The Washington Capitals resumed their playoff-cum-preseason round-robin tournament with another weekday afternoon game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers had finished the regular season as one of the League’s hottest teams and dominated the Caps in their season series, outscoring them 14-2 in two games over the final month of play.
Since then, the whole world has changed — except, apparently, what happens when the Caps play the Flyers, as Washington lost 3-1.
Plus: Braden Holtby continues to look solid during the resumption of play in Toronto. Braden was faultless on the Flyers’ goals, all three of which were scored by players parked right in front of him. Holtby is statistically one of the best playoff goalies in history, and he saved this game from being a blowout.
Minus: Roughing, boarding, tripping, roughing, tripping, interference, hooking — the Capitals committed seven minor penalties Thursday, gifting the Flyers six power plays. Thankfully the Caps’ stellar penalty kill saved them from themselves, but the postseason has been refereed tightly so far, and sloppiness like this in the first round would be deadly for the Caps.
Some more notes on the game:
- Evgeny Kuznetsov had been a bright spot for the Capitals otherwise beleaguered top-six in the first game of the round-robin tournament against Tampa. The same cannot be said for today, as he took a tripping penalty and completely lost his man a couple of times, leading to tallies by Travis Sanheim and Scott Laughton. Kuznetsov took a nasty spill late in the first period, twisting his ankle as he collided with a Flyers player, then returned for his shift before heading down the tunnel to the locker room. He returned again for the third period but didn’t play in the second half.
- John Carlson missed his second-straight game after a hard collision into the boards in the exhibition game against Carolina last Wednesday. The absence of Carlson, a Norris Trophy-finalist, is profound. Without their power-play quarterback, whose 26 points on the man-advantage ranked second in the league, the Capitals four PP opportunities were disjointed. They struggled to get the puck to Alex Ovechkin in the circle, and because everything else is based on that threat, the absence was definitely noticeable.
- Ovechkin’s struggles against the Flyers continued today as he was rendered largely invisible for most of the game. In fact, the whole first-line — Kuznetsov, Ovechkin and Tom Wilson — was completely ineffective, and the Great Eight managed just two shots on goal, giving him just 12 in five games against Philly.
- Without Carlson, Radko Gudas got the sweater and a spot on the top-four defensive pairing. It did not go well [insert shocked face... here]. Hopefully that issue will be solved when Carlson presumably returns.
- With Lars Eller back in the Washington area for the expected birth of his second child, Travis Boyd was inserted as the third-line center in his place. Boyd, who has filled in well during his limited number games this season, scored on a tip-in in the third period to give himself his first career playoff goal and gave his team something positive to take back to the hotel. The goal was largely due one of the line’s regular members, Carl Hagelin, who set up the play with a give-and-go before firing the shot towards the net.
- Overall, the limited even-strength play was hard to judge, other than it was just sloppy, with a myriad of turnovers and penalties. No one stood out much — at least for positive reasons.
Well, so much for that. The Capitals now have one point in two round-robin games, meaning they will not get one of the top-two seeds in the first round. Washington clearly doesn’t care much, treating the games as tune-ups instead. Disturbingly, these have been some pretty terrible tune-ups.
Holtby looks good, though.
The Capitals play their final round robin game against the league-leading Boston Bruins Sunday in a battle for the third and fourth seed.