Ottawa Senators defenseman Anton Volchenkov(notes) haunted the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night to the point where you expected to see him in a boiler room wearing a ratty striped sweater with knives on his gloves. (We'd make the expected "A Nightmare on Broad Street" quip, but the game was in Ottawa.)
No penalty was called on the hit, nor should there have been one: Not a blindside hit, Volchenkov used his shoulder and Carcillo was simply caught in a prone position as he moved into the zone. Whether this defense holds up to the new headshot ban is up to the NHL.
But Volchenkov wasn't done tormenting the orange and black, as he would later prevent the Flyers from scoring a key goal (or did he?!) and would make Simon Gagne(notes) go temporarily insane without earning a single penalty minute himself (Ed. Note: For the hit; Volchenkov did receive 2 minutes for roughing in the mess that followed). When you see what he did, you'll see that feat is akin to a hockey miracle, thanks to the refs.
Early in the third period, Volchenkov executed a check into Flyers forward Simon Gagne's back. This hit sent Gagne head-first into the boards, which is really something that a player with roughly 10,314 concussions on his medical chart doesn't appreciate. So after Daniel Alfredsson(notes) scored 18 seconds into the third for a 2-0 lead, Gagne searched and attempted to destroy Volchenkov for the hit:
Where the Sportsnet announcer is correct: The Flyers not named Gagne paid too much attention to the hit, allowing an odd-man rush the other way. Where the Sportsnet announcer is incorrect: Pretty much everything else said about what was a non-penalized boarding call.
Gagne went ballistic on Volchenkov, drawing 19 minutes in penalties for instigation, refusing to take off his visor, fighting and a 10-minute misconduct. It should have been the other way around - a Flyers major power play.
"I was facing the boards and went headfirst into the boards," Gagne said. "I could have hurt myself more. I have a stiff neck now. It could be worse. What pissed me off is that they score a goal on it ... I was expecting a penalty. In my mind it was dangerous. It was a hit from behind but that's not part of the game, it shouldn't happen."
Please note that the Flyers killed all seven minutes of that power play. From Kerrzy's Notebook, a Canada-based sports blog:
To me, that's one of those hits where the defending player should ease up when he sees the other guy turn. The best part of this clip is something one of the Sportsnet broadcasters says during the replays: "You know he's coming and you turn your back - why would you trust somebody not to hit you?"
Why would you trust somebody not to hit you if you're in a vulnerable position? How about: why would a guy see you in a vulnerable position and still hit you?
As with some of these situations, it was a bang-bang play. But that isn't exactly factored into the rulebook language is it?
Volchenkov had one more moment of villainy (Philly'd!) or heroism (Other 29 teams'd!) when he helped prevent a Flyers goal. The following was ruled "no goal" on the ice and the War Room upheld that ruling:
We're going to have a hockey game in 3-D tonight in New York, but we still can't figure out if a puck crossed the line conclusively. Sheesh.
Volchenkov, giant that he is, also stopped a shot, then laid across the goal line with his G out of position. Kimmo Timonen(notes) shot a rebound between his own legs, and replays would show what looked like the puck crossing the goal line-depending on who you ask. The announcers (Flyers employees) and biased fans like me all thought it the replay angles showed what had to be the puck past the goal line before Volchenkov pushed it out with his glove.
The closeups were grainy, and the call on the ice (by a guy RIGHT behind the net) was no-goal. Although it was undoubtedly in to me, it fit perfectly with other times in which the war room has screwed the Flyers this season. Maybe we'll hear about a lack of footage provided to Toronto again?
Philly fans, like elephants, never forget. Also, they can crush you with their foot when angry.
The Flyers lost, 2-0, and saw their percentage chance of making the playoffs fall to 94 percent (which could have been worse, but the Thrashers were told their game against Boston was canceled and thus didn't bother to show up Tuesday night). They're still a solid bet for the postseason, but suddenly a first-round meeting with the Washington Capitals is looking more likely with each defeat.
While we'd never say it's time to look forward to next year, Philly should note that Volchenkov is an unrestricted free agent; because Tuesday night was textbook Flyers hockey from the Ottawa defenseman, or because Paul Holmgren can sign him, tie him to the goal posts and let Simon Gagne get his comeuppance in training camp.