The Washington Capitals will be taking on the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday in their second round robin game of the 2020 NHL Playoffs. The Flyers ended the truncated 2020 NHL regular season as one of the league’s hottest teams, and were a mere standings point away from taking the top spot of the Metropolitan Division mountain from the Capitals. Due to this hot streak at the end of the season, the Flyers will likely be a popular choice to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.
As mentioned in the introduction to this piece, the Flyers were among the league’s hottest teams at the end of the season. In their last 10 games played, they rattled off a league best record of 9-1-0.
During the stretch, the Flyers rode the back of goaltender Carter Hart, who had a nearly immaculate stretch of eight games, putting up a .963 save percentage and a 1.08 goals against average at even strength.
On top of Hart’s stellar goaltending, the offensive production of Jakub Voracek (9 assists), Scott Laughton (3 goals, 6 assists), and Kevin Hayes (5 goals, 3 assists) contributed to the 9-1-0 record in their last 10 games.
The Capitals were 1-3-0 in tilts against the Flyers this season. Notably, three of the four matchups against the Flyers were in the 2020 segment of the 2019-20 season, where the Caps struggled mightily.
- On November 13th, 2019:
- The Capitals won this tilt 2-1, requiring the shootout. Brendan Leipsic scored in regulation with assists from John Carlson and Nic Dowd. TJ Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov converted their shootout chances, with Braden Holtby sealing the victory with a save against Sean Couturier (Game Log).
- On January 8th, 2020:
- The Flyers were victorious 3-2 in this bout. Nicklas Backstrom and Jakub Vrana tallied goals in the first period, but were bested on a second period shorthanded goal by Kevin Hayes (Game Log).
- On February 8th, 2020:
- The Capitals got thumped by the Flyers 7-2 in this matchup. Ilya Samsonov came into the game in relief for Braden Holtby in the third period after Holtby allowed seven goals on 25 shots. Oshie and Kuznetsov tallied the Caps’ two goals, and Martin Fehervary tallied his first NHL point (Game Log).
- On March 4th, 2020:
- The Capitals were handily beaten by the Flyers again, losing 5-2 in this bout. Holtby allowed five goals on 29 shots on goal, with Eller and Hathaway tallying goals for the Capitals (Game Log).
Here are the overall head-to-head advanced analytics in the matchups between the Flyers and the Capitals (statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick):
If you were unaware of the Capitals’ paltry 1-3-0 record against the Flyers this season, you might see these head-to-head statistics and believe that the Caps had the upper hand in the season series. Ultimately, with advanced analytics, context is often needed to explain what is actually happening here. Typically, teams who are trailing in games push harder to get back into the contest, which results in more shot attempts. This will skew the possession rates a bit.
Additionally, the Flyers have been a team that does not really rely on the possession game, but more on a quick strike offense and solid goaltending. In their past 10 games, the Flyers had a Corsi For Percentage of 47.86 and a Fenwick For Percentage of 49.47. They rode to that 9-1-0 stretch with a solid goaltending (12 goals allowed during 5 on 5 play) and 29 even strength goals for.
The glaring indicator of success the Flyers had against the Capitals in the season series were:
- A 62.5% Scoring Chances Goals For percentage, meaning that the Flyers were able to convert on more scoring chances, although the Caps had 87 scoring chances compared to the Flyers 77 scoring chances.
- A 60% High Danger Chance Goals For percentage, meaning that the Flyers converted on more extremely high quality chances. The Caps had 