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Capitals vs Flyers Game 2: What Worked and What Didn't

Heading into Game 3, we take a look at what worked and what didn't in Game 2.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After opening their first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers with a convincing win in Game 1, the Caps skated their way to a commanding 2-0 series lead on Saturday night, with a 4-1 victory.

Here's a look at our breakdown from Game 1.

Now let's take a look at what worked and what didn't in Game 2.

What Worked

  • Braden Holtby
Braden Holtby is an X-factor, plain and simple, and his body of playoff work now has raking in accolades that qualify as "best in NHL Playoff history". And in a game where Holtby saw a lot more rubber than his netminder counterpart, it was Holtby who was the difference-maker, frustrating the orange-clad early and often. It stands to reason that if not for Brooks Orpik temporarily suspending his basic puck-tracking abilities, Holtby would have had his second consecutive shutout to open the postseason. Holtby has now stopped 60 of 61 shots, including 22 of 23 "high-danger shots."
  • Special Teams
The power play was 2 for 2 on 2 shots, and the penalty kill successfully fended off three Flyer advantages, including an extended 5-on-3. The Caps' three power-play goals through their first two playoff games of 2016 matches their power play output through the 14 such games they played last Spring.
Good stuff from both sides of the special teams coin so far.
  • Nicklas Backstrom
It was just last week that we took a look at a bit of a disturbing relationship between Nicky's regular season production, and then the production in the weeks that succeed it. Two games in, and the Caps' top pivot is off to a good start when it comes to bucking that trend. He's now got four points through two games, and three of those have come on the power play, where Backstrom has historically really dropped off.

It goes without saying that 2 games is a small sample size, but really the NHL's second season is just a conglomeration of small sample sizes ranging from four to seven games. If Nicky can keep up the pace, all of sudden the Capitals are every bit as lethal in reality as they are on paper. That's not necessarily been the case in year's gone.

What Didn't Work
  • 5v5 Possession
Although the Caps won the 5v5 scoring battle last night 2-1, that's only because of a fluke goal in their favor, and another strong outing from the man in net. For the most part, the game at evens was played largely at the less desirable end of the ice if you're the Caps.
Granted, War On Ice credited both teams with 14 high-danger scoring chances, which isn't of that much surprise. As Craig Laughlin called out during the broadcast, it was very quickly evident that Philadelphia's philosophy was to shoot often, and shoot from anywhere. We already know that's not the flavor of Barry Trotz's system. In fact, in Game 2 the Caps doubled their high-danger scoring chances from Game 1, though Philly's count jumped from 4 to 14.

Let's take a look at high-danger chances and shot attempts for both team through two games.

And HDSC as a percentage of shot attempts?

It's pretty clear there's a philosophical difference between the two teams that will play into possession numbers, but even with this context, the Caps' possession game from Saturday night is something they'd certainly like to improve on.
  • Early Game Scenarios
For the second game in a row, the Caps have given the Flyers a chance to put their stamp on the game before its really matured. In Game 1 it was taking three penalties before the first period was complete. In Game 2, it was putting the Flyers on a two-man advantage that lasted over a minute in the game's first frame. Just because the Caps' penalty-kill unit has done an ace bailout job doesn't mean this isn't a habit to watch.
  • Power vs Power Possession
It was the Backstrom line out against Claude Giroux's line, with support from the Alzer-Niskanen pairing, and it didn't go well for the good guys (well, except for that game-clinching goal). At least according to surface level possession metrics. If we dig a little bit deeper we see that Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Jakub Voracek combined for 1 high-danger scoring chance, 6 total scoring chances, whereas Nick, Alex Ovechkin, and T.J. Oshie combined for 6 high-danger scoring chances and 8 total scoring chances. So Giroux and company certainly executed the team's modus operandi for the game, and did so primarily against the Caps' big guns, but at the same time, so too did the Caps.

It'll be interesting to see how this look changes for games 3 and 4, when the matchups will be largely dictated by the home coach, Dave Hakstol, as he takes the lead in the playoff matchup tango for the first time in his NHL coaching career.