After dropping two straight decisions and letting their series lead drop 3-2, the Washington Capitals went into Wells Fargo Center with a completely different mentality. It was one that was more disciplined, as well as more aggressive, and it helped them finish off Philadelphia with a 1-0 win.
Their play in Game 6 is just one of many reasons why the Capitals eliminated the Flyers to advance to the second round. Without further ado, let’s go into detail and look at exactly why the Capitals went on to defeat Philadelphia.
Washington prioritized the playbook
The Capitals played a great Game 5, but it was one where they attempted 82 shots on goal. Many of them were random shots from all over, and none of them could get past Neuvirth for one reason: they weren’t perfectly set up.
What you got from this game, however, was a more organized set of plays. It was in fact a picture-perfect, textbook play that helped Washington break Neuvirth’s 106-minute shutout streak (72 shots later).
This goal was one that Neuvirth had no chance of stopping. Alex Ovechkin kept the puck in the zone with great determination and effort, and Marcus Johansson continued his amazing playmaking with an incredible pass to Nicklas Backstrom to finally help Washington score. Even though Neuvirth has great lateral movement, the play was so perfect, so well set-up that the Capitals didn’t allow him the time or opportunity to stop the shot.
Plays like that will help you win a hockey game, especially against a team like Philadelphia who has incredible shot-blocking ability. Textbook plays also helped Washington develop many more scoring chances, such as a T.J. Oshie and Ovechkin 2-on-1 that got broken up, as well as a beautiful pass from Daniel Winnik to Jay Beagle that almost gave Washington a two-goal advantage.
The Capitals were incredibly disciplined
Washington knew how important it was to avoid the sin bin. With these games being as low scoring as they were, the Capitals could not risk so much time short-handed, especially with Shayne Gostisbehere quarterbacking an outstanding Flyers power play.
This in mind, the Capitals stayed out of the box and kept the aggression on, only taking two calls during the second period (which led to a two-man advantage for the Flyers).
Not to mention, Washington did a great job dealing with the Flyers, as well as drawing penalties. An example of this is when T.J. Oshie let Claude Giroux jab him continuously, to the point where Philadelphia’s captain then lost his stick to Oshie. They also didn’t fight back or take any calls that could have cost them their power play.
Jay Beagle went above and beyond for the Capitals
The most valuable player of the game was by far Jay Beagle. What a game this kid had. Beagle was excellent on the backcheck and made sure to be an important asset for the Capitals. In just 13 minutes on the ice, he had two shot blocks and played a valuable role for Washington.
Also, he was the catalyst on the fourth line with Winnik and Tom Wilson. He started the rush, crashed the net and gave the line quite a couple of scoring chances. His best chance was on the 2-on-1 rush to the net with Winnik, but Neuvirth remarkably came across and stopped the shot.
The 6-foot-3 winger finished the game with two shots, pretty good chances and a couple of shot blocks. Beagle was one of Washington’s unsung heroes in this game.
Holtby and the defense helped blank the Flyers
Holtby played a remarkable game, stopping 26 shots and making excellent saves to stonewall Philadelphia. He displayed unbelievable lateral movement and rebound control that helped him stop good scoring chances from Philadelphia.
However, he wouldn’t have gotten the shutout without the full effort from the defensive corps, as well as the entire team. All of Washington’s d-men were extremely aware, and the offense came back and did an excellent job backchecking. The entire Capitals team blocked 13 shots and made 32 hits, helping them keep the puck out of their net.
It was an aggressive effort that truly helped Washington advance, as well as outstanding play from Holtby, who only allowed five goals in this series against Philadelphia.
When the final buzzer went off, the banged-up Capitals squad grabbed Holtby in a huge group hug, Michal Neuvirth silently wiped his tears and this hopeful Washington team looked forward to the next round, where they will square off against Pittsburgh in what should be a thrilling second-round series, filled with adrenaline, grit and rivalry.
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.