Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals


Following the NHL Trade Deadline, the Philadelphia Flyers take on the Washington Capitals without Michael Raffl.

The Philadelphia Flyers change focus to developing and replacing former members of their roster between now and the end of the season.

They’ll have their first opportunity to show their commitment to Tanner Laczynski, who should play against the Washington Capitals. He’ll replace Michael Raffl, who the Flyers sent to the Capitals for a fifth-round draft pick. Raffl, who would be flexible in many forward lineups with the NHL, may not see ice time tonight.

Hockey is a business. Value in the lineup, as a result of that trade, falls in Philadelphia’s favor.

Without Raffl, the show goes on. Now, the regularly scheduled programming needs a better ending. Squandering a late lead to the Buffalo Sabres kept Philadelphia from trailing a playoff spot by two points. Today, another tough week begins. The Flyers need to streak success against playoff opponents.

Similar to their success against the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia has only defeated Washington once this season. The difference is the Flyers conquered the Capitals in their first meeting of 2020-2021. Lately, Washington averages closer to five goals a game against Philadelphia, winning the last three contests. In the final fifteen games of the season, the Flyers’ narrow window of hope requires a victory tonight.

Washington Capitals – Forward Spotlight

It is my opinion that Nicklas Backstrom is the best center on the Capitals roster. In saying so, centering Backstrom on the second line with a new addition like Anthony Mantha could be wise. Backstrom is a forward who strikes on the powerplay and during even-strength scenarios often. As Mantha becomes acclimated to Washington, Backstrom and TJ Oshie will help keep his game elevated.

Ironically, Jakub Vrana played well against the Flyers the last time these franchises battled. He went to the Detroit Red Wings with Richard Panik, a first-round draft pick in 2021 and a second-round draft pick in 2022. On paper, the Red Wings look like they made up for as much as they lost. Before the trade, Vrana scored more points than Mantha and seemed like a more well-rounded player this season. Perhaps that changes on different teams.

Washington Capitals – Defensemen Spotlight

John Carlson is a top ten defenseman in the league. Among the entire Capitals defensive unit, he stands out as the alpha. On Washington’s defense are two other left-handed defensemen (Dmitri Orlov and Zdeno Chara,) who I confidently rank within the top forty, and another right-handed defenseman (Justin Schultz) who likely ranks within the top fifty.

The Capitals’ defense will help score, especially on the powerplay. Orlov excels defensively, and Chara is known to live rent-free in Philadelphia. Expect both teams to agitate one another. If not Chara, Tom Wilson will. The lineup that keeps a cool head by not taking excessive penalty minutes will win tonight.

Washington Capitals – Goaltender Spotlight

Ilya Samsonov is the likely starter for Washington tonight. He’s undefeated against the Flyers this season (3-0-0.) The more Philadelphia faces Samsonov, the more they’ve scored, however.

Samsonov only allowed one goal in his first victory against the Flyers on March 7th, 2021. Since then, he allowed three and four goals against Philadelphia in March.

For the Flyers, Brian Elliott could start tonight.

Flyers Prediction

Lately, Philadelphia lives in the two to three goals for range per game. They let one get away against the Sabres, which hurts. If we’re looking for a Flyers forward to shake the lineup, it has to be Scott Laughton following a contract extension. A big push from Laughton could launch Kevin Hayes.

Defensively, blocked shots and limiting breakaways are vital. Whether Samuel Morin or Philippe Myers play, the physicality must be there along the boards. The Capitals feature one of the most explosive lineups in the league. Philadelphia must exert the same defensive performance they began April with to have an opportunity against Washington. Defensive zone turnovers are not welcome.

While the Flyers must answer following a devastating loss, the Capitals are flying high after defeating the Bruins by seven goals. Logically, the odds are stacked mightily against Philadelphia. Chuck Fletcher might get a closer look at prospects in the NHL while trying to steal a win.

Flyers 3, Capitals 5

Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre