Monday, April 18, 2016

Washington Capitals Recap -- Capitals at Flyers, Game 3: Capitals 6 - Flyers 1

The Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers had a fight on Monday night, and a hockey game broke out.  The Caps spotted the Flyers a goal in the first minute on an emotional night when the Flyers honored Ed Snider, owner of the club since it came into the league in 1967 who passed away a week ago.  It would not be a night that the Flyers would want to remember on the ice, though.  The Caps scored six unanswered goals, five of them on the power play, to take a stranglehold 3-0 lead in the series after the 6-1 win in Game 3.

The Flyers opened the scoring just 57 seconds into the game when Brandon Manning fired a shot from distance that goalie Braden Holtby stopped.  Michael Raffl got position on Brooks Orpik on the rebound, though, and swept the puck past Holtby’s right pad to give the Flyers the early lead.

And then, the game changed.  It started slowly, as a John Carlson drive from the top of the offensive zone nicked Marcus Johansson on the way through and eluded goalie Steve Mason to make it 1-1 at the 4:43 mark.  The storm was coming…


The storm clouds were gathering, but there was no further scoring in the first period.   That situation was remedied by Alex Ovechkin in the ninth minute of the second period when he hid behind a linesman at the Flyer blue line.  Then, as Nicklas Backstrom got control of the puck, he broke off the wall and took a pass from his linemate.  Skating in on Mason, Ovechkin snapped a shot that beat Mason cleanly to the far side, and it was 2-1, 8:50 into the period.   Suddenly, the winds were starting to wind up.  The forecast was for the possibility of more inclement weather to wreak havoc on the Flyers…


The Flyers might have been lucky to get out of the period down a goal, but they could not help themselves from doing something stupid.  With Evgeny Kuznetsov in the box and the Flyers looking at 30 seconds of power play time to start the third period, Brayden Schenn took a slashing penalty at the end of the period that would give the Caps a 90-second power play when the Kuznetsov minor expired.   The winds were starting to howl; the rain was pouring down…


And, irony of ironies, it was Kuznetsov who made the Flyers pay for their iffy judgment.  Braden Holtby got the play started by sending a long pass up the right wing to Justin Williams at the Flyer blue line.  Williams fired the puck on a hard-around that hit a stanchion and hopped out in front of Mason.  With a chance to freeze the puck, Mason misplayed the puck off the end of his glove where Kuznetsov picked it up.  Taking a moment to create some space, Kuznetsov wristed a shot past Mason’s glove to make it 3-1 just 1:58 into the period.  The deluge had begun…


Then the Flyers channeled their 1975 edition.  Trouble is, this club is not as talented as that one, and the march of penalties that unfolded did them in.  Mark Streit went off at 6:04 with T.J. Oshie on coincidental minors, but then Radko Gudas went off 31 seconds later on a tripping call.  A minute later, John Carlson made it 4-1, taking a pass from Alex Ovechkin, looping around Ovechkin at the top of the zone, and firing a slap shot that beat Mason at the 7:37 mark.  It was now a Category 4 hurricane…


The Flyers just lost their minds after that.  Pierre-Edouard Bellemare checked Dmitry Orlov into the boards head-first at the 12:17 mark to give the Caps a five-minute power play.  Gudas and Ryan White took ten-minute misconducts.  On the ensuing power play, Ovechkin scored his second goal of the game and third of the series.  Firing a one-timer off a pass from John Carlson, the shot was blocked by Nick Schultz.  The puck came right back to Ovechkin, and his second attempt did not miss, beating Mason to make it 5-1, 14:58 into the period.  The Caps were flirting with a Cat-5 storm…


The Flyers took one more penalty to give the Caps one last power play chance, and Jay Beagle poured salt into the Flyer wounds, rewarded for his persistence in front of the net by poking a loose puck past Mason with just 1:40 left for the final score, 6-1.  The storm had finally ended, laying waste the Flyers’ hopes of using the energy from their ceremony honoring Ed Snider to get back into the series.

Other stuff…

-- Brooks Orpik left the game 12 minutes into the second period after taking a hit from Ryan White along the boards.  Orpik was helped off the ice in considerable distress, and although the news from the locker room would be that his return was questionable (he did not return), he did not have the look of a player who would return on Wednesday for Game 4.

-- The Capitals set a club record with five power play goals in a post season game, besting the four that they recorded in 7-2 win in Game 6 of the 1988 Patrick Division semi-finals against the Flyers.  In three games, the Caps are now 8-for-17 in the series with the man-advantage (47.1 percent).  In the last two games, the Caps are shooting 7-for-15 (46.7 percent).

-- The Flyers had 53 minutes in penalties.  That was the most a Flyer team had against the Caps in a playoff game since they took 63 minutes in penalties in Game 5 of the 1988 Patrick Division semi-final, a 5-2 win for the Caps. 

-- Braden Holtby had an assist.  That gives him more points than Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux, and as many as those two and Shayne Gostisbehere….combined.

-- As for his day job, here is how well Braden Holtby has played in this series.  He stopped 31 of 32 shots, and his save percentage went down.  He came into the game having stopped 60 of 61 shots (.984 save percentage), and his .969 save percentage in Game 3 left him with a .978 save percentage through three games.

-- Alex Ovechkin seems to live for games like this.  Two goals, six shots on goal, 18 shot attempts, three hits, an assist, and plus-1 (as “plus-y” as any Cap could be, given that five of their six goals came on power plays).

-- The Capitals power play could light a medium-sized city at the moment.  They are 8-for-17 in this series (47.1 percent), and their shooting is 7-for-15 in the last two games (46.7 percent).

-- Jay Beagle has as many goals (2) as the entire Flyer team…John Carlson has more power play goals (3) than 13 other teams in the postseason (pending results from late games)…Marcus Johansson had five times as many shot attempts in this game (five, three of them on goal) than he had in the first two games combined (one)…the Caps now have seven players with goals; the Flyers have six players with points…Nicklas Backstrom had a pair of assists; he leads the league with five helpers…the Caps have five road power play goals (in one game); last season they had two in seven road games.

-- The Caps killed off all five Flyer power plays, making them 13-for-13 in this series.  Their special teams index is now 147.1. 

-- Philly did win the shot attempt battle at 5-on-5, 48-32 (60.0 percent Corsi-for).  But when the Caps end up with the most power play chances in a playoff game in the post 2004-2005 lockout era, that statistic just doesn’t have the same heft (numbers from war-on-ice.com).

In the end…

This is the 36th best-of-seven postseason series in which the Caps have participated in franchise history.  It is the first time the Caps ever took a 3-0 lead in games.  And to do it under adverse circumstances – on the road, against a bitter rival, with the team honoring their long-time owner who recently passed away.  The intangibles were in the Flyers’ favor.  And when the Flyers scored in the first minute, it seemed possible that this game could get away fairly quickly.  But as the Caps did so often over the first two-thirds of the season, they shook off some early troubles, paid attention to business, and just ground down the Flyers, with the added benefit of the Flyers melting down in the third period to put the Caps on the power play for a grand total of 12:48 for the game.

It isn’t over until it is over, this being a matter of “first to four,” not “first to three.”  However, the Caps have been so clearly superior in most aspects of the game that one wonders if the Flyers will ever get to “one,” let alone “four.”

1 comment:

Michael Moore said...

Well done. Much better recap of the game than NHL.com offered. They didn't even mention the Flyer shenanigans.