Flyers 5: Takeaways from Saturday’s Flyers-Capitals Game
If Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh felt like a missed opportunity against a depleted team and another lackluster performance in terms of creating chances and limited ones of high quality, then Saturday’s game was a return to the performance that can make the Flyers very successful.
For most of the game, they stayed the course, but not in a way that is surviving another team’s push. They controlled large portions of the game with their play. It also helped that the goaltending remained on point, one of the most noticeable consistencies of the first 10 games of the season.
The result was a big two points in regulation against a divisional opponent that had only lost in regulation once all season, and silencing an all-time great in the scoring column with a milestone in his sights.
Here are five takeaways from the Flyers 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.
1. Get the First One
It took a while, more than half the game in fact, but the Flyers did get the all-important first goal of this game. Derick Brassard fired home a one-timer from the left circle off a nice return feed from Cam Atkinson below the goal line.
First, that snapped a dry spell for that line that went back over a week to last Thursday’s game in Vancouver. After storming out to a hot start, the Brassard line had not been able to break through offensively, even in a couple of wins.
Secondly, there has been a trend with the Flyers’ six wins on the season. Getting the first goal has mattered greatly. The Flyers have scored first seven times this season. All six of their wins have come when they have scored the first goal. Only the Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames have won equal or more games when scoring first.
2. Steady in Goal
This may sound a bit like a broken record, but it bears repeating in each game. Martin Jones came into this season with a lot of questions surrounding him, from his past performance to how he fit in Philadelphia. Saturday was his third start of the season and first since last Thursday in Vancouver.
Jones didn’t miss a beat despite nine days between games. He wasn’t really tested much in the first period, but faced 11 shots in the second and 15 in the third, allowing just one goal and making 31 saves for his third win of the season.
There were plenty of testers during the final 40 minutes to be sure. There was a tip play from Tom Wilson in the second. There was a breakaway for Carl Hagelin where the puck rolled of his stick on the release and Jones stayed with it.
But it was especially in the third where Jones shined brightest. Conor Sheary got another cross-ice deflection on goal. Jones slid across for the save. Then with the Capitals on a power play with under six minutes to play, it was clear that Alex Ovechkin was a target. Jones stood tall again, helping to finish off the win.
Jones is now 3-0-0 with a 1.68 GAA and .950 save percentage. While it’s been pretty clear that Carter Hart is the go-to guy for the Flyers, and certainly should be, the Flyers are in pretty good shape if they can get similar performances from Jones.
3. Another Late Penalty Kill
Saturday’s game was certainly not the first time the Flyers have been tasked with killing off a late penalty. This time it was Nick Seeler in the box for holding the stick of John Carlson as he hacked away at the side of the net, bidding for the tying goal.
The Capitals certainly got their chances on the man-advantage. In total, the Capitals got six shots on goal during that two-minute span in the third, and Jones was up to the task on all of them. When Jones made the saves, there was usually a Flyers close enough to any rebound to at least play it out of danger and force the Capitals to regroup.
It’s certainly a habit the Flyers don’t want to repeat on a regular basis, though they did take only three penalties in Saturday’s game, which is a step in the right direction. That said, multiple times already this season, the penalty kill has stepped up and done its job.
4. Containing Great 8
Coming into this game, Ovechkin was off to one of the best starts of his career. With 18 points and 10 goals in his first 10 games, keeping him off the board would certainly be a task, especially as the Flyers continue to deal with the absences of Kevin Hayes up front and Ryan Ellis at the back end.
For most of the game, Ovechkin wasn’t much of a factor. In fact, through two periods and well into the third, Ovechkin had just one shot on goal. That certainly changed as the power play and empty-net situations presented themselves for the Capitals, and Ovechkin did finish with six shots on goal.
Despite that, the Flyers didn’t allow Ovechkin to hurt them where it counted. Sure, he got his chances late in the game, as the rest of the Capitals did in making an expected late push. But to keep a player like that off the board completely is a winning formula in a lot of hockey games.
Ovechkin even came into the game with a chance at history in two areas. He needed two assists for 600 in his career and two goals to move past Brett Hull for fourth all-time in NHL history. For now, those milestones will wait, thanks in large part to what the Flyers did to contain him.
5. Picking Up Points
The last few games have been a mixed bag of sorts for the Flyers. There’s certainly no problem with the way they won in Vancouver, clinging to a one-goal lead and needing their goaltender every bit of the way to get a win 24 hours after a track-meet game against Edmonton. But then the performance in Calgary was severely lacking.
A 3-0 win over Arizona, while the desired result, wasn’t done with the same conviction or firepower as expected. The 3-2 overtime loss to Pittsburgh, while again being a suitable result on the surface, felt like a missed opportunity that got away from more lackluster play.
So right off the bat, Saturday’s win against Washington was another example of what happens when a lot of the process comes together and everyone is involved in a win. That said, it continued a trend that has led to a solid start for the Flyers. For the eighth time in 10 games, the Flyers earned at least a point, moving to 6-2-2 on the season. That gives them 14 points on the season, ranking in a tie for third at the moment.
On one hand, it may feel early, but believe me, it will be much later than you think soon enough. The Flyers have a pretty demanding schedule for the rest of the month, and after three straight days without a game leading up to Wednesday’s matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Flyers will play 11 more games in the month of November in 21 days. If this kind of success rate can keep up through that, it could be a sign that some really big things and a bright future may be ahead for the Flyers.