Don’t let anyone fool you. Fighting in hockey isn’t something of a bygone era. It’s very much alive and well. Serving the same purposes that range from settling a feud between players to kickstarting the lineup with newfound energy, the Philadelphia Flyers haven’t shied away from the old tried-and-true black-and-blue.
Last Saturday, the Flyers visited the New York Islanders. In the first tilt of the season, it got chippy. Kevin Hayes took a hit by Alexander Romanov, and Nicolas Deslauriers took exception. The energy carried to last night. Zack MacEwen threw the first punch, but Deslauriers followed a second later.
Now, winning fights doesn’t indicate a more talented team. John Tortorella has his team playing hard. Relying on energy and work ethic on the ice is the supplement utilized in place of acquiring more high-end talent.
There was an added emphasis on depth signings that wouldn’t allow the Flyers to get pushed around. The first :08 last night captured the brand of hockey this roster means to play and the integral identity of this rebuild.
“That’s part of the game, what went on last night early in the game. We have the ability to play that way. Mac was involved in that. It’s an important part of what we’re trying to build here, based on where we’re living in Philly.”John Tortorella; 11/30/2022
MacEwen fought three times during the regular season. His first fisticuff was against Robert Bortuzzo of the St. Louis Blues. Both agreed to duel before the puck dropped on another faceoff early in the first period. It wasn’t much, but MacEwen taking on that fight with Bortuzzo got his teammates going. Philadelphia won that game, 5-1.
He scrapped with Matt Martin last night. A second later, Deslauriers fought Ross Johnston. For Deslauriers, it was his seventh fight of the 2022-2023 season and his fourth this month.
His first scrap was Kyle Burroughs. Taking exception to a hit on Curtis Lazar, Burroughs challenged Deslauriers unsuccessfully. As he steamrolled Burroughs, Deslauriers is well-versed in tactical combat. He proved that last night versus Johnston, keeping out of his reach with leverage.
In addition to Deslauriers and MacEwen, Nick Seeler stands out. Seeler fought twice this season, both games where the Flyers were victorious.
These three players are the epitome of playing with tenacity, contributing to wins by playing within themselves.
MacEwen, Deslauriers, and Seeler contribute to wins separate from their tendencies to throw hands. They’re turning in an honest effort each night, as advertised. Deslauriers routinely maintains a physical style. Seeler might have the best start of all the Philadelphia defensemen. MacEwen turned his stint with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms into a positive, learning to simplify his game.
“He got waived through the league when we waived him. Know thy self; he was not playing the way he should play for what he is. To his credit, when he went down there [he] played really well. That coaching staff, Lappy and the boys down there, did a terrific job with him; putting him in situations, playing a ton of minutes, and now he’s come up here and has just stayed within himself. If he doesn’t stay within himself, he can get pretty sloppy pretty quickly. He’s done a really good job concentrating on being who he is supposed to be.”John Tortorella; 11/30/2022
That is just it for the Flyers. As individual players are learning to play within themselves, so is the roster as a whole. They’re not the most talented bunch. They can control their effort, and if they lose sight of that, they’re in trouble.
The next time someone says something to the effect of “fighting doesn’t have a place in hockey;” point them to Philadelphia. It is the personality. It might not directly correlate to wins, but they’ve won more than they’ve lost when involved with extracurriculars.
(Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire)