTT - 12/23 vs. BUF (17-13-7, W1)
*Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise noted and from Naturalstattrick.com