Flyers-Capitals: Postgame Review
A schedule like the Flyers are facing this weekend is designed to make or break teams. So far, it showed how far the gap is between the defending Stanley Cup champions and the Flyers valiant but slim playoff hopes.
The Capitals didn't win Thursday's game with their stars, but their depth, getting good goaltending when they needed it and players to step up. For the Flyers, it was a reminder that a young defense can still pay the price for costly mistakes and that the depth needs to improve.
More in our Postgame Review.
- Carter Hart - It was not an ideal return for the 20-year-old rookie, who would have needed to stand on his head in order to get a win in this game. Carter Hart played well, all things considered. He made a couple of nice stops in the first minute, making a save on a deflection and a shot from the right circle.
But quickly, Hart was left without much of a chance to make saves as Washington took control. He had not chance on either of the first period goals, one that was on a backdoor play and the other on a rebound with no defensive coverage around to bail him out. Even Brett Connolly's second goal was just a perfectly placed shot off the rush.
If there was a goal Hart would probably want back, it was the fourth one for Washington. As Dmitry Orlov makes a cross-ice pass to Evgeny Kuznetsov, Hart overcommits while Kuznetsov holds onto the puck. He's able to get it back in front to Tom Wilson with Hart out of position.
Other than that, Hart was solid overall, made the saves he needed too and Washington just took advantage of some early breakdowns and opportunities.
- Defensive Errors - The Capitals were able to get open space on the first with the help of a delayed penalty call. But the second and third goals were the result of unfortunate defensive errors.
Travis Sanheim did not have a great game. He had a chance to clear and failed to, leading to the second Washington goal.
On the third Washington goal, Phil Myers tries to keep the puck at the blue line and can't control the puck in his skates. That sends Connolly the other way and as was the case for a lot of the night, Washington capitalized on every chance.
- Power Play Struggles - The Flyers had a chance to get back into the game in the third period with three power plays. On the second man advantage, they were able to get some pucks to the net and nearly get to rebounds with a chance to cut the lead to one. On the other two, Washington did what they did for most of the night.
The Capitals penalty kill was outstanding tonight, taking away passing and shooting lanes. And while Jake Voracek was missed in a lot of ways in this game, I don't believe it would have made a difference.
The Capitals applied perfect pressure on the penalty kill and seemed to get two men on every puck, continuing to win the battles and get easy clears. It's a big reason why the Flyers never really took control of the game like they did a week ago before Washington finally settled things down.
- Washington's Depth - The Flyers did a really good job of silencing Washington's top players. Kuznetsov had two points, one being an empty-net goal at the end. Alex Ovechkin assisted on the empty-net goal by Kuznetsov. Nicklas Backstrom was held without a point.
It was Washington's depth that won this game, notably their third line.
The Flyers won a game just like this on Monday. After the first period didn't yield results, the Flyers got goals from Oskar Lindblom, Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton on their way to a win. On some nights, your depth players have to step in and control the result when your top players are held off the board.
The Flyers never got that support on Thursday. Washington got three points from Connolly, two from Carl Hagelin, two from Michal Kempny. Their third line was their best line and Connolly could have finished with four goals instead of two with the chances he got throughout the game.
This is an area where the Flyers just don't match up compared to teams like this. The Flyers have a solid top six -- particularly when Voracek plays -- but beyond that, it is very hit or miss. Some nights, the Laughton line is working really hard and creating chances. While they did get a goal in this game, they couldn't make up for the top six being silenced for the entire game at 5-on-5 outside of one rush at the end of a power play.
- Playoff Update - Somehow, the Flyers actually came out of this game unscathed. Montreal suffered a 2-1 loss late to the Islanders, keeping the margin on Montreal at five points. The Canadiens are in Philadelphia on Tuesday night and the Flyers have a game in hand on the Canadiens.
Columbus was off and this loss for the Flyers pulls them even in games played with 70. Carolina was also off and now has a game in hand on the Flyers while being seven points up.
A loss didn't help the Flyers cause obviously, and a pair of losses to the same team hurts the playoff push. That said, the Flyers are still down five to two teams with 12 games to go. A three-game losing streak between Thursday's game, Friday in Toronto and Sunday in Pittsburgh could mark the end of this push, but at the very least, one loss didn't sink the hopes just yet.
By the Numbers
Despite the 2-0 deficit after the first, the Flyers actually had the better possession numbers in the opening 20 minutes at 5-on-5 with a 58.33 CF%. Playing with the lead, Washington tightened up and took control of the possession game with a 55.88 CF% in the second and a 64.71 CF% in the third.
Stat of the Game
A solid game for Oskar Lindblom despite being a minus-2. Lindblom had five shots on goal, one hit and two blocked shots in 20:51 of ice time, notably attempting to fill the void of Voracek on the power play.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.