Because the NHL insists on trying to play a regular season during a pandemic and ecological disasters, there are going to be some ugly games.
There was a time this season that Flyers fans marveled at their team’s depth. For many years in the Claude Giroux era, the team was famously a one-line squad.
No more, so they thought.
Thanks to COVID-19, for the first time since 2009, the Philadelphia Flyers will play a game without Giroux or Jakub Voráček in the lineup.
In the case of Giroux, the team’s captain, it will snap a 328-games played streak. He has missed only 10 games in his career. Voráček has been almost as durable, playing every game in 2012-13, 2016-17 and 2017-18. Both are prolific scorers and are still going strong this season, as Voráček has 12 points and Giroux has 11.
Due to COViD protocol, the Flyers also played without Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton and Justin Braun as they returned to action on Thursday against the Rangers. Giroux is a new father; Lindblom is recovering from Ewing sarcoma.
It was the first game for the Flyers since being shut down on Feb. 9. They played five AHLers, including 6-foot-7 Samuel Morin, who has been converted from defense to wing this season after missing years of development due to injuries.
The results were about what you’d expect from a team missing five of its top forwards that hadn’t played in over a week. The team showed great spark early, as Nicolas Aube-Kubel, thrust into a bigger role than he’s seen in his brief career, got a nice “be in the right spot, keep trying” goal early in the first.
But the Rangers were able to calm things down and play their keep it boring, slogfest game that was marred by a ton of penalties, and, somehow, Pavel Buchnevich getting a penalty shot after getting stopped on a pretty clean scoring chance.
The Flyers, outshot 33-22, needed a 6-on-5 goal from second-year man Joel Farabee to earn a point in this game. The Rangers, pretty much a one-line team these days, and really, one man — Artemi Panarin, since his partner in crime Mika Zibanejad has crashed back to earth — won in a shootout. Again, thanks to Panarin, who set up a third-period goal with a slick backhand pass and got the go-ahead score in the shootout while looking like a boss who knew he was going to beat goalie Carter Hart.
For the Flyers, it was probably a moral victory to get a point in this game. But their next game is on Sunday against the Boston Bruins, who have owned the Flyers in four games so far this year. And the guys on the COVID protocol list will still be out. And oh by the way, it will be a nationally broadcast game played outdoors in LakeTahoe.
The NHL never fails to fuck up a marketing plan. “Come see us in Lake Tahoe! With no fans! And almost none of our good players!”
Should be fun, if the Flyers bring Gritty.