With the Ottawa Senators' season over, they were mostly playing for pride down the stretch. For some players, like Ben Harpur, their future with the organization may also have been at stake. But against some teams, they had the chance to play the spoiler role. Beating the Wild on Thursday should have been a spoiler role, except that the Avalanche have faded down the stretch and their chances have still dropped to 4%. Today they had another chance to play spoiler, and since I hate the Flyers more than the Red Wings, the Islanders, or the Bruins, I was hoping they'd do their job. Their PK let me down.
With Marc Methot out with the flu, Michael Kostka drew back in. It's amazing to think the Sens were playing three defencemen who were in the AHL a month ago, and only two of the d-men playing had also played in the home opener.
I was pretty unimpressed with the Flyers in the first. For a team chasing a playoff spot, they didn't look desperate. Jakub Voracek was the only one who got a good scoring chance, but even then Andrew Hammond could play him aggressively because there was no pass available. The Flyers got the only powerplay, but it was a too-many-men penalty. Late in the period, Nick Cousins did what he does best in aggravating Chris Wideman into punching him (and linesman Derek Nansen), but the two got offsetting minors so it didn't matter. Overall, a tied period in which neither team looked better was a win for the Sens.
The second period didn't start great for the Sens. Alex Chiasson took a high-sticking call. Jean-Gabriel Pageau got a little too excited about the possibility of a shorthanded chance, and instead of hitting Zack Smith with a pass, he passed it straight to Voracek at the point. He made a hard slapshot that Wayne Simmonds tipped top-corner so casually it was beautiful. After the goal, things opened up a bit more. Mike Hoffman was stymied by Steve Mason on a breakaway that he (Hoffman) created with his speed, allowing him to out race two Philly defencemen. Not long after, Chiasson and Nick Paul raced in two-on-one, and Chiasson rang it off the crossbar. Matt Read got the fans excited with a short-side shot, but he only managed to hit the outside of the netting.
The teams traded zone time, but it was the Sens who gave up their third-straight powerplay, a slashing minor by Chris Neil. The Sens killed about a minute of it, but then a giveaway and a crease scramble led to another PP goal allowed. Hammond fought off the first shot, and managed to keep his pad on the ice to stop Brayden Schenn who could only nudge it toward the goal, but then Sean Couturier showed up with a stationary puck and a prostrate goalie and roofed it for possibly the easiest goal of his career. It only added insult to injury that he roofed it over a sprawling Mika Zibanejad, picked two spots before Couturier in the 2011 draft. (In all honesty, Z-bad has seven fewer points in 68 fewer games over their respective careers, so I think the Sens got the better player.)
Z-bad nearly got it back shortly afterward. Mason bobbled a Chris Wideman point shot, and Zibanejad got the rebound with a gaping cage but Pierre-Edouard Bellemare got his stick on Zibanejad's and forced his shot wide. With two minutes left in the period, Neil tried to pick a fight with Radko Gudas and ended up getting a 10-minute misconduct. Luckily the Sens wouldn't go to the PK yet again. Even more luckily, because right after the ensuing faceoff, Hoffman raced into the Flyers zone, hit Zibanejad in the glove with a high pass, and then Z-bad ripped it home from the high slot to cut the lead to one.
Early in the third, Bellemare had two great chances to score right in front, but Hammond managed to keep his pad on the ice and keep them both out. Cody Ceci would get his stick tangled in Claude Giroux's skates, sending the Flyers to their fourth PP of the afternoon. Very early into it, Simmonds picked up a rebound in front of the net and buried it for his second of the game. Ottawa's PK was 1/4 on the afternoon, and didn't even have any shorties to fall back on for small comfort.
Somehow Chris Neil drew a powerplay from Radko Gudas in front of the net. Though for good measure, both also took offsetting roughing minors. If Neil doesn't get in someone's face, does his shift really count? The PP was valuable, as Hoffman got to rip one home from the top of the circle. It was Hoffman's team-leading 28th of the season, and gave Erik Karlsson an all-important point to keep him point-per-game for the season, and move him within one point of being the first d-man with 80 points since Nicklas Lidstrom.
The Flyers would then lock things down for the period, playing keep-away and board-pin in the Sens' zone for most of the rest of the game. Hammond would finally get out of his net with less than a minute to play, but all the Sens could muster were a couple of Hoffman shots high.
Sens Hero: Mike Hoffman
How could it not be this guy? He created so many scoring chances out of nothing, finishing the day with a goal and a primary assist. He isn't just playing out the stretch.
Dishonourable Mention: Chris Neil
Tried his hardest to take a penalty in the second, and then tried his hardest to negate a penalty he drew in the third. This is not the assistant captain the team needs. He's had good games this season, but this wasn't one of them.
Dishonourable Mention: Ben Harpur
I hate to heap on the guy in his second career NHL game, but this is one case where the stats and the eye-test agree. To my eyes, he looks slow and lost and confused. On the stats-sheet, he's the team's worst possession player by a mile. Here's hoping the team doesn't like that they see and at best give him a long look down in Binghamton.
Sens Zero: The penalty kill
How do you give up three goals on four penalty kills? Fire the coaches!
Sens Killer: Jakub Voracek
Sure, Simmonds had the goals, but Voracek was lethal all game and directly set up both of them with crisp slap passes. Remember when his season was a let-down? He now has 52 points in 68 games. Whoever faces the Flyers in the first round better look out for this guy.
Within an hour of the game ending? ELL-OH-ELL.
Who do you most want to see miss the playoffs?