Flyers Backcheck: Washington Taxes Flyers Goal Scoring

What a difference a trip to the nation’s capital can make for the Flyers goal scoring. After igniting for seven goals against the powerhouse Lightning on Monday, the Flyers followed up with a goose egg on Wednesday night, falling to Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals, 1-0. Add another game to the regulation loss column in what is becoming more and more of a lost season.

Fluky Bounces

With Boston’s win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday, the Flyers entered the Verizon Center 11 points out of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. And after a soft first period goal from Jason Chimera, the orange and black would exit the building with no headway made.

Barry Trotz’s Caps must have tuned into Saturday’s tilt with Boston, since Washington’s bulky defense mirrored the pressure applied by the Bruins. And despite being held to single digit shot totals in the first and third period, the puck was on their sticks for the large portion of the first two periods.

It was an ugly hockey game for the most part, thanks to bad ice and maybe perhaps the fact that the Flyers scored all of their damn goals on Tuesday. The Capitals did a great job of clogging up the space in front of goaltender Braden Holtby all night, and it really limited the Flyers chances despite that fact that for the most part, Philly carried the final 40 minutes of this one in terms of possession and quality chances. — Travis Hughes, Broad Street Hockey

The Flyers whiffed on two chances in the final minute with goalie Rob Zepp on the bench for the extra attacker. In a scrum around the net, Vinny Lecavalier took a swipe at the puck with a wide open net. The only problem is the puck skipped over his stick as it swept through.

Shortly after that, Claude Giroux sailed one wide, despite a great look at the net. It was the second time of the night the Flyers captain would come up empty after being shunned by Holtby on a breakaway in the first period.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzJRbH1ZXtA

Be that as it may, it was just “one of those nights.” The Flyers just picked an awfully bad opponent to have that night against. The Capitals have now opened up a 15 point gap between them and Philadelphia. And even though the goal isn’t to catch the Caps, per se, the Flyers get absolutely nothing in the point column, despite giving up just one goal.

Uh Oh, Caps Score First

No other team has won more games after scoring the game’s first goal than the Caps. After Wednesday’s win, Washington is now 23-1-3 after breaking through first. That’s three games better than Pittsburgh’s 20-4-5 mark, which ranks second in the league.

The Flyers, on the other hand, drop to 6-18-4 when allowing the first goal of the tilt. It would’ve been nice for Philly to find the back of the net first on Wednesday. Not only would it have avoided a shutout, but the difference in Washington’s record is quite the contrast. When allowing the first goal, the Capitals are 1-10-5, 30th in the NHL.

Braden Holtby, Washington’s Heartbeat

In his 20th straight start, Braden Holtby’s 21 saves were enough to log his fourth shutout of the season. The 25-year-old Canadian has now won three straight, as well as seven of his last nine. Holtby has not lost in regulation since Dec. 23rd, a span of nine games without at least handing his team a single point.

With the win against the Flyers, Holtby improves to 22-8-7. With 38 games under his belt this season, the 6-2, 203-pounder is just one win shy of tying his career-high in wins (23) set in the past two seasons.

 

Holtby may be streaking, but he’s anything but a flash in the pan.

Among active goalies with at least 100 NHL appearances, only Tuukka Rask (.926) and Cory Schneider (.924) have a higher career save percentage than Washington’s Braden Holtby (.920). — Jason Brough, Pro Hockey Talk

The Wilson – Schenn Feud

NBCSN’s Rivalry Night featured an unusual feud between Tom Wilson and Brayden Schenn, who have a bit of a history. Back in December of 2013, Wilson launched into the then 22-year-old Schenn from behind, sending the young forward face first into the board. While Wilson avoided suspension for the hit, it was an action many deemed “dirty.”

On Wednesday, Wilson and Schenn were seen jawing back and forth, both on the ice, as well as from their benches. While Wilson owns a three inch advantage over the younger of the two Schenn’s, his 20-pound advantage make his feud with Schenn a distinct mismatch.

