Photo by Patrick Smith via Getty Images
In the Philadelphia Flyers game against the Buffalo Sabres on 10-25-2016, power plays and penalties shaped the vast majority of this game. All but one of the regulation goals resulted from a power play. A third period penalty committed by Dmitry Kulikov against Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek changed the momentum and outcome of the game. It is like the Flyers are realizing the importance of power plays and penalties or they read well researched articles by beat writers. It is probably the first option.
Notwithstanding, before the intricacies of penalties and their consequences, the other relevancies will be examined. After serving a suspension earned during the preseason, Flyer defenseman Radko Gudas has returned to the ice. Apprehension of his behavior on his return is justified. His team knows the importance of not taking penalties, especially since they are so crucial right now. Whether he will end up an asset or a liability has to be proven.
Withal, after his fantastic performance last year during March’s play off push, he has show he can rack up goals and not just penalties. He has often shown himself leaning towards physically aggressive play, but last years 5 goal in 10 game streak has raised expectations. It would be nice if he was playing in a manner that fans have grown accustomed to. He would be paying his hockey alimony. While the Philadelphia Flyers do need an enforcer, they need him not to make poor decisions, unnecessary hits and most all, they need goals. He can take this season as a new start and present to he world a well round player who contributes to his team. During his season debut, Gudas committed no penalties and played in a composed and self controlled manner.
Now, on to the first period. What relevant things happened in the first period? Nothing. No one scored. This makes 6 first periods with out scoring out of seven games played by the Flyers. There are some interesting theories as to why. They need time warming up and starting. Each game has a starter who will develop anaphylaxis is the Flyers score in the first 20 minutes of play. There is a fear that scoring in the first period will cause cancer to form in puppies and kitties. The team erroneously believe it is something only done in Luxembourg.
Another possibility is they need motivation that comes from outside the game. A need for a come back or hit against a player may provide motivation that cannot come from anywhere but the rink. Science has not yet come up with a conclusive evidence. The Philadelphia Flyers have often received criticism for not playing a full 60 minutes of hockey. A reason has not yet offered . On the bright side, the Flyers lead in scoring attempts, tallying 11 shots on goal versus the Sabres 8.
“We played some bad hockey. We know we’re a better team than this,” said Flyers Captain Claude Giroux. “Our work ethic got us back in this game. Emotions and fans behind us, it was a fun third period….We need everyone in this locker room if you want to be successful. If individually you play some good hockey, if everyone does that, as a team you will be good.”
The second period saw the start of scoring and consequences. Buffalo came out hot and Tyler Ennis scored first at just 2:06 into the period. Then, the penalties began to shape the game. The power play that allowed Matt Maulson to score at 3:56 came from Claude Giroux’s boarding penalty. Shayne Gostisbehere was hooking and Matt Moulson rang up his second goal of the night at 15:43. The Flyers goalie Steve Mason replaced Michael Neuvirth after he was pulled following the third goal. This was the 2nd time being pulled in his 3 starts. The Flyers tallied 8 shots on goal, while the Sabres made 11. The second period ended with the Philadelphia Flyers down 0-3 to the Buffalo Sabres.
Dave Hakstol shared his teams aspirations, “We wanted to go out and play hard for each other in the third period, tough situation down 3-0 in your building, back-to-back night, not a whole lot going right.”
From the second period, the Philadelphia Flyers saw that to keep the opponent from scoring, it helps to either not commit penalties or be very effective at penalty killing. They also saw that having a one man advantage may help them score goals for their own team. So they decided to use that to their advantage in the third period. Philadelphia rookie Travis Konecny scored his first N.H.L. goal on the power play at 4:30. He was assisted by Ivan Provorov and Mark Streit and put the Flyers on the board, albeit down 1-3.
At 16:40, Sabre Dmitry Kulikov hit Philadelphia Flyer Jakub Voracek in a manner not adequately punished by the 2 minute charging penalty levied against him. The hit came late. Voracek obviously no longer was in possession of the puck and Kulikovs skates clearly leave the ice.
Travis Konecny reflected on his first NHL goal and what happened after; “I felt excited — everyone was excited we got a goal on the board, what got us motivated to go was when we saw that hit on Jake. It’s not what you want to see, one of your best players go down like that … that got us motivated to go.”
