Failing drastically to provide resistance on defense, the Washington Capitals fleece the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-3.
If there is any time to start a winning streak, it is now. The Philadelphia Flyers are on the cusp of rejoining the playoff race. Tonight, they prove their ground on home ice against the Washington Capitals. The Capitals, who rank second in the Mass Mutual Eastern Division, own the momentum against the Flyers.
Philadelphia is known for a blue-collar, gritty demeanor. Against Washington, who has an affinity for scoring elaborately designed one-timers, the Flyers need to grind. A win is a win. It doesn’t need to be pretty. Can Philadelphia sink their teeth into the Eastern Division with a victory?
More evidence that the Flyers aren’t doing their defensive diligence to help goaltender woes appeared in the first period. On special teams, Philadelphia executed. Brian Elliott read every one-timer scheme by the Capitals. In the early stages of the first period, Elliott shined.
Unfortunately, Washington cashed in on defensive botches. Firstly, Ivan Provorov looked like he was ready to clear the puck down the ice. It all seemed routine. He fanned, allowing Alexander Ovechkin to rocket a goal past Elliott from the slot. Not the place you want a prolific NHL scorer to shoot.
Getting back on track against the Buffalo Sabres, the Flyers needed to continue their powerplay momentum. In the last week, Philadelphia has made the proper adjustments to adjust special team issues. Kevin Hayes had Ilya Samsonov moving in the crease as a result of the brilliant puck movement. Travis Konecny cleaned a rebound, tying the game 1-1. The Flyers were winning the special team battle.
An awful running joke continued to trend this season. Philadelphia surrendered another goal within two minutes of scoring. Conor Sheary split Erik Gustafsson and Travis Sanheim in the neutral zone, finishing on a breakaway. For a team that seemed to have it figured out during even-strength scenarios, the Flyers couldn’t execute in the first period.
Down on the scoreboard, 2-1, Andy Andreoff needed to get the blood pumping. He stood toe-to-toe with Garnet Hathaway in the first fight of Philadelphia’s season. The Flyers took the shots-on-goal lead and picked up the pace in the offensive zone. Thankfully, Andreoff provided Philadelphia with a shot of adrenaline to begin the second period.
Wisely, the Capitals draw a penalty from Konecny. Any energy from Andreoff evaporated almost immediately in the second period. The Flyers killed another penalty, denying another crafted scoring scheme from Washington. Other than that, Philadelphia’s form continued to be off on defense.
Sanheim seemingly abandoned all defensive instinct in the second period. In previewing this game, the Flyers needed to mitigate the impact from John Carlson on defense. He can change the complexion of a contest from anywhere on the ice. This time, he did score from the slot. Jakub Vrana, who has played at a high level all season long, set up the scoring play in the middle of soft defensive coverage.
Again, Sanheim acted as a turnstile later in the period. Nic Dowd, as fundamental as you thought a hockey player could skate directly to the crease, tucked a goal behind Elliott. After Alain Vigneault benched Philippe Myers, Sanheim should be a healthy scratch Saturday. With 1:29 remaining in the second period, the NHL officials had to replace the plexiglass at Philadelphia’s bench. It’s as if mercy shined down to regroup the Flyers, down 4-1.
Regroup is what Philadelphia did. From the onset, Zdeno Chara picked Konecny’s knees with a blatant slash between whistles. It was a dirty play that should have featured in a game-misconduct. Instead, the officials put both players in the penalty box. If at all, the Flyers were able to handle any scenario but 5v5 tonight.
Provorov made up for a defensive lapse in the first period, scoring to cut the deficit to two goals. Throughout the third period, Philadelphia played the best hockey they did all game long. Finally, they were able to break Samsonov during 5v5 hockey. Scott Laughton, who has been clutch dating back to last season, scored a timely goal. All of a sudden, the Flyers were back into this game.
On the powerplay, with Ovechkin in the penalty box, Philadelphia couldn’t take advantage. With 1:45 remaining, Elliott went to the bench to create a 6v5 scenario. Unfortunately, an empty-net goal would seal the fate for the Flyers. Dowd scored his second as the Capitals win, 5-3.
Up Next for the Flyers
Next, the Philadelphia Flyers are the Washington Capitals on Saturday. The puck drop is scheduled for 7pm. All of the action will be televised on ESPN+.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre