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Caps starting goaltender Braden Holtby left practice early on Tuesday after colliding with a teammate, setting off widespread internet panic. Barry Trotz later said Holtby, who had been seen favoring his left leg, was fine.

We got further confirmation of this fact from CSN Mid-Atlantic when they published video of Holtby. Holtby had no noticeable limp when walking away from the catering table. He looked perfectly fine.

But discussion of Holtby’s possible injury missed the real point: what was Holtby eating?

RMNB investigates.

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Power Play Dominance Has Led Caps to 3-0 Series Lead

Carlson and Backstrom Celebrate

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Before the series between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers began, we took a look at the special teams of both squads. Since then, three games have been played; three Capitals wins have been tallied; eight goals have been scored on the power play by the Caps, none for Philly. To say the power play has been just a factor in the series is underselling it.

In that pre-series write-up, we identified a triangle plus one formation for the Flyers’ penalty kill, a penalty kill that relies on getting in lanes to disrupt shots instead of putting pressure on the player holding the puck. They have been torched.

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Was There Value in the Caps’ Physicality in Game Two?

Backstrom Checks Giroux

Photo by Patrick Smith

The value of hits is a point of contention among hockey analysts. There is little doubt that having more hits than an opponent likely means that the other team had better possession. This may not be exclusive as some teams rely and game plan for being physical and others do not, but the assumption is usually correct. Some have relegated hits to the intangible realm, where there may be some value, but it is unquantifiable for now. Some believe hits to have great value to slow down, frustrate or actually affect the game of an opponent.

Let’s take a look at Game Two to see if there was any effect on Caps’ physicality.

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Photo: Geoff Burke

The eighth-seeded Philadelphia Flyers are down 2-0 in their first-round series against the Washington Capitals. Despite outshooting the Caps 61-54, the Flyers have been outscored 6-1. The Caps have received superior goaltending, but if you ask Flyers forward Ryan White, something else is afoot.

“We’re playing the Presidents’ Trophy champs,” White said to the Courier-Post’s Mark Trible. “They’re gonna get a lot of calls. Everyone wants them to keep winning. We’ve just gotta keep playing. We’ve got to push through it and keep our noses to the grindstone and keep getting at it.”

White suggests that the officiating has been slanted towards the Capitals so far in the series. He is wrong.

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Breaking Down Jason Chimera’s Game-Winning Snipe

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Photo: Patrick McDermott

Early in the second period of Game Two, with his team clinging to a 1-0 advantage, Jason Chimera stepped onto the ice, determined to give his team a two-goal lead. What followed was an impact shift, ending in a no-doubt-about-it goal from the Ice Cheetah, sending Verizon Center into a frenzy.

This snipe was so beautiful that it’s no doubt the most replayed goal from NHL action on Saturday night. On top of the highlight-reel quality of the goal, it also put Chimera in special company among Caps’ playoff goal scorers:

Let’s take a look at the Xs and Os of the game-winning goal.

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The Flyers are a Threat to the Capitals

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Rob Vollman is a leading voice in hockey analysis. He invented players usage charts and has written for NHL.com and ESPN Insider. His new book, Stat Shot, is available for pre-order and you can get Hockey Abstract (and the 2015 update) now.

After a dominant season, expectations are that the Washington Capitals will defeat the Philadelphia Flyers in their Eastern Conference First Round series in short order, but this may prove to be the tightest series in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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Sizing Up the Flyers: Special Teams

ovechkin slap

When the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers face off on Thursday, we will see one of the league’s best power plays try to flummox a decent Philadelphia PK, and we’ll see a troubled Philadelphia power play try to surprise a very strong Washington shorthanded unit.

But asking how Washington is so effective and how Philadelphia will attempt to stymie them requires us to go a bit deeper– to the particulars of each team’s special teams systems and personnel– to better understand what we’re going to see this series.

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WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 16: John Carlson #74 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his second period goal against the Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center on December 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Photo:Patrick Smith

The Washington Capitals’ special teams units have been at or near the top of the league rankings all year. While the number of power-play chances certainly goes down once the playoffs begin, the relative rarity of goals and chances makes converting those opportunities all the more important. Look none other than to the last President’s Trophy run. In that playoffs first round match-up the Montreal Canadiens scored six PP goals to the Capitals one, the Canadiens prevailed. Last year in the first round, the Islanders did not score a PP goal while the Caps scored two. Then in the very next round the New York Rangers tallied three PP goals to the Capitals one.

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holtby-hug

Last night, Braden Holtby tied Martin Brodeur’s all-time single season wins record. At times, 48 wins seemed like it’d be an easy mark to reach for the Holtbeast, but after the Caps lost three of their last four games, the Caps goaltender had to win his final scheduled start just to tie.

That drama and doubt fueled the Caps’ to one of their most convincing wins of the season, a 5-1 beatdown of the Blues, in St. Louis. It also meant one big celebration with their hairy goaltender.

At the end of the game, the Caps mobbed Holtby in the crease and gave him a giant group hug.

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chimera2

Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Jason Chimera avenged a vicious slash to the stomach by butt-ending Shayne Gostisbehere in the midsection. Chimera was not penalized on the play. Gostisbehere was not injured either.

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