See the aforementioned hit below.
Video via SPORTSNETCANADA on YouTube.com
Voracek’s head was down, although this does not mean that it is his fault for receiving a late and skate leaving hit. Although hockey and the rest of the world are different, by comparison a person does not deserve an assault to their person for walking through a poorly lit parking garage.
There is debate as to whether Kulikov was head hunting or not. Voraceks head was down. Kulikov had enough time to change his hit to a cross check if he couldn’t help himself and had to deliver a late hit while leaving the ice. It is reasonable to say the head was the target. There was also enough time to see that Voracek no longer had the puck. Kulikov had time to change his mind regarding his actions. He could have tried going after the puck if he couldn’t find any other way to occupy his time. He made conscious choices that were outside the lines of play. Giving out a 2 minute penalty for a hit deserving a 5 minute major, ejection from the game or possible suspension sends the message that such actions are acceptable. It also demonstrates that rules are made, but enforcement is not even.
Voracek mandatorily taken off the ice for evaluation due to N.H.L. protocol. This upset Voracek and in a fit of anger, he broke his stick in half. He later joked about the multiple attempts needed to bisect his equipment, saying that he needed to hit the gym because he couldn’t break his stick.
Fortunately, Voracek was unhurt and cleared to play; “I felt pretty good. As soon as I got up, I was a little shaky, but that’s normal, it was a big hit. I was feeling pretty comfortable that I was going to be able to come back, and that’s what happened.”
The dishonorable hit set in motion events that the Sabres may still be towel snapping Kulikov for; the Philadelphia Flyers come back and victory.
During the resulting power play, Brayden Schenn made it a one goal game at 2-3, with 2:54 left in regulation. Claude Giroux and Mark Streit assisted. After another penalty, Mark Streit tied the game 3-3 while on the power play with 1:51 remaining. The Flyers made an impressive 19 shots on goal in their furious attempt at a comeback against the Sabres 5. The Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres were going into overtime after 60 minutes of play.
“I feel it getting better game by game. It’s nice to get on the board tonight and hopefully that builds confidence,” said Flyers forward Brayden Schenn.
Overtime came and went with out a victor emerging. Philadelphia Flyers fans were nervous going into the shootout as the team has had well known struggles with shoot outs in the past. Gratefully, goalie Steve Mason was strong and aggressive in net, truly stopping pucks like a boss. Claude Giroux scored first and none other than Jakub Voracek made the game winning goal, beating the Sabres 4-3. It is his 3rd goal in as many games.
“You try different things and we did shootout practice a week ago and I did very well so, you try what works, they both tried going five-hole and it was good to get the saves with some goal support in the shootout,” said replacement goalie Steve Mason.
The Philadelphia Flyers success in this game comes down to some fairly simple principles;
- They kept the number of penalties down and each team had only 4. Given Buffalos ability to turn power plays into goals, self control was key.
- They capitalized on their own power plays. In a game where Philadelphia didn’t score any even strength goals, being a man up was tremendously helpful, although it was not everything.
- They kept their hope alive. Many teams down 0-3 could possibly quit. Tying the game in 3 the last three minutes is not possible if you do not think and play like you can or will win.
- They served revenge in the smartest way possible. With 3:20 left in the game and being down by 2, some teams may go for pay back with their fists, elbows and anything they could use to hurt the opposing team. It is very tempting. Instead, the Flyers kept their head in the game, didn’t commit more penalties and for this tied the game, leading to an eventual triumph.
Some of these principles may seem to over lap and some times they do, but they also played independent parts at independent times. They are applicable in every game and in some cases, be the difference between a win and a loss.
Voracek has similar veiws; “It was amazing, they didn’t get frustrated and go after Kulikov. They got focused and tried to tie the game up. We’ve been down so many times this season and come back. That’s the big character of this group.”
Steve Mason, Travis Konecny, Brayden Schenn, Mark Streit, Claude Giroux get a gold star on their forehead and Jakub Voracek gets his in the location of his preference.
For the win, Claude Giroux gets an ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwich of victory, because that is what winners eat.
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