Pregame #6: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers

Washington Capitals (5-0-0) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (4-0-1)
Verizon Center
7:00 PM
TV: Local: Comcast SportsNet (HD) (Game On!), National: NHL Network (HD)
Games Remaining:
Dec 13, 2011 PHI@WSH, 7:00 PM
Mar  4, 2012 PHI@WSH, 7:00 PM
Mar 22, 2012 WSH@PHI, 7:00 PM
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals:  RW Jaromir Jagr (190 GP, 2001-04)
Former Flyers:  RW Mike Knuble (310 GP, 2005-09)
Opposing Viewpoints:
Our Bloguin Partner:  Flyers Goal Scored By…
Broad Street Hockey

The Flyers got younger.  Read on!

The 5-0 Washington Capitals take their act on the road for the first of four meetings with the Philadelphia Flyers.  The Capitals put up their best effort of the season against Florida on Tuesday, holding them without a goal and to only 20 shots on goal in a 3-0 victory.  The Caps got production from their powerplay, took only three penalties and killed them all, and generally carried the play to the rebuilt Panthers in all three zones.  If the Caps can get that kind of complete, disciplined effort against the new-look Flyers, they will have an excellent chance of repeating their success, especially with the quality of goaltending they’ve gotten.  New Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun will be in goal once again, putting his 4-0 record to the test.  He has posted a 1.94 GAA, a .935 save percentage, and 1 shutout in his first 4 games and is getting better with each game.  With Michal Neuvirth still on the shelf, G Dany Sabourin should be on the bench again as backup.

The Flyers have started the season 4-0-1, thanks in no small part to new starting goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.  The other major offseason goalie move in the NHL, “Cool Bryz” has started off the season with a 3-0-1 record, a 1.99 GAA, and a .927 save percentage and 1 shutout in 4 games, nearly matching Vokoun’s pace.  The Flyers will have to rely more heavily on goaltending now that they have traded away their top two centers from the past several years.  They are relying more on younger players up front and should challenge for the Atlantic Division crown this season.  They still boast a very experienced and talented defense corps who have allowed the 5th fewest shots per game (26.4).  This will be the toughest test the Caps have faced this season. 

Injury Report: Capitals’ D John Erskine (shoulder surgery) is out. G Michal Neuvirth (foot) and RW Jay Beagle (face) are questionable.
-For the Flyers, C Blair Betts (knee) is out.  LW Andreas Nodl (undisclosed) is questionable.

Three Things To Watch For:

Power Struggle: This is not a good game for taking penalties.  The Caps and Flyers rank 3rd and 5th, respectively, in the NHL in powerplay effectiveness.  With no love lost between these teams and both teams in the middle of the pack in penalty killing effectiveness, there should be fireworks on the powerplay.  This game could well be decided by who wins the special teams battle, as has often been the case.

Spyro Giroux:  A major reason for the Flyers’ powerplay success is diminutive #1 center Claude Giroux.  The 5’11, 172-pound offensive dynamo took over the reins on the team’s first line after the departure of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in the offseason.  He has responded by posting 4 goals and 7 points in 5 games, including a league-best 3 powerplay goals and a team-best 5 powerplay points.  He has also won 50% of his team-leading 86 faceoffs and has blocked 6 shots, so he’s taking care of his own end, too. 

Good Sasha: For the moment, Alexander Semin is healthy and producing as an effective scoring threat on the second line while Alex Ovechkin is slumping.  Even though he hasn’t had any particular chemistry with his center, Sasha still has 2 goals and 5 points in the first 5 games this season along with a +2 rating and 4 PIM.  After a 2-point outing against Florida on Tuesday, Semin looks poised for another big game, and it doesn’t hurt that Sasha has 20 points in 19 career games against the Flyers.