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.
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:
Jason Chimera scored his 6th career playoff GWG, tying Peter Bondra for first place on the #Caps postseason game-winning goals list.
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) April 17, 2016
Let’s take a look at the Xs and Os of the game-winning goal.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Saturday night, the Washington Capitals got shut out by the Blues 4-0. St. Louis’ first goal, by Kyle Brodziak, started with a turnover behind the net by Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov.
CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Alan May, a veteran of 393 NHL games and 17 professional seasons of hockey, broke down the play and showed how Orlov can learn from veteran Brooks Orpik. This is brilliant stuff (and no, he didn’t pay me to write that, though he probably should, considering how mean he is to me online).
It’s never fun to watch the Caps lose — especially when it’s a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins on national television. The Caps came out hard, but could not handle the Pens’ speed, falling behind two goals in the game’s first ten minutes. The Pens would pull away later in the second and third period, scoring four unanswered goals.
The Caps gave up five even-strength goals. Dmitry Orlov and Brooks Orpik were on the ice for four of the Pens’ six tallies.
“We got exactly what we deserved tonight,” Barry Trotz said after the game.
“I’m not going to let guys off the hook,” Trotz continued. “There’s no excuse for the sloppy play and the lack of execution when the heat was on. We had some guys who were not strong tonight. You can’t do that against a team that’s trending well. They’re probably the hottest team [in the NHL].”
Let’s take a look at the Pens six goals and see what patterns we find.
A few weeks ago, RMNB’s Chris Gordon asked Evgeny Kuznetsov about his finger twirl celebration.
“That’s not for you, you know,” Kuznetsov said to Gordon when asked what the inspiration of the celebration was. “You don’t have to know that.”
Kuznetsov said it was a secret, but recently RMNB reader Chris S. (@theSTOEHR) found something that could give us context.
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