For weeks the Washington Capitals have been quaking in their boots, awaiting a seemingly inevitable matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers and their incredible 25-game run of puck possession. For better or worse, the reset button was hit and the 25-game and 82-game clocks both became meaningless. For at least Game 1, the Caps showed why they were the class of the east and called into question recency-bias-induced modeling, dominating the Flyers in essentially all areas of the game.
Despite that domination, the Caps needed a late goal to secure a series-opening victory, giving fans at least one brief sigh of relief. Going in to the series, we knew the Flyers' defense would be questionable, but it took most of the first game for the evidence to bear fruit.
Let's take a look at it.
After Marcus Johansson picked Jakub Voracek's pocket in the neutral zone, he gained the offensive zone and pulled up to wait for help. Jay Beagle drove the center of the ice and was wide open. MoJo hit Beagle in stride and Beagle made the shot of his life. 2-0 game, and the way Braden Holtby was playing (and Wayne Simmonds was not), the Flyers had an insurmountable hole to dig out of.
So why was Beagle so open? Because Shayne Gostisbehere was just released from the penalty box and realized his contribution to the game occurs on the other side of the red line. To the video:
Now Jay Beagle isn't exactly a 30-goal scorer, but he's still an NHL player and you probably want to at least try to cover him in the heart of the slot. The Flyers felt no such need, so let's enjoy every second of how this defensive debacle unfolded.
MoJo picking Voracek's pocket put the Flyers in a tough spot, but they had defensive coverage. They had Brandon Manning back on D, and both Radko Gudas and Gostisbehere are closer to Steve Mason than the other two Caps forwards. Not ideal spacing, but Gostisbehere is a great skater and could easily stay in the play and three defensemen should be able to sort out a third line rush. Presumably Gostisbehere would pick up a man and direct Radko Gudas to go to the front of the net to clear some room for Mason to see the play unfold... right?
There's Gostisbehere, right in front of eventual-goal-scorer Jay Beagle. Coaches would probably ask for him to have two hands on the stick, but the positioning is decent.
And there goes Gostisbehere right past Beagle... to his bench... with the puck already at the top of his defensive zone faceoff circles. Not the kind of decision making you'd expect from an ECAC-educated player. Seconds later, the puck was in the net and the Caps were celebrating (and a stick tap to the backcheck from Claude Giroux right there, he must have learned that move from Sidney Crosby).
True to his phonetic nickname, Shayne Gostisbehere was a Ghost on this play. But hey, at least he avoided the minus.