Game two in Washington proved to be the biggest upset of the year for the Philadelphia Flyers as they fell to the Washington Capitals 4-1. It was a combination of good points, bad points, and one really embarrassing goal let in by Flyers goaltender, Steve Mason.
The Flyers started the game looking strong and focused. They dominated the offensive zone, accumulating more shots on goal in that period alone than they did in the entire first game of the series. Again, they were presented with power play opportunities that they just could not produce anything with. However, Hakstol did change it up and it appeared better than the previous game. Regardless of the Flyers putting endless pucks at the net, they couldn’t get anything past Braden Holtby. He ended up with a tremendous total of 41 saves for the game.
The Flyers were playing physical, getting in solid, clean hits. Washington was reciprocating with the same physical play, including one major hit on Brayden Schenn from Alex Ovechkin, sending him head over foot into the Flyers bench. It wasn’t until Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning sustained a holding penalty which led to Washington’s first goal by John Carlson with 5:51 left in the period. This was the second Washington goal off of a penalty from Brandon Manning this series.
In the start of the second period, Steve Mason let in possibly the most inexcusable goal in all of playoff hockey history. Jason Chimera flung the puck down the ice from 100 feet away and Mason butterflied down to deflect it away to keep it in play, but lost sight of it and let it slide right through the five hole. Had he kept it in play, it would have been icing by Washington and the Flyers could have had a face-off in the offensive zone. Nonetheless, the Flyers brushed it off and didn’t let it affect them.
With 10:23 left in the second, the Flyers finally got one past Holtby and put one on the scoreboard. Brayden Schenn drove straight to the net, dropped the puck back to Jake Voracek, and Jake buried it right past Holtby to cut the lead in half. This proved to be a huge goal for Voracek because it finally gave the Flyers that long-awaited goal they desperately needed and it may have ended the rut Jake has been in.
With yet another holding penalty on the Flyers, this time against Mark Streit, Washington put up another goal. This power play goal was by captain, Alex Ovechkin, with just 2:39 left in the second period, giving Washington the two-goal lead once again. It was a dangerous setup from T.J. Oshie who got the signal from Carlson that Ovechkin was wide open for one of his infamous torpedo slapshots. The Flyers need to always have a man covering Ovechkin. Leaving him unmanned is threatening and consequential. Nicklas Backstrom secured the Capitals’ fourth and final goal of the night with 2:13 left in the game.
The Flyers are heading back to Philadelphia for the first home playoff game in two years on Monday night. There are several factors going into this game that need to be considered before fans decide to give up on the Flyers just yet.
What needs to happen?
The Flyers need to learn how to generate goals and make Holtby uncomfortable because he looks so at ease between the pipes. The Flyers tend to fling the puck at the net rather than being smart about how they’re getting the puck by him. They need to stop skating by the net and make more stops in front, stop shooting directly at him, and cause more deflections. With that being said, Wayne Simmonds needs to stay out of the box and in the blue. Simmonds needs to be in front of Holtby to catch those deflections and put the puck in. That’s going to be how they defeat him.
Flyers captain, Claude Giroux, needs to stop being so invisible. He has not scored a goal since the game against Winnipeg on March 28. However, having a guy like Jake Voracek on the top line with him is not helping him. Voracek needs to be off Giroux’s line and put on the second or third line. Voracek hogs the puck, which is not a bad thing, but that may be why Giroux seems to have been overshadowed the past two games. Giroux needs to be lined up with Brayden Schenn and Simmonds. Schenn is strong on the wing of Giroux and has been impressive there for weeks. He needs to be put back in that spot where he shines. The first two lines from the Capitals are stifling and the Flyers need to match that.
Stemming off line changes, Voracek should be put on the second or third line because he is more than likely still injured because he is still missing his depth. When he normally gives up the puck, he has that closing speed to get the puck back, but lately he has lost it.
When it comes to defense, Brandon Manning has been more assertive lately which we have seen with the penalties, but he has also had too many giveaways. Manning needs to find his ground and step up because he is filling the big shoes of the injured Michael Del Zotto which has proven to be a big loss for the Flyers.
In terms of goaltending, regardless of that goal, Mason is the reason the Flyers made the playoffs and are here. He still made stupefying saves both before and after that cringeworthy goal. It got into the heads of the players a bit and they played a bit more sloppy afterwards, leaving men open left and right and bouncing the puck, but it didn’t happen to Mason. Expect to see Mason come into Monday night’s game fully prepared and suited up to start.
All hope is not lost for the Flyers. The Capitals are 4 and 6 when having a 2-0 lead in the series. The Flyers are coming back to the Wells Fargo Center where they are known to feed off the crowd’s energy which is going to be especially electrifying after a tribute to Ed Snider before puck drop. There is an opportunity to tie the series at home and suddenly give the Capitals a run for their money. To get the fans even more excited, check out the official 2016 Flyers Playoff Pump Up video.
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