Before the Stanley Cup playoffs started, the Philadelphia Flyers knew they had a tall task awaiting them in the first round of the playoffs. The Washington Capitals are the complete package, and held the best record in the NHL by a long shot.
That task became even more complicated over the weekend. The Flyers have dropped the first two games of the series, and have only managed to score one goal in the process. They’ve failed to capitalize on their special teams opportunities and in the process lost one of their most important pieces in Sean Couturier.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Braden Holtby seems to be in top-notch form and Alexander Ovechkin has shown no signs of slowing down. While all of that may spell a worst case scenario for the Flyers, there is a few ways they can get themselves right back in the mix of things and make this series competitive.
Get Jake Voracek Going Again
This is probably the most crucial aspect of getting the Flyers back into the series.
Ever since Voracek returned from his lower-body injury, he just hasn’t been the same. His game has been plagued by turnovers and bad decisions, and he appears as though he’s trying to force plays that aren’t there. He was a minus-4 in the last five games of the regular season, and has failed to find any sort of rhythm; that’s a huge detriment to the Flyers.
This team needs Voracek to be on the top of his game. He had the best season of his career last year, finishing near the top of the league in points, and saw a steep drop-off this season. He had his lowest point total since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, and saw his lowest goal total since his first season in the NHL.
He finally netted a goal during Game 2 against the Caps, but he’ll need to continue to play well for the Flyers to have any chance at winning this series. If Voracek plays well, it gives the Flyers that much more depth against a Capitals team that is arguably the best top-to-bottom team in the NHL.
Start Making the Capitals Pay
If there’s one thing the Flyers need to change, it’s capitalizing on missed opportunities, and this will be the focal point for the rest of the series.
Most of those missed opportunities have been in the form of power plays that the Flyers have gotten and failed to put to use.
In fact, during Game 1, the Flyers found themselves with three power plays in the first period alone. They failed to cash in on those and really had little sustained pressure on any of the power plays. After that point, the Caps never looked back, and after the first period, the Flyers were out shot by a margin of 23 to 8. That isn’t any way to win a playoff game.
Although the Flyers were badly out shot for the final two periods, they still only lost by two goals. That just shows how important those power plays are. If the Flyers scored on one of those early power plays, the course of that game could have turn out drastically different.
Game 2 was somewhat better (despite the score) from Philadelphia’s standpoint. They out shot the Caps by 19 and had much more sustained pressure, but they still failed to cash in on any of their four power plays.
The Caps? They went 2 for 2 on the man advantage. That’s the difference between winning games and losing them in the playoffs. If the Flyers don’t start making the Capitals pay for taking penalties, they could find themselves on the golf course a lot sooner than they wanted to.
Get Into the Heads of the Capitals
If anything is in the minds of this year’s Capitals, it’s their recent playoff history.
Despite being near the top of the NHL’s standings for several seasons in recent memory, the Caps have failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs. That includes the 2009-10 season where the Capitals had a near identical record, a 3-1 series lead on the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens, and still ended up getting knocked out.
Another interesting stat? Out of their past seven playoff appearances, the Caps have held a 2-0 or 3-1 series lead four times, and they’ve lost all four of those series.
What can the Flyers take out of this? Well, for starters, this is probably a fragile team given their playoff past.
For the Flyers, that means they have to get on them early and often.
They took a big step forward in Game 2 by out playing the Caps for long stretches, and if it weren’t for a miscue by Steve Mason, the game could have very well gone the other way. The Flyers now find themselves coming home to Wells Fargo Center and ready to play in front of one of the most hostile playoff atmospheres in all of sports.
That should be a welcomed sight to a team that needs that little extra step at this point in the season.
If the Flyers can turn around and even up the series on home ice, you can be sure the Caps will be hearing about all their recent struggles in the postseason, and you can be sure that would get into their heads.
Game 3 is do or die for the Flyers, and no matter what the outcome, it will most likely be a huge momentum swing for, or against, the Flyers.
Featured Image was provided by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers