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.”
At first, it all went according to plan. The house lights went down at exactly 7 PM. The arena lit up in a sea of orange and white lights glimmering off commemorative wristbands. A tribute to the recently deceased Ed Snider, who founded the Flyers in 1967 and had owned the team ever since, played on the big screen. All of Wells Fargo Center, from the seating bowl to the benches to the press box, applauded a great owner. Then Kate Smith and Lauren Hart sang their trademark “God Bless America” duet. Within a minute of puck drop, the Flyers had the first goal, wildly sliding into the boards in celebration. The roar from the fans was booming. This was their night for their owner.
“Ed was a dynamic visionary who turned Philadelphia into one of the great hockey towns in the world,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said before the game in a heartfelt press conference. “He believed in excellence — and in this team, the Flyers.”
But in the end, that team let him down.
Photo: Rob Carr
Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is stopping pucks this postseason at a rate of 98.4 percent. On the other side of the ice, Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason is saving just 88.9 percent of shots on net. In Game Two of the first round on Saturday, Holtby turned aside all but one of Philly’s 42 shots. Despite the Capitals getting heavily outplayed at even-strength, they won 4-1.
Photo credit: Eric Hartline
Fighting in the NHL has been on the decline. It might be on its way out of the sport. Roster spots for goons are dwindling. Nerds have found no evidence that fighting impacts winning.
Yet on Friday night in Philadelphia, the Flyers decided the only way to save face after a figurative beatdown from the Caps was a literal beatdwn. Once Joel Ward scored his hat-trick goal, Wayne Simmonds threw an elbow to incite a fight with Tom Wilson. Ray Emery, Flyers back-up goalie and trained boxer, skated all the way down the ice and started throwing punches at Braden Holtby — even though Holtby declined to fight.
Saturday night, John Erskine was suspended for three games and fined $24,324.33 for his elbow to the head of Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds. Erskine, whose play has earned him a sweater in five consecutive games, will sit out Sunday’s game at home against the Penguins, Tuesday’s game against Toronto, and Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh.
GIF via welshhockeyfan
Late in the first period of Friday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Big John Erskine got himself into some trouble. Skating up the ice, Erskine connected with Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds, drawing blood but no penalty.
As you can see, Erskine’s elbow makes contact with Simmonds’ face. The question Brendan Shanahan will be asking is whether or not Erskine was putting himself in a defensive posture– or whether there was a suspendable intent to injure.
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