The Capitals Don’t Like Your Narrative

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Photo: Patrick McDermott

In Game Five, the Philadelphia Flyers had the fewest shots they’ve ever had in a game. But they won. The Washington Capitals, at one point up 3-0 in the series, are now heading to Philly, where the Flyers have a chance Sunday to force a Game Seven. This is the second time the Flyers have won two games in a row after being down 3-0. The last time, against the Bruins in 2010, they won the next two as well, becoming the third team in NHL history to win a series after being down 3-0.

Washington has a playoff pedigree as well. It involves losing in painful ways. It’s on everyone’s minds. But the Capitals want none of it. Here’s what they said after dropping Game Five.

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Photo: Rob Carr

After Monday night’s anarchic attempt at a hockey game, the Washington Capitals held a 3-0 series lead. In 180 minutes of hockey, the Philadelphia Flyers took 96 PIMs. Washington’s power play was eight for 17. The Caps, it seemed, were in for a long layover before facing the winner of the Rangers-Penguins series.

“Everything they’ve gotten to a point we’ve given them,” Wayne Simmonds said in the minutes after Game Three ended. “We’ve got to stay out of the box.”

The Flyers have done that the last two games, reducing Washington to five power plays in Games Four and Five. Without that boost, the Caps fell when the series shifted back to Verizon Center Friday night. They outshot the Flyers 44-11 — shot attempts were 82-27 — but lost the special teams battle. Philadelphia had six power plays while Washington’s deadly man-advantage unit was limited to three.

“We were in the box a lot,” Tom Wilson, who did not receive any infractions, said. “Yeah, we had a lot of shots, but we have to do a better job of getting to the interior and staying out of the box. If we play 60 minutes five-on-five, I don’t think you see that team standing up by the end of it.”

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Photo: Rob Carr

The Capitals penalty kill was the second-best unit in the league during the regular season, killing 85.2 percent of opponents’ chances. Yet on special teams, it was overshadowed by the power play, which finished fifth. While the PK doesn’t provide between-the-legs passes or booming one-timers, it has kept the Capitals in control of their first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Washington’s penalty kill is a perfect eight for eight. Going back to the last five games of the regular season, the opponents’ power plays have been stopped 21 times in a row. Despite outshooting the Capitals 61-54 overall in the first two games, the Flyers have scored just one goal. Washington has six, including three power-play goals, good for a 2-0 series lead.

“We got our butts on the line,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said after Saturday’s Game Two loss.

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Photo: Patrick Smith

Wednesday morning, Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner was asked about the defensive pairing of Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov. They were both set to make their NHL playoff debuts in Game One of the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers. He paused halfway through his answer.

“You know, I’m just thinking, laughing in my head about Schmitty,” Alzner said. “He’s always so excited for a regular season game, I can’t imagine what he’s gonna be like for a playoff game. It’ll be fun.”

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Michael Latta in his natural habitat.

Tuesday night against the Islanders, Michael Latta got back in the line-up for the first time since February 22. During the first period, Latta made his presence felt, fighting 6’4” defenseman Scott Mayfield after teammate Mike Richards was slammed hard into the boards.

Because of Latta’s latest kerfuffle, we learned of his new nickname, courtesy of Karl Alzner.

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Coming into tonight’s game, bearded beauty Karl Alzner had scored 15 career goals in eight NHL career seasons. Saturday against the Bruins, Alzner tallied number 16 and his fourth of the season. It was amazing.

Basically, Alzner forgot he was a passive, stay-at-home defenseman and started aggressively forechecking behind the Bruins net. What resulted was a pass and score that more resembled a goal connection between Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

Last year, the Capitals’ top defense pair was John Carlson and Brooks Orpik. This year, those two have missed a combined 43 games. Tonight, it was Carlson’s turn again.

“He probably saw the doctors tonight and we’ll probably have an update (Saturday) because I don’t really know yet,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s not 100 percent or he would have played tonight. It is a lingering of the old injury so we just want to have the opportunity to let’s get it settled down or fixed. Whatever we need to do let’s just do it so that it’s not lingering on.”

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Photo: Geoff Burke

As Peter pointed out in the recap, Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen hadn’t scored since the first week of the season, a span of 115 days and 47 games. Sunday against the Flyers, Niskanen scored the game-winning goal.

It was random.

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Photo: @WashCaps

Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner has now played in 423 consecutive games, passing Bob Carpenter for the franchise’s all-time record. Hockey is arguably the most brutal of the top four American sports. Playing just a single 82-season without missing a game is an accomplishment. Alzner’s managed to string four of those together, plus a full 48-game season after the 2012 lockout, and he’s well on his way to doing it again this season again (knock on wood).

Alzner is a reliable and smart player. He uses good skating skills and stick positioning to be successful. And, for five years and counting, he’s been willing to sacrifice his body when the moment calls for it.

The Capitals honored Alzner with a video on the jumbotron during the first period.

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Photos: Amanda Bowen

Karl Alzner put the Capitals up 2-0 over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. His effort (and self-described “lucky” goal) earned him third star of that game. When he came out for his curtain call, Alzner pointed to a small fan from across the ice and skated over to him. Alzner threw the puck over the glass and watched the child catch it before giving a thumbs up and fist bump through the glass.

The little boy’s reaction is precious.

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