Tonight’s nationally televised game for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBC Sports Network features two teams trending in opposite directions as the NHL’s best squad the Washington Capitals travel up north to face the fading Philadelphia Flyers. This is the third of four match-ups between the divisional foes, with both teams having won a game each. However, the latest game between the two rivals was a 5-0 onslaught to the Flyers at the hands of the Capitals.
The Capitals, like every year, always find themselves hovering atop of the standings across the entire league. Routinely in the conversation for the Presidents Trophy, there’s no doubt the Capitals have what it takes to dominant during regular season play. It’s when the games get serious come April is when they usually begin to fade and fall short. The Capitals, despite finishing first or second in their division the last eight out of nine seasons, have never made it passed the second round of the playoffs in the Alexander Ovechkin era.
The Flyers, on the other hand, are a whole different animal. In mid-December, they were looking like a team on the rise in not only the Metropolitan Division but in the entire league. Winning 10-games in a row put them right in the thick of the standings with the big hitters in the east. However, since then the Flyers have been one of the worse teams in the NHL, and as a result, have fallen completely out of the playoff race. They now find themselves three points out of the second wildcard, with two teams in their way. A lot has to go right for the Flyers from now till the end of the regular season if they are to make it into the playoffs for the second straight season under Dave Hakstol.
Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Wells Fargo Center – 8:00 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – NBC Sports Network; 97.5 The Fanatic
2016-17 Season Series: 1-1
Washington Capitals: 39-12-7 – 85 Points
Road Record: 15-7-6
Hot Players: Niklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie
Scratches: Travis Boyd (healthy), Taylor Chorney (healthy), Andre Burakovsky (IR, hand)
Alexander Ovechkin – Nicklas Bäckström – T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams
Brett Connolly – Lars Eller – Zach Sanford
Daniel Winnik – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik – Nate Schmidt
Philadelphia Flyers: 28-24-7 – 63 Points
Home Record: 17-9-4
Hot Players: Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Shayne Gostisbehere
Scratches: Andrew MacDonald (healthy scratch on Sunday), Nick Schultz (healthy), Jordan Weal (upper body), Travis Konecny (IR, lower body)
Brayden Schenn – Claude Giroux – Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise – Sean Couturier – Jakub Voracek
Michael Raffl – Nick Cousins – Matt Read
Chris VandeVelde – Pierre-Édouard Bellemare – Roman Lyubimov
Ivan Provorov – Brandon Manning
Mark Streit – Shayne Gostisbehere
Michael Del Zotto – Radko Gudas
1) The Flyers just may be catching the Caps at the best time — the Capitals have lost two games in a row for the first time since last year. Before dropping two straight they were winners of 19 of their last 22 games. A common trend in the NHL this year have been a team’s going on torrid winning streaks and stretches of elite play only to struggle significantly to get back on the horse after dropping a few games in a row.
2) The Flyers have clearly begun to show who’s their number one goalie for the time being — Michal Neuvirth — who will be making his fifth straight start in goal for the Flyers tonight. Earlier in the year, the Flyers were a juggernaut on offense but their goaltending between Steve Mason and Neuvirth played well below their average level of play. One of the keys for the Flyers in making the playoffs down this stretch run will be the stability between the pipes, in which Mason and Neuvirth both last year were outstanding.
3) One of the reasons why the Capitals have been so dominant this year is because they are stacked up and down their lineup. The ability to put Niklas Backstrom out with Alex Ovechkin on the first line and follow it up with superstar Evgeny Kuznetsov on the second makes the Caps a defensive nightmare. It doesn’t just stop on offense, though, Karl Alzner and John Carlson make one of the best defensive pairs in the league, and they follow that up with Dmitri Orlov and Matt Niskanen. Also, they have a guy named Brayden Holtby between the pipes, whose one of the top three goaltenders in the NHL.
4) On the reverse side, the reason why the Flyers have struggled for the last two months is because of their lack of star ability and depth in their lineup. Outside of Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds on the power play, their five vs. five play is one of the worst in the league. Their defense is also nothing to scream home about, outside of rookie sensation Ivan Provorov and Radko Gudas, the entire defense has been inconsistent and underwhelming. The Flyers are hoping that their talent they’ve drafted over the last few years can hopefully turn into the kind of firepower that the Capitals boast now.