Flyers- 3- Capitals- 2- Post-Game Recap

February 24th, 2015 by Kyle Lutz | Filed under Flyers, Hockey.

SHOTS BY PERIOD
PERIOD WSH PHI
1st 6 8
2nd 9 12
3rd 8 8
Total 23 28

TEAM STATS
CATEGORY WSH PHI
Power Plays 0/5 2/4
Hits 42 37
Faceoff Wins 35 28
Giveaways 4 8
Takeaways 3 2
Blocked Shots 15 19
Penalty Minutes 13 15

3 Stars

-Michael Del Zotto- 1 goal/point, 2 shots, 3 hits, 21:58 TOI
Claude Giroux- 1 goal/assist, 2 points, 5 shots, 1 hit, 21:23 TOI
-Jakub Voracek- 2 assists/points, +1, 2 hits, 17:31 TOI

The Flyers were (somehow) able to squeak by with another close win, this time vs. Washington, who they (also) beat two-weeks ago, 3-1. With a goal, right-winger Wayne Simmonds continued his hot/point streak, team captain Claude Giroux finally lit the lamp again — his first goal in a 10-game span — and defenseman Michael Del Zotto scored the game winner.

With the win, Philadelphia continued their hot streak, as they’ve gone 5-1-4 in their last-10 games and are undefeated in their last-three games. Despite the recent success, the Flyers have seemed to fall into a bad habit of letting big and/or late leads slip lately at the hands of their opponent, no matter how good or bad the opposing team is. Yesterday, they blew a 2-0 lead, they had two blown leads on Saturday vs. Nashville, and they also blew a 3-1 third-period lead 10-days ago at Columbus, which culminated in a 4-3 overtime loss. Another recurring problem, which has been a problem for quite some time now, are the turnovers and the scoring chances and/or goals allowed as a byproduct of said turnovers.

33-year-old backup Rob Zepp, somewhat surprisingly, got the nod in net again over starter Ray Emery, who’s sat on the bench the past-two games in favor of Zepp. Although he gave up a very-weak goal 15 minutes into the second, on a wicked left face-off circle slap shot by Washington right-winger Joel Ward, Zepp played fairly good — he wasn’t great but wasn’t bad — in net, despite the fact that he only faced 23 shots (he’s only faced 45 shots the past-two games). Some of his really nice third-period saves, which kept the team in the game, were a byproduct of his tremendous flexibility and instincts.

Capitals’ captain Alexander Ovechkin had a few very-solid chances, a couple of which either just missed going in or went wide of the net. On the day, he had five shots, two hits and one takeaway, in 23:46 minutes of action, which led the team, although he was a -1. For the Flyers, defenseman Braydon Coburn led the team in ice-time minutes, with 22:27, while winger Michael Raffl and Giroux had a team-leading five shots apiece. Furthermore, Sean Couturier won 10 out of his 17 total face-offs (59%- including 5/6 on defensive-zone draws).

If you’re a Capitals’ fan, you can’t pin the loss on goalie Braden Holtby, who played above average in net, stopping 21/22 even-strength shots. He stonewalled Flyers’ center Ryan White on a second-period breakaway with a minute and a half left, on White’s lone shot of the game. Joel Ward had the only other breakaway in the game, after a Wayne Simmonds’ neutral-zone turnover with seven-minutes left, but missed it high and wide of the net. Holtby also robbed Claude Giroux of a goal, making a solid, sprawling, right-leg save with 12-minutes remaining, to keep it a 2-2 tie.

However, Philadelphia finally broke the tie and kept their lead for good, when Michael Del Zotto hurried along the left face-off circle and wristed a shot past Holtby’s glove, with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare screening Holtby in front. The play started when Bellemare, from center ice, drew it back to Chris VandeVelde at the tip of the neutral zone, who passed it to Voracek along the right side. From there, Voracek, remaining patient as ever, out-muscled Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen, and threw a perfect pass in between two defenders to Del Zotto, and the rest is history. Holtby, to no avail, tried to argue with the refs that the goal shouldn’t of counted and that Bellemare should’ve been penalized on the play, for interfering with him in the crease, but the goal stood. With his assist on the play, center Chris VandeVelde broke his seven-game scoreless streak.

“We had chances and just missed it,” Ward said. “It was back and forth, we just couldn’t capitalize at the end.”

