With the league postponing several of tonight’s scheduled games, and the looming specter of a league-wide stoppage hanging over everything, tonight’s match-up between the Ottawa Senators and the Philadelphia Flyers had the feeling of a certain finality to it. Sure, there is a chance that the NHL will forge ahead with games where the teams involved don’t have half their rosters in COVID protocols, but it seems increasingly likely that a pause will be necessary over the Christmas break at the very least. Certainly when the league drew up the schedule, they didn’t anticipate that Sens-Flyers would be the primetime match-up on Hockey Night in Canada. In fact, some of the HNIC panelists seemed ill-prepared to provide analysis of much worth when it came to the Sens — but that’s a story for another time.
When the match-up did get underway, Ottawa didn’t appear to ready to play and the Flyers took full advantage. Philadelphia opened the scoring when (potential future Senator) Claude Giroux potted his 11th of the year at the 15:41 mark. Just over three minutes later, Thomas Chabot would tip a puck into his own net, goal credited to Oskar Lindblom, and the Flyers were up 2-0 less than ten minutes into the opening frame. Were there any bright spots for Ottawa in the first period?
At the 11:33 mark, the Flyers were leading in shot attempts 16 - 1.— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) December 19, 2021
Fortunately, NHL games are not determined by who played better in the first period alone — though it helps to not be staring down a two goal deficit after twenty minutes. The Sens, however, have never really shown an inclination towards making things easy on themselves. Maybe someone gave a particularly inspirational speech between periods, but Ottawa looked a much different team in the middle stanza. The line of Connor Brown, Alex Formenton, and Tim Stützle looked particularly inspired, and Stützle brought the Sens right back into the game with this tremendous individual effort:
Some real superstar shit right there, friends. This isn’t a new observation, but the young German has looked like a different players since he was moved to centre and this goal is a perfect example of how setting him to be the one carrying the puck through the neutral zone is such a boon for the team.
Meanwhile, Stützle’s linemate Formenton also had himself a night as he picked up an assist on the above goal while tallying one of his own short-handed less than ninety seconds later:
ALEX FORMENTON ON THE PENALTY KILL! pic.twitter.com/nPVCq8auzc— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) December 19, 2021
The Sens continued to carry the play at 5v5 throughout the rest of the period, notching a tidy 59% xGF and out-shooting the Flyers 11-9. Philadelphia was able to generate a fair amount of chances while on the power play, but Forsberg made the saves that he needed to make and that was enough to keep things level going into the third.
In the final frame, the Sens had the better of the play and were finally rewarded for their perseverance when Artyom Zub’s knuckle puck from the point kicked around before finding its way into the back of the net.
Would the Sens be able to hold on for the 6:17 required to preserve the victory?
What did I say about Ottawa not making it easy on themselves?
Just over a minute after the Zub goal, Philly would equalize off of a bit a fluky goal that hit two Senators’ sticks before getting past Anton Forsberg. Off to overtime we went, where Ottawa could just never quite get the puck settled to get on a proper attack and Travis Sanheim notched the OT winner for the Flyers after a Chabot clearing attempt took a strange bounce off the glass and right onto Cam Atkinson’s stick.
After the way the Sens played the first period, it’s hard to be disappointed with getting a point out of the game. But after the way they played the second and the third periods, it was also a bit disappointing to only get a point out of the game. For what could be the last time we’ll see the local heroes for a while, at least we can say it was eventful.
- Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Chabot played an incredible number of minutes yet again. The rearguard logged a stunning 35:39 out of a possible 61:35. I’ll let the reader decide whether that’s a good thing or not.
- Nick Paul’s offensive struggles essentially forced Smith to try Formenton on the second line, and Formenton’s taken full advantage. With two more points tonight, Formenton’s recorded five in his last five games. Besides the short-handed goal, he also made several smart, incisive plays in the offensive end; a welcome sight, indeed.
- Jacob Bernard-Docker played a meagre 2:21 in the first period, but made it all the way up to 19:06 by the time the night was over. JBD continues to be as advertised to me: a smart player with sneaky offensive potential because of his ability to make the correct read and jump into the cycle. To my thinking he’s earned the opportunity to see some more sustained time beside Chabot.
- It was a tough night for the top unit, the first real such struggle in quite some time. Sens were out attempted 17-8 when Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, and Josh Norris were on the ice, and they were on the ice for two goals against. Mike Yeo made sure that Joel Farabee, Travis Konecny, and Sean Couturier were out against the Sens’ top line as much as possible and the strategy paid off in spades in that regard. Thankfully for Ottawa, there were goals to be had from other parts of the line-up.