NHL Gamecenter — Natural Stat Trick
The Washington Capitals took a quick trip up Philadelphia to take on Flyers Wednesday night after smashing the Ottawa Senators the previous day in a return to form for league’s leading team. With both sides facing the second game of back-to-back matches, the Capitals looked to open up a stretch of five straight Metropolitan Division games against the NHL’s best home team.
Unfortunately, the Capitals did not play the crisp hockey they displayed 24 hours earlier at Capital One Arena, reverted to errant passes and foolish defensive decisions that have plagued them over the last two weeks. However, they have escaped with a decent record.
Plus: For the second straight game, the Capitals allowed two power plays or less and killed them off effectively. That’s a nice change from last week.
Minus: The Capitals were brilliant on Tuesday, and it looked like they might have put the midseason slush play to bed. That was not the case. It took just 3:24 for the Capitals to misread a play leading to a Flyers opening goal, and the first period, though the Caps came out of it tied, continued the trend.
More notes on the game:
- Nicklas Backstrom scored on a shot that was more like me making a fool of myself in my driveway than an NHL player wide open in the slot. Nevertheless, the goal was not accidental. Alex Ovechkin came in hard on the forecheck and forced Travis Sanheim to turn the puck over. Tom Wilson then scooped up the disk behind the net and quickly fed it to an unmarked Backstrom.
- Jakub Vrana, my boy, is hot again. After a career-high 24 goals last season, Vrana scored his 19th tally in his 45th game of 2019-20 campaign on Wednesday. All of his goals this season have come at even-strength. Let’s get this man some more power play time. Vrana now has four goals in his last four games.
- The Capitals were gifted five power plays, including a high-sticking call that seemed to slightly rearrange Tom Wilson’s teeth and the fan-favorite puck over glass delay of game. They did not convert. The Caps managed just five shots on goal in 10 minutes of five-on-four play. Things turned disastrous on Washington’s third PP when John Carlson tried to pinch the puck at the blue line and instead fed it right to the Flyers. Kevin Hayes went off to the races and scored an “unassisted” breakaway goal.
- Braden Holtby was back in net. After a series of games that led to whispers of a goalie controversy with rookie Ilya Samsonov, Holtby turned in a reliable performance against the Flyers. Two of the goals he allowed were against wide-open up players bearing down on him with speed and the other appeared to have taken a deflection just before reaching the net.
- I am continually puzzled by why exactly Nick Jensen is on the ice, other than to honor longtime Capitals player and fellow defenseman Sylvain Cote by wearing number 3. His play on the opening tally was comical. He fumbled the puck leaving the defensive zone, which led to a turnover, tried to make up for it, but jumping up as the only Capitals player back and got beat with predictable results. Head coach Todd Reirden mostly had him ride the pine after that.
KONECNYYYYY!— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) January 9, 2020
He's a #NHLAllStar for a reason.
Presented by: @NewAmsterdam pic.twitter.com/m5c9QSN6un
As things stand now, the Capitals-Flyers would be a first-round playoff matchup, though four months out things are subject to change. This game had plenty of playoff snarl and choppy play, but limited excitement. Though the Capitals’ wounds were largely self-inflicted, the Flyers are 14-2-4 at home and have failed to record a point in just two games in Philly.
The Capitals will return to Capital One Arena, which has produced thrilling results for them lately, on Saturday to face New Jersey. The Devils sit at the bottom of the Metro, and the Capitals have twice as many wins. Time to move on from a ho-hum matchup and take advantage of a struggling team.
Washington has been iffy lately. They still have the best record in the league. There’s no reason to worry right now.