Speaking of Niskanen, with 30 seconds left in the opening period, he was called for a two-minute penalty for kneeing Sean Couturier, after a nasty, dangerous collision that, thankfully, didn’t seriously injure or sideline Couturier at all. Following the game, Couturier said he felt fine, while Craig Berube labeled the hit as “dangerous.” Niskanen may be in deep water, however, after not only that nasty hit but a dirty hit on Scott Laughton earlier in the year, not to mention he’s a former Penguin.

(Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

For Berube, so far, breaking up Giroux and Jake Voracek from the top line may have been a smart idea, in hindsight. To me, despite the chemistry and success of the two, this was the smartest decision Chief’s made all-year long. It was a smart move for several reasons. For one thing, coming into the game, both have been struggling mightily as of late (maybe in part due to Brayden Schenn being on the same line) and, thus, needed a change, to shake up the lines and see what new puzzle pieces may fit, per line.

Lastly, reminiscent of the ’97 conference-winning Flyers, outside of the top line, the team really didn’t have any consistent scoring from the remaining lines. Simmonds, who’s now on the top line, had really been the only consistent scorer on the team that wasn’t on the top line previously. Thus, a change was desperately needed.

Coming into the game, Giroux had been scoreless in his last-four games and he only had one point in his last-six games, while Voracek only had three in his last nine (2G, 1A). In the game, Giroux had two points (a goal and an assist each) and five shots, although he only won 43% of his face-offs on the day (10/23) and was only 3/9 on defensive-zone draws. This year at home, Giroux has 31 points in 30 games, and a face-off winning percentage of 58.4.

(Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

Voracek had two assists, one of which was on Giroux’s goal, and a +1 plus/minus rating, though, surprisingly, he didn’t register a shot on goal (on three attempts). It was the first time in eight games that Voracek didn’t register a shot. He now has 27 assists and 38 points in 26 wins this year, and 21 assists and 32 points in 30 home games.

As for Simmonds, with his second-period goal, he extended his point streak to eight games, a new career high. The Flyers started the play with an offensive-zone face-off, with the man advantage. After Claude Giroux was kicked out of the face-off circle, Capitals’ right-winger Jay Beagle won the face-off over Brayden Schenn, yet Schenn and Giroux fought for the puck. After the two of them drew it back to defenseman Mark Streit, Streit blasted a slap-shot onto Holtby, where Simmonds was (in the crease, where he usually is) able to bat the puck out of mid air.

In those eight games, Simmonds has 10 points (6 goals and 4 assists), and the Flyers’ win-loss record is 4-1-3. This year, the Flyers’ record is 12-4-4 when he scores at least one goal, and after an average start to the first half of the season, Simmonds has really turned it up a notch as of late, which always helps. This year, Simmonds’ home-road goal ratio is 16:8, and he’s on pace for a new career high in goals, in 32 (his current single-season high is 29 goals, from last season).

(Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

On the day, Philadelphia’s penalty killing was very solid, to say the least. At one point, when they were in the Flyers’ zone, Washington had a power-play and a 6-4 advantage, as they had pulled Holtby in favor of an extra attacker with 1:56 remaining. Flyers’ defenseman Nick Schultz drew an ill-advised delay-of-game penalty with 58 seconds left, due to shooting the puck over the glass, in attempting a clear. They stopped all five Washington man advantages, and Zepp stopped both of Washington power-play shots.

That isn’t a misprint either- Washington only had two shots on five power-plays, as the Flyers did everything they had to do to be effective on the penalty kill, from blocking shots to forcing turnovers. Impressively, defenseman Nick Grossmann and center R.J. Umberger blocked four shots each, while defenseman Braydon Coburn was the only other Flyer to block more than one (2).

Speaking of penalties, Flyers’ winger Zac Rinaldo was in the middle of the action, as usual. Near the Flyers’ bench, he nearly drilled Washington defenseman Mike Green, as he left his feet to make the hit, but missed and fell into the boards. Because of the attempted hit on Green, chaos ensued afterwards, which led to Washington left-winger Jason Chimera shoving Rinaldo and throwing punches at the latter, in defending his teammate. Although Chimera was the one to initiate it and was also the only player of the two to throw punches, due to his bad reputation with the league, Rinaldo was called for fighting, too. Had it not been for Rinaldo’s reputation, and if Chimera does that to any other player, the Flyers would’ve had a five-minute power-play.

Rinaldo was also called for a questionable elbow almost 14 minutes into the opening period, which was drew by Washington defenseman Karl Alzner. This was Rinaldo’s second-game back, replacing winger/center Vinny Lecavalier in the lineup (who was a healthy scratch), in as many games, since previously being suspended for eight games and being a healthy scratch for three additional games. Flyers’ defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo and Luke Schenn were also healthy scratches for the game.

