You can say this about the 2013-14 edition of Caps-Flyers games - they're never dull, are they? Something always seems to happen that makes it worth remembering, whether it's a lopsided score and a line brawl or a dramatic comeback in the game's final minutes. Or in the case of tonight's festivities, a hit that will be discussed at water coolers along the Mid-Atlantic region... and possibly in the League office.
Ten more notes on the game:
- You wouldn't know it from the final scoresheet, but this one got off to a sleepy start, with the two teams feeling each other out early on and clogging up the neutral zone. Hell, someone actually fell asleep in the press box, that's how riveting that opening frame was. Calm before the storm, apparently...
- After getting the hook in the first period against Tampa a week ago, Braden Holtby has had to watch the last two games from the bench, with Philipp Grubauer taking over between the pipes. Tonight was his chance to get back in the net and reclaim it with the kind of play we were used to seeing earlier this season. Well... it didn't go quite as planned. He made some nice saves, as he does, but continued to be a bit leaky - particularly on the Flyers' second power play goal and on the failed pokecheck on Wayne Simmonds.
- The scoring would open with - who else? - Alex Ovechkin, who picked up his 28th of the season on - what else? - the power play. Between this one and the last goal he scored against the Flyers, Ovechkin is holding true to the meaning of the phrase "it's not how, but how many". Steve Mason's failure to cover the puck with Ovechkin lurking nearby cost him - and gave the Caps' captain career goal #399. Here's hoping #400 is just a bit prettier, hm?
- If you've watched any Caps games this season, you know perfectly well what happens after the Caps score a goal, and sure enough less than a minute had passed after Ovechkin's go-ahead tally when Jakub Voracek scored to tie the game at one. Sloppy play in the offensive zone by the second line allowed Voracek to break in on a two-on-one, and with Karl Alzner taking away the pass to Claude Giroux it was Voracek's shot to take. Probably one Holtby should have had, as well, but oddly enough that may be the least of the concerns on that sequence.
- That second line of Eric Fehr, Martin Erat and Troy Brouwer got a bit of redemption a few minutes later, thankfully. Nice work by Brouwer to not give up on the play when Fehr's stretch pass went awry, and with Mason already down low, all Brouwer had to do was get the puck from behind the net out to Fehr, who was streaking up the wing, and just like that it was 2-1 lead. They got victimized a bit in their own end tonight but that second trio had some of the team's better chances overall and somehow ended up with team-high CF% and FF%. Hey, someone had to, right?
- When a team is struggling, you look for even the tiniest step forward to show that they're learning and improving and adjusting. The fact that they held that lead for over two minutes is totally one of those tiny steps... okay, so it was only two-and-a-half minutes before the Flyers tied it again, but STILL. Progress!!
- Nothing about the Tom Wilson hit on Brayden Schenn looked good (except for the fact that Schenn was eventually able to get off the ice without a stretcher). Tough call as to whether there will be supplemental discipline, as it was from the side and Schenn did turn at the last minute...but it wasn't a smart hit by any means, regardless of what the result ultimately is. The speed with which Wilson flew in, the distance he traveled to get there, the proximity of Schenn to the boards, all combined for a pretty vicious hit. Not something you want to see out of the kid, and it'll be interesting to see what the League has to say about it.
- Of course as the Caps have learned over the years (and done on numerous occasions to this exact Philadelphia team), the best revenge isn't punching faces - it's making the other team pay on the extended power play. And that's exactly what the Flyers did, putting up two goals on Holtby before the power play was complete and taking their first lead of the game by the end of the second period.
- John Carlson has been one of the team's most consistently solid defensemen on the season, and has done so on a blueline corps that is littered with inexperienced and AHL-caliber defensemen. And since all of them have had at least one bad night this year, he's allowed to have one, too - this was it. But just the one. No more, okay, John?
- When Wayne Simmonds scored with just over 12 minutes to go in regulation to put the Flyers up by three, admit it...you were thinking it. You were totally thinking that the Caps had another huge miracle comeback up their sleeves, weren't you? Suckers.
After a couple of games in which the team survived on the sheer basis of luck and late comebacks and some magic by Alex Ovechkin, their recent stretch of sloppy play finally came back to bite them tonight. They couldn't hold a lead early, and it cost them later when Wilson's hit shifted the tone of the game. Throw in the fact that they were then down a man in Wilson, and another forward in Aaron Volpatti (who didn't return after a totally important fight in the second period), and without Mikhail Grabovski, and sporting a leaky Braden Holtby in net... it was simply a recipe for disaster.