Photo: Len Redkoles
All I wanted from this Capitals-Flyers game was a quiet affair, free of histrionics, that ended in a regulation win. After what feels like weeks of the cardiac Caps and their inconceivable comebacks, I need the hockey equivalent of warm milk and a Downton Abbey marathon. Despite my earnest pleadings, I was denied a calm, drama-free night. Instead I got a decent hockey game that devolved into something dumb and violent. And not dumb and violent in a fun, hockey way– where there’s lots of big, clean hits and chirping. No, we got the kind with the post-whistle scrums, the fights that lead to injuries, and the bad hits that lead to injuries and suspensions. Dumb.
In perhaps his most sedate goal yet, Alex Ovechkin put an indifferent backhand past Steve Mason during an early power play in the second period. The Flyers responded immediately– like any true Caps opponent– with a snazzy goal by Jacob Voracek. Then Eric Fehr realized he was wearing his Winter Classic uni and decided to score one of his own, taking a pass from Troy Brouwer below the goal line. Matt Read and company outworked Carlzner and the top line to tie the game again.
Then Tom Wilson put a dirty hit on Brayden Schenn and the Flyers punished the Caps for it. Twice. Wayne Simmonds added to the rout in the third, taking a gimme puck from John Carlson before beating a besieged Braden Holtby.
Flyers beat Caps 5-2.
- 58 seconds from Ovi’s goal to Voracek’s. Here’s our article about how the Capitals temporarily become the worst team in the league in the 2-3 minutes after scoring a goal. I’d love to hear Oates’ thoughts on this phenomenon.
- Alex Ovechkin‘s first-period goal puts him at 28 on the year. This one was his least impressive ever. The puck just sorta dribbled away from Mason’s glove and towards Alex’s stick. One casual backhand swing and, voila, that’s how you score. Apparently. I guess.
- RMNB names Philipp Grubauer 3rd star of the game.
- Tom Wilson hasn’t put a shot on net since November 17th. That was 34 days ago, back when people still pretended 60 Minutes did journalism. He gets garbage minutes on the ice with middling linemates who haven’t given him a chance to prove himself in the offensive zone. He’s been utterly wasted in DC and he must be frustrated, so let’s keep that in mind as we discuss his dumb-ass hit on Brayden Schenn– you know: the one that fed the Flyers a five-minute power play and two goals. The one that will likely earn Wilson a suspension. Reasonable people may disagree about punishment though. (But perhaps they can do so without calling me a “horrible fan” or an “idiot/commie bastard.”) I think Wilson’s speed and the distance he traveled before hitting Schenn were egregious, and though Schenn making himself vulnerable may reduce the punishment, we’ve seen how the severity of an injury matters more than the intent of the hit. While we’re playing the “how many games will he get?” game, we should try to specify if we’re talking how much we guess Shanahan will give him or how much he ought to get in a perfect world. I think he should be suspended for two games. I think he will be suspended for four.
- Aaron Volpatti suffered an upper-body injury during his momentum-shifting, game-saving fight in the second period. JK, all that fight did is make this game about violence instead of goals and injure a talented, young player. The Caps do better when they play their own game, not the retrograde style of hockey that George McPhee proclaims to prefer despite his record of acquiring actual skill players. With Volpatti hurt and Wilson awaiting judgement, the Caps were down two forwards for much of this game, unless you factor in that those guys usually get a combined total of 10 minutes a night.
- Jay Beagle was kind of terrific. Despite being assigned a more reasonable spot on the second line, Beagle got a peak at the top line, sharing the ice with Alex Ovechkin and positively harassing the Flyers net while up there. Beagle led the Caps in possession for most of the night, before ceding it to Martin Erat and his electric second line. On for 5 Caps shot attempts and 11 Flyers attempts.
- Casey Wellman is not an NHL-caliber player. More like Casey Well-y’know-that’s-just-like-uh-your-opinion-man.
- Braden Holtby played his first full game in ten days and probably did not enjoy it. Holtby gave up five goals, three at even strength, and was not his usual sterling self. He’ll be back; no need to overreact.
Okay, that was bad. The Capitals were playing an unspectacular-but-competent game for awhile there, and then they let the Flyers dictate play as it got more violent. Then Tom Wilson took it way too far, and I’m not capable of defending that hit anymore than I already have.
After two stunning games against Philadelphia, the Caps have handed them a big win– both morally and practically. Not a whole lot for the boys to be happy about in this one.
Friday. Raleigh. Semin. Time for some redemption. See you then.