Truthfully, the Flyers need to go back to benching Rinaldo. He takes dumb penalties, doesn’t do enough to offset his stupidity, and, maybe most importantly, the league doesn’t tolerate his behavior, and thus it reflects on the Flyers. When Rinaldo’s in the lineup, Philadelphia’s 15-17-5 this year, whereas, without him, they’re 11-6-6 and have been hot as of late, in his absence.

The last 10 games that the Flyers had a perfect penalty kill, they’ve gone 5-1-4. Coincidentally, their only loss in that span came at the hands of Washington, a month ago. They’re undefeated in their last-three games, including impressive wins vs. league-leading Nashville and Washington, so it’s not by chance that their penalty kill has been perfect in those three games (10/10).

Giroux opened the scoring, less than five-minutes in, with a power-play goal, with Streit and Voracek getting assists on the play. Giroux had lost the offensive-zone face-off to Troy Brouwer, but the Flyers gained possession, and after Giroux and Streit played catch a couple times, Giroux fired a snapshot on net, with Wayne Simmonds — as usual — crashing the net and distracting Holtby, for a 1-0 Flyers’ lead. Then, a minute and a half into the second, Simmonds’ power-play goal gave them a cushioned 2-0 lead.

Almost four-minutes after Simmonds’ goal, after a Brayden Schenn defensive-zone turnover, along the boards, defenseman John Carlson passed the puck through two Flyers — Grossmann and Streit — to Tom Wilson, who went short side on Zepp, for just his third goal of the year, which cut the Flyers’ lead in half. Next, as mentioned, Joel Ward lit the lamp with less than five-minutes left in the second. After strong forechecking and solid passing by Washington, center Eric Fehr passed it to Ward along the left face-off circle, who rocketed a shot short side past Zepp, just above his shoulder, for his 14th goal of the season.

(Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

Playoff Picture Update

With Boston’s 6-2 win at Chicago yesterday, the Flyers are only four points behind the Bruins for the final wild-card spot in the East, although Boston has a game in hand (59-60) and currently owns the tie breaker, too (with more regulation + overtime wins- 27-23). Fortunately for the Flyers, in addition to the win, Florida — who’s also ahead of them in the wild-card standings — lost 5-1 at Pittsburgh last night. With the win, the Flyers moved to within one point of Florida (63-64), who’s three behind Boston (with the same amount of games played), although Florida — like Boston does — has a game in hand.

All three teams are set to play their next game on Tuesday- Boston faces Vancouver, while Florida will travel to Chicago. Thankfully for the Flyers, Florida has to face a solid, 35-20-5, Blackhawks’ team, and one that I’m sure will be looking to bounce back after their embarrassing loss yesterday at the hands of the Bruins.

Schedule

Next up this week, the Flyers will travel to Carolina and Toronto, to face two struggling, below-average teams, games that are very winnable for the Flyers. Then again, this team is as unpredictable as possible, seeing as how they couldn’t defeat the worst team in the league on Thursday, in Buffalo, yet beat the best team in the league (in Nashville) and another solid team in Washington. The Flyers, like with Buffalo, can’t overlook their opponent — which seems to be another problem for them this year in itself — or play down, they must play as hungry as they have vs. playoff-caliber teams as of late. We’ll see if they have as much energy tomorrow night as they did the past-two games.

Combined this season, Carolina and Toronto are just 45-61-12- Carolina’s last in the Metropolitan Division and Toronto’s just 2-7-1 in their last-10 games. Since December 18th, Toronto’s gone just 5-22-2, and they’ve lost five out of their last six. After those two games, Philadelphia will return home next Saturday vs. the rival Rangers, who, as of late, have been just as hot (if not hotter), having gone 7-1-2 in their last-10 games. The Flyers may finally receive some good news, too, once that New York game comes around (see below).

News and Notes

3/7 Michael Del Zotto goals this season have been game-winners
-Despite his power-play goal, surprisingly, Giroux has yet to score an even-strength goal all year at home
-With their 28 SOG today, the Flyers have had 25+ SOG in six-straight games- they’ve averaged over 35 SOG a game in their last four
-Defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who’s missed the entire season due to blood clots, skated this morning and will travel with the team for their brief, two-game road trip. There’s very little chance, however, that he’ll play before next Saturday’s game
-Goaltender Steve Mason, who had arthroscopic knee surgery two-weeks ago, might return/start next Saturday

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