Here we are, the preseason finale before 2021-2022 begins next Friday versus the Vancouver Canucks. There are so many decisions to make before the Philadelphia Flyers reduce to a twenty-player roster. Tonight helps make those decisions.
Finishing the preseason, the Flyers and Washington Capitals are playing lineups akin to the opening night. Philadelphia decided to put Garrett Wilson into the 4LW role instead of Jackson Cates. Part of that decision comes down to the Flyers already understanding how Cates can contribute. Tonight is an audition for Wilson for a spot on a fourth line. It’s a position battle that is still up for grabs.
Carter Hart will not play tonight. Instead, Martin Jones will occupy the crease behind the starting defense. Jones, who took a loss against the New York Islanders on Tuesday, played better than the scoreboard suggests. Tonight, he’s back on the road in a better position to win.
Can Philadelphia finish the Capitals preseason, holding them to a lone victory?
Throughout the first five minutes of the first period, the Philadelphia Flyers looked much improved versus the Washington Capitals from a season ago. Then, the Capitals dictated the pace to the first intermission.
The Flyers had two powerplay opportunities in the opening period. During the second powerplay, Ryan Ellis had a great scoring chance. Ilya Samsonov turned away every shot from Philadelphia, which admittedly wasn’t many.
Alexander Ovechkin left the period after hitting Travis Konecny from behind. He was light on his left leg as he skated to the locker room. It’s a preseason game, so he didn’t return. That is the reality of the risks taken when an opening night lineup plays a full preseason game.
Lars Eller cashed in when Keith Yandle mishandled a puck in front of Martin Jones. Jones took everything Washington threw his way in the first period. Unfortunately, one misstep put the Flyers behind. Once again, Jones is playing better than the scoreboard tells. To this moment, he’s seemingly a decent backup goaltender to Carter Hart. Justin Braun‘s assessment of Jones with the San Jose Sharks seems correct; he faced too many shots that were “impossible” to stop.
Heading into the second period, the Capitals lead, 1-0.
Washington came out hot in the second period, adding to their lead when John Carlson scored on a high percentage snipe.
A two-goal lead is the worst to have in hockey, and Philadelphia put that theory to the test. Claude Giroux cut the deficit in half, scoring after the puck took a strange detour off the net from Sean Couturier.
Cam Atkinson put two more on the board, turning defense into offense. First, he called his own number on a 2v1 rush. Then, Atkinson forced an offensive zone turnover, shooting quickly and scoring off a deflection. He’s proving his value in a world without Jakub Voracek. Credit Chuck Fletcher with an incredible trade.
To finish the period, Garrett Wilson and TJ Oshie tied it up. Both received five for fighting. Heading into the third period, the Flyers led, 3-2.
Throughout the second period, Philadelphia was opportunistic. The Capitals dominated the final period, improving on how they dictated the pace in the first.
Tom Wilson scored off of a well-placed ricochet off the boards. In close in the slot, Wilson potted a goal. Within a minute, a trend better off left in 2020-2021, Daniel Sprong scored. Luckily, Alain Vigneault was right in his intuition to challenge.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Nick Jensen fought. It was the second recorded fight of the evening. Sean Couturier received two penalties for getting into it with Nic Dowd, and Wilson went after Joel Farabee. It’s going to be a rivalry to watch for in 2021-2022.
In the end, Dowd had the last laugh on an empty-net goal, securing a 5-3 victory. The Flyers were opportunistic, but the Capitals controlled the pace (without Alexander Ovechkin.)
Up next for the Flyers
Next is the opening night of the 2021-2022 regular season for the Philadelphia Flyers. They’ll take on the Vancouver Canucks next Friday at 7pm. Catch all the action on ESPN+.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre