The Philadelphia Flyers have an opportunity to rebound against the Washington Capitals after dropping a three-game series in Pittsburgh.
It’s been an exhausting week for the Philadelphia Flyers. Over a three-game series with their in-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins won two. Today, the Flyers are back to square one with the Penguins. Philadelphia holds on to the final playoff spot in the Mass Mutual Eastern Division, but by the narrowest margin.
Tonight against the Washington Capitals is another must-win scenario. The Capitals place second in the Eastern Division standings. Previously, the Flyers had to score seven goals, behind a hat trick effort from Scott Laughton, to defeat Washington. On paper, the Capitals look like the favorites. Can Philadelphia clean up their defense to mitigate Washington’s firepower?
Washington Capitals – Forward Spotlight
Jakub Vrana was the only forward to score a goal in a lopsided loss to the Boston Bruins on Friday. A game widely discussed because of Tom Wilson, the Bruins ran wild on the Capitals early on. Vrana, along with Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie, converted a scoring opportunity later in the third period.
Wilson received a seven-game suspension, so he’ll be out of the lineup versus the Flyers. That means Vrana has an opportunity to pass Wilson in team scoring. He’s particularly dangerous because he is known to score timely goals. In transition, Vrana benefits from players such as Evgeny Kuznetsov and Conor Sheary. Today will be the first time Vrana plays against Philadelphia this season.
Washington Capitals – Defenseman Spotlight
During a 5-1 loss to Boston, Justin Schultz managed an even plus-minus rating. His pairing performed the best in the loss. Both Schultz and Dmitri Orlov played over twenty minutes on the second pair. When they were on the ice, the Bruins were held scoreless.
Similar to Vrana, Schultz will make his season debut against the Flyers today. Without these two players, Washington scored four goals and surrendered seven earlier this season against Philadelphia. The Capitals will be stingier on defense. To counter the lineup, the Flyers must play physically and intelligently. Allowing extra advantages to Vrana and Schultz on the powerplay cannot be tolerated.
Washington Capitals – Goaltender Spotlight
Vitek Vanecek didn’t complete the game in the recent loss to Boston. Ilya Samsonov replaced him in the second period. Vanecek allowed four goals on eighteen shots before being pulled, and Samsonov allowed one goal on seven shots.
Typically, after a change in goaltenders, the pulled one won’t start the next game. A likely scenario could feature Samsonov starting against Philadelphia. That decision to start Samsonov could be the right one, considering Vanecek didn’t finish his start against the Flyers earlier this season. Craig Anderson came in relief.
Flyers’ Rebound and Win
Head-to-head, Philadelphia owns a 1-0-0 record over Washington. The Flyers have not confirmed Philippe Myers to return today, meaning they’ll have to compensate for physical play elsewhere. Without Wilson, the Capitals still have a bevy of talent to score goals.
All season long, the theme for success in Philadelphia starts with staying out of the penalty box. The Flyers have a higher probability of doing so without Wilson in the opposing lineup as an instigator. Expect a high-scoring game between the two franchises, but Philadelphia could rebound after dropping a series to Pittsburgh.
Flyers 5, Capitals 3
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre