Thursday, April 21, 2016

Capitals vs. Flyers: Takeaways and Throwaways from Game 4

Game 4 in the playoff series between the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers is one that Caps fans hope they do not look back on with the same wistful memory expressed in the last lines of the poem, “Maud Muller,” by John Greenleaf Whittier…

“For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”

The Capitals had a chance to write new history in Game 4 with a win for a series sweep, what would have been the first in franchise history in a best-of-seven series, but that history waits for another day.  For now, we can address the takeaways and throwaways of Game 4.


  • Washington was 60.7 percent to the good in Corsi-for at 5-on-5 overall, and their scoring chances were similarly dominant – 37-19 overall and 17-8 in high-danger scoring chances.  They had a 10-1 advantage in high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 in the first period, averaging a little more than one every other minute at fives (numbers from 
  • John Carlson saw his power play goals streak end at three in Game 4, but he remains a force.  He had five shots on goal to lead the team, 11 shot attempts (also leading the team), two hits, and a takeaway.  He still leads all defensemen in the playoffs in points, power play points, is tied for the lead in goals, and he is doing it while logging more than 24 minutes a game.  If there was an “all-tournament team” for the playoffs so far, he might get one of the defenseman slots.
  • Andre Burakovsky was robbed of a goal by Michal Neuvirth in the third period, but the takeaway was not the scoring opportunity snuffed out as much as Burakovsky’s offensive assertiveness, which had been lacking in the first three games.  He finished with four shots on goal, eight shot attempts.  He added a couple of takeaways in his 15:28 of ice time.
  • Including Game 1 of this series, the Caps are 21-5 in games following a loss this season (the losses include three in extra time).  In those games, they outscored their opponent on average by a 3.15 – 2.00 margin.
  • Among goalies having faced at least 50 shots so far in the postseason, Braden Holtby is still first in goals against average (1.00) and first in save percentage (.966), first in save percentage when the Caps are shorthanded (.955), and second in even-strength save percentage (by 968, by rounding to Brian Elliott’s .968).  Going back to the regular season, he has allowed two or fewer goals in 11 of his last 15 games, one or no goals nine times.


  • About that Corsi-for number.  First period slow starts continue to bedevil the Caps.  On top of allowing the first Flyer power play goal of the series, they had just a 21-20 edge in Corsi-for at 5-on-5 (numbers from
  • Michal Neuvirth had a fine game.  He deserved the number one star.  But, is it a trend?  In his last four games, going back to the regular season, he alternated games with a save percentage over .920 and a save percentage under .890.  He has been really good or not really good lately.  And, in his last seven road games his save percentage is a less-than-sparkling .897.
  • The Caps were 0-for-2 on the power play after going 8-for-17 over the first three games.  Call it a course correction, but it might just be a bump on the road.  The Caps were 18-9 in games in which they had two or fewer power play opportunities this season (losses included those in extra time), 38-17 in games in which they had three or more man-advantages.
  • Alex Ovechkin had only two shots on goal.  That’s not his sweet spot.  Only once this season in 13 games in which he recorded two or fewer shots did he score a goal (January 17th, a goal on two shots in a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers).  In the 13 games he played following one with two shots or fewer recorded, he scored goals in seven of them.
  • The top line for the Flyers finally broke through with their first points of the series.  Well, two thirds of it.  Claude Giroux had an assist, and Wayne Simmonds had assists on both Flyer goals in Game 4.  Jakub Voracek didn’t skate with his former linemates, having been replaced by Brayden Schenn (who had an assist on the Flyers’ power play goal).  Still, those four players will take a combined two points at even strength into Game 5.

In the end…

It is not losing a game that is a problem, it is losing “games”…plural, as in “in a row.”  One of the hallmarks for the Caps this season has been in avoiding the plural form of the noun, “loss.”  The Flyers cannot afford any instance of that word, or their season is over.  As much as Game 5 has an ill-sounding ring to Caps fans, wouldn’t you rather be in the Caps’ position right now?

Photo: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Washington Capitals Recap -- Capitals at Flyers, Game 4: Flyers 2 - Capitals 1

History will have to wait for another day. The Washington Capitals were denied a sweep of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series by the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night, the Flyers holding on for a 2-1 win. The Caps, still waiting for their first best-of-seven series sweep in franchise history, lead the series, 3-1.

The Flyers opened the scoring in the first period by breaking a string of power play failures. With Taylor Chorney in the penalty box for interference, Shayne Gostisbehere took a Claude Giroux feed at the top of the offensive zone and one-timed it past goalie Braden Holtby at the 5:51 mark for the 1-0 lead.

That was all for the scoring until early in the second period when Andrew MacDonald nearly duplicated Gostisberhere’s goal, taking a pass from Wayne Simmonds at the left point and rocketing a one-timer past Holtby 3:51 into the period for a 2-0 Flyers lead.

T.J. Oshie spoiled the shutout in the third period. In the third minute of the period. Oshie started the play by circling behind the Flyer net with the puck and kicking it out to Karl Alzner at the left point. Alzner moved it across to Matt Niskanen, who let loose with a shot at the Flyer net. The puck pinballed around in front, ending up back on Oshie’s stick to the right of goalie Michal Neuvirth. Oshie had time and space to flip a backhand over Neuvirth’s blocker, and it was 2-1, 2:38 into the period.

That was as close as the Caps would get, though, as Neuvirth closed the door on any comeback hopes, the Flyers extending the series another game with the 2-1 win.

Other stuff…

-- It was the Caps’ turn to experience frustration over shots not going in. They out-shot the Flyers, 32-25, and they out-attempted Philadelphia by a 76-47 margin.

-- Jason Chimera and Karl Alzner were the only Capitals without a shot on goal.

-- The key might have been Philadelphia’s discipline. After giving the Capitals nine power plays on Monday night, the Flyers went shorthanded just twice on Wednesday, killing off both Washington power plays.

--  Then there was “Winning for Scott.”  Scott Laughton and John Carlson got tangled up going for a loose puck behind the Caps’ net late in the first period and the Flyers still nursing a 1-0 lead.  Laughton lost an edge and slid hard into the end boards, where he lay motionless.  And at that moment, if only for a moment, everyone was on the same team, hoping that Laughton was not seriously injured…

-- John Carlson’s string of games with a power play goal ended at three, and while he did not record a power play shot on goal, he did lead the team in shots on goal overall with five.

-- It was a comparatively quiet night for Alex Ovechkin, who managed just two shots on goal for the game (eight attempts, after getting 18 attempts in Game 3).

-- This was just the eighth time in 38 career playoff games that Braden Holtby faced 25 or fewer shots (he faced 25).  It was just his second loss in such games, the other coming in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the New York Rangers in 2012, a 3-1 Capitals loss.

-- It was a reasonably even night up and down the roster for the Caps, ice time wise.  Mike Richards was the only Capital not to get ten minutes (9:42).

-- Richards led the team in credited hits with six.  Fourteen of the 18 skaters for the Caps were credited with at least one, which was also true for the Flyers.

-- Taylor Chorney filled in for the injured Brook Orpik, and he did not do badly in 12 minutes and change.  One shot on goal, two hits, two blocked shots.  Oh, there was that penalty that led to the Flyers’ first goal.

In the end…

Sweeping a postseason series is hard.  Teams that get this far are prideful, and the Flyers are certainly that.  They also had the incentive to sponge away the ghastly performance – that of themselves and some of their fans – on Monday night.  Still, the Caps won the possession battle, they played the Flyers even at 5-on-5, and they were in the game to the end.  If a Caps fan wants to hang their hat on that hook, it’s a pretty sturdy one.  This loss could be – perhaps should be – just a speed bump in this series.  On the other hand, Caps fans might now have that odd feeling in the pit of their stomach about what Friday represents.  “Game 5” has often been a pivotal one, either to close a series (they have won a playoff series in five games three times in franchise history) or as a stop on the way to a seven game series.  If this team is truly different from their predecessors, there will be handshakes on the ice Friday night.

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images