Photo: Broad Street Hockey
The Washington Capitals visit the Philadelphia Flyers for the second time in an eight-day span and the third meeting of the season between the two teams when they meet on Thursday night. The Capitals roared out to a 5-0 lead in the second period en route to a 5-3 win over the Flyers last Wednesday after beating the Flyers 5-3 at Capital One Arena on January 8. Action from Wells Fargo Center can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Capitals continue a four-game Eastern Conference road trip on Thursday night. They look to get off the mat after a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a game in which they led 2-0, that snapped a seven-game winning streak on Tuesday night. The Capitals are 20-13-2 on the road this season and have won eight of their last 10 games. They enter Thursday two points up on the New York Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, though the Islanders have a game in hand on the Capitals.
Tuesday’s loss marked the eighth straight game in which the Capitals scored at least three goals. They have scored 33 goals in those eight games (an average of 4.13 goals-per-game) and have recorded at least five goals in a game three times over that stretch. This season, the Capitals’ average of 3.37 goals-per-game is eighth in the NHL. Their 22.1% power-play efficiency is ninth in the NHL.
Captain Alex Ovechkin, who recorded his 1200th career NHL point in the Capitals’ 5-3 loss to the Penguins on Tuesday, leads the NHL with 46 goals and his team with 78 points in 69 games this season. After going on an eight-game point streak, where he posted seven goals and 11 points, the 32-year old captain has just one goal and three points in five games since, though that goal and two of those points came against the Flyers last week. Defenseman John Carlson leads the Capitals with 50 assists this season.
The Capitals’ 23-11-4 record against Eastern Conference opponents is good for the second-most points (50) against the East this season (Tampa Bay Lightning: 66 points in 39 games). Thursday’s game is the final game of a four-game stretch against opponents within the division. In addition, the Capitals are in a stretch where they play six of seven against Metropolitan Division foes. They are 11-7-2 in games against their division this season.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 26-17-4 with a save percentage of .909, a goals-against average of 2.91, and three shutouts this season, will likely start for the Capitals against the Flyers on Thursday. The 29-year old goaltender is 10-4-8 with a save percentage of .915, a goals-against average of 2.54, and two shutouts in his career vs. the Flyers. He made 27 saves on 30 shots last week against Philadelphia.
The Flyers wrap up a short two-game homestand against the Capitals on Thursday. They opened their homestand with a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night. The Flyers are 18-13-4 at Wells Fargo Center this season.
After a slow start, the Flyers’ 18-4-2 record since January 14 is the best in the NHL over that stretch. In addition, they are 11-3-1 in their last 15 games, though they enter Thursday’s game five points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They own a game in hand on Columbus. The Flyers have won two straight games.
Forward Claude Giroux leads the Flyers with 50 assists, 73 points, and a +15 rating in 69 games this season. Before getting held off of the scoresheet against the Senators, the 31-year old had gone on a seven-game point streak, where he posted three goals and 12 points in that span, after getting held scoreless in four straight games. In five of those seven games, he tallied multiple points, including a goal and two points against the Capitals on March 5. Forward Sean Couturier leads the Flyers with 28 goals this season. Forward Jakub Voracek will serve the final game of a two-game suspension he received from the NHL for a high hit he delivered on Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk last Saturday. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman rejected his appeal yesterday.
The Flyers’ average of 3.29 goals-against per game is the sixth-highest in the NHL this season. Their 77.9% efficiency on the penalty-kill is the sixth-worst in the league. They also lead the NHL with a 55.3% winning percentage on faceoffs. Their average of 3.04 goals-per-game is 12th in the NHL.
Goaltender Carter Hart, who is 13-8-1 with a save percentage of .917 and a goals-against average of 2.79 in his rookie NHL season, will make his first career start against the Capitals.
- Holtby is one shutout shy of passing Olie Kolzig (35) for first place on the franchise shutout list
- Center Nicklas Backstrom recorded two assists against the Penguins on Tuesday, marking his 147th career multi-assist game, the second most in the NHL since the start of the 2007-08 season (Penguins center Sidney Crosby: 153)
- Forward Jakub Vrana’s 10 first-period goals rank second on the Capitals (Ovechkin: 11) this season, while his five game-opening goals are tied for first on the team (Ovechkin: 5, forward Tom Wilson: 5); Additionally, Vrana ranks tied for first on the Capitals in game-winning goals (4) and second in even strength goals (20)
Backstrom’s one-timer in the second period was all that was necessary to oust the Flyers in six games in the First Round series between the two teams in 2016. Holtby made 26 saves in the shutout.
By Harrison Brown