John Gove The Hockey Writers
Are Flyers Just Delaying the Inevitable?
After Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory against the Washington Capitals, one thing is now certain, the Flyers are not getting swept.
In the first three games of the series, Philadelphia simply was outplayed in all aspects of the game. By the time the final horn in Game 3 sounded, it appeared that the Flyers had completely fallen apart. A round-one sweep seemed like a guarantee.
However, the men wearing the orange and black went out onto the ice for Game 4 with the will and determination to bring the series back to Washington for a fifth game. The Flyers looked like a completely different team and did what it took to secure a victory.
Still, the real question still remains. Can the Flyers really get back into this series or are they just delaying the inevitable from happening?
Throughout this series, the Capitals have demonstrated why they were able to obtain 11 more points than the next best team in the National Hockey League. Many people believed Washington would suffer a bit of a slump after playing a decent amount of meaningless games towards the end of the regular season. However, Alex Ovechkin and his teammates proved every skeptic wrong by dominating the Flyers on the ice for the first three games of this series.
Philadelphia was able to stop the bleeding with a win in Game 4 but all signs still point to the Capitals eventually moving on to the second round. Coming back and winning a series after being down three games to none is no easy task, just Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux who was a part of the team that did it in 2010 against Boston. The betting man would be smart to still place their wagers on the Capitals winning this series.
However, it is not a smart move to count these Flyers out completely just yet. They have been proving people wrong all season long. Many people outside the Flyers’ organization did not picture this team as a postseason-worthy franchise and look where they are now.
If Philadelphia is going to come back and truly make this series interesting again, they need to follow a similar formula to how they played on Wednesday night. Michal Neuvirth was absolutely outstanding in his first game of the series, stopping 31 of Washinton’s 32 shots and keeping the Flyers ahead the entire game. Dave Hakstol is going to need that type of game from his netminder from here on out and it’s not an unrealistic expectation to have. Neuvirth had a great regular season when he was able to stay healthy, going 18-8-4 with a .924 save percentage and 2.27 goals against average.
The biggest key to the Flyers victory on Wednesday night was limiting the amount of penalties they committed. The Capitals power play has been absolutely stellar throughout this series, and it is responsible for eight of the team’s 13 goals. Philadelphia was able to play a disciplined game and only provided Washington with two power play opportunities. Staying out of the box will be a must if the Flyers want to win more games and get the Capitals shaking in their skates.
The Flyers are not an offensively strong team like their first round opponent. They haven’t been a high-scoring team all season, ranking in the bottom half of the league in goals per game. Philadelphia needs to force the Capitals to play a low scoring game, which they did last night. If they can continue to do this, anything is truly possible.
Now Hold Your Horses!
Before readers start ripping me to shreds in the comment section, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not saying that the Flyers are going to pull off a miraculous comeback after putting together one strong game. It is still more than likely that the Capitals will win one more game before Philadelphia can win three.
However, nobody can count the Flyers completely out of this series just yet. Philadelphia proved that they have what it takes to make this series interesting, and when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, anything is possible.
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