Special Teams Role Reversal

Ian Laperriere’s penalty kill was perfect on Wednesday night, killing off both power plays caused by penalties to Chris VandeVelde and Jakub Voracek. Philly’s 74.3 PK percentage still ranks last in the league, but their pair of kills against the Caps inch them closer to 29th ranked Arizona. The Coyotes have given up 37 power play goals – one less than the Flyers have allowed.

Luke Schenn (2:21) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (1:42) were instrumental in the Flyers’ shorthanded efforts on Wednesday. Along with Andrew MacDonald’s 1:44 of kill time, Schenn and Bellemare were effective in their bulk of penalty kill minutes. Bellemare made the play of the night on the kill, denying Alex Ovechkin a chance to extend zone time by clearing the zone after falling down.

But despite the penalty kill success, the Flyers were barren in three power plays of their own. Their trio of failed power plays against the Caps drop their road power play percentage to 15.8 percent.

Broken Streaks

Wednesday’s pitcher’s duel snapped several offensive streaks on both sides. Both Claude Giroux and Alex Ovechkin waived goodbye to point streaks against each other’s teams.

Braden Holtby’s stingy performance halted Giroux’s five-game point streak against the Caps, while Rob Zepp stopped all five of Ovechkin’s shots on net, ending his a one-game point streak.

Ovechkin’s “one-gamer” may not be considered a streak, but it’s significant in that the 29-year-old captain has scored six goals in his last eight games against the Flyers. The Russian sniper’s cache of goals against the orange and black include a five-game streak of lighting the lamp.

Giroux, on the other hand, had some of his best production against the Caps in his now broken point streak. The Flyers captain registered 10 points over a five-game span, including two consecutive three point performances.

Wednesday’s shutout also ended Mark Streit’s four-game point streak. After tallying six points in his last four games, the 37-year-old defenseman was held scoreless for the first time since Jan. 3rd.

More Injuries

Add Scott Laughton’s name to the list of fallen soldiers. The 20-year-old rookie left Wednesday’s game after a vicious hit delivered by Matt Niskanen. Laughton was immediately evaluated in the dressing room, where he was ruled out with an “upper-body injury.”

“He’s like Eddie Haskell,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said of Niskanen afterward. “He’s got the young face and all that. But he’ll run into you, give you the stick.”

While it’s likely that Laughton suffered a concussion for not keeping his head up, the overwhelming majority called Niskanen’s hit “clean.” Whether it was or not is irrelevant. If the NHL wants to prevent head injuries, they must eliminate contact aimed high. After all, we now know more than ever on the long-term effects of brain injuries. It’s not 1997 anymore.

Jake Voracek Watch

After notching points in three straight games, as well as four of five, Jake Voracek was held off the scoresheet for the first time in eight days. But despite the scoreless night, the NHL’s leader in points remains the league’s lone 50-point scorer with 52 points.

Voracek does, however, have a new face on his heels. Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin has quietly turned in four multi-point performances in the Pens’ last five games. Malkin sits one point ahead of Dallas’ Tyler Seguin, as well as Flyers captain Claude Giroux, for the top contender’s spot to challenge Voracek’s quest for the league’s scoring title.

The Vancouver Maneuver

The Flyers will return home for a quick turnaround, as they host the Vancouver Canucks in the tail end of their back-to-back. After a disappointing season last year, Vancouver has rebounded with a 23-15-3 record through 41 games. But despite their overall recent success, the Canucks have tailed off of late, dropping three straight, and four of their last six.

Adding to the fray, the Flyers have historically owned Vancouver. Philadelphia’s 70-30-13 all-time record against the Canucks includes their 4-3 shootout win on Dec. 30, 2013. Vancouver has dominated the Eastern Conference this season, however, running a 10-6-1 record against their non-conference opponents. Their 7-1-0 mark against the Metropolitan Division make Thursday’s matchup all the more daunting.

Nobody said it’d get any easier for the Flyers, though. At least we’re already used to it.