We’re not used to being on the other side of these types of games.
Tonight’s game was only a warmup for the real Claude Giroux Homecoming that will happen a week from today, when the Ottawa Senators will head down to Philadelphia and Giroux will play in his old arena for the first time since the trade that sent him to Florida. Still, it was hard to ignore the narratives in this game. Giroux shocked a lot of people when he chose to spend the last few years of his prime in Ottawa, on a team that has playoff aspirations but hasn’t done much to prove that they can win. I’m sure it hasn’t gone unnoticed by Flyers fans that the Sens have been struggling while the Flyers have gotten off to a surprisingly good start. These things will even out with time, but it still would have been nice to get a decisive win tonight, just to prove that he’s in good hands.
After a couple of rough starts in their last few games, it was nice to see the Sens look strong right out of the gate for a change. Giroux’s line started, of course, and the former Flyer got a great look at the net on the very first shift of the game. D.J. Smith put his line back out before long, and this time Giroux didn’t miss, scoring his 300th NHL goal against his former team. Couldn’t have scripted it any better. 1-0 Ottawa.
The Sens looked great, putting pucks on net without giving up a single shot for the first few minutes of the game, but as always it was their inability to stay out of the box that burned them. Chabot took a high-sticking penalty, and about five seconds into the game noted Bad Dude Tony DeAngelo scored on the Flyers’ first shot of the game. 1-1.
The Flyers woke up a little bit after the tying goal, but not so much that the game felt out of reach for the Sens. Shane Pinto got two great scoring chances, including a breakaway, and Ottawa came very close to taking back the lead in the final minute with the first line and first pairing out. They didn’t score, but the Captain did stir things up in front of the net in classic Tkachuk fashion. Giroux’s son Joel Farabee got mad, Giroux ended up fighting one of his former teammates, and at some point Farabee decided to take the excuse to hug his former teammate Derick Brassard. Understandable. I’d do the same.
The Sens ended up on the powerplay for the last 30 seconds of the game, and got some great chances but couldn’t convert. The game was knotted up at 1 heading into the first intermission.
Ottawa opened the second period on the powerplay and played well but couldn’t quite finish their chances - a theme that would continue throughout the game. DeBrincat in particular continued to be extremely snakebitten.
The Flyers went to the man advantage early in the frame, and the story of that powerplay was an absolutely unreal shift from Tim Stützle on the penalty kill. I understand thinking that playing Timmy on the penalty kill would be a waste of his talents and might lead to him blocking too many shots, but the kid has turned into a truly excellent two-way player. That shift was a great example of the possession game he brings.
The Sens immediately went back to the powerplay, but couldn’t solve Carter Hart. All those missed chances would soon come back to bite them, as the Flyers turned on the pressure and the Sens had a few defensive breakdowns. Talbot kept them in it, but it was frustrating to see the momentum shift in favour of the Flyers after such a strong start.
A third(!) Sens powerplay failed to convert on grade A chances, and the Flyers scored right at the end of the period after the teams got back to even strength. I miss Josh Norris. 2-1 Philadelphia.
D.J. Smith put the lines in a blender to start the third, putting Zaitsev back with Chabot and switching up the centres yet again. I’m not sure it was because of those changes, but Ottawa did look amazing to start the final frame. I don’t know how, but DeBrincat somehow got robbed on perhaps the best scoring chance of the entire game. Nikita Zaitsev did Nikita Zaitsev things, not content to simply give the puck away in his own zone then fail to clear the puck, but capping off a bad shift with a bad penalty. I don’t like pinning all the blame on one guy, but at some point you have to take him off the ice just to keep him from embarrassing himself.
Ottawa continued to have the puck for most of the third period, and Philly continued to get in front of every shot. It was frustrating to watch.
At one point, Giroux took a hard hit from one of his old friends, and another one got mad at him when he took too long to get up. That’s exactly the kind of attitude I expect from the Philadelphia Flyers, and to be honest I have no choice but to respect it. Travis Konecny, you are an asshole and I understand why Flyers fans are so obsessed with you.
A fifth powerplay couldn’t convert despite some great chances. Ottawa pulled the goalie late in the game and, well, you know the rest. At least they didn’t give up an empty-netter this time.
Here’s the thing. If this were one loss during a stretch of good play, I would have concluded this recap by saying that the Sens played perfectly well and got goalie’d. They had the puck for most of the game. The underlying numbers are still good. Their luck will turn around eventually. But when they manage to love five consecutive games that they very much could have won - several of which they should have won - it’s a little bit frustrating, and it’s even more frustrating when last year’s losing streak felt like this too. I have a lot more confidence in this team now than I did during last year’s losing streak, but it really sucks to see them dig themselves into a hole at the beginning of the season yet again.
I’m pretty sure Josh Norris showing up in the press box with his glasses and popcorn would fix this team, by the way. Maybe they should try that.
- The Tkachuk-Stützle-Giroux line was so good all night. Giroux seems to have chemistry with everyone.
- I think Erik Brännström stood out in a good way, especially on the powerplay. He’s still not putting up points, but he was creating chances and even had a few good defensive plays. It really does look like this is the real him.
- I have no idea how DeBrincat didn’t score tonight. He’s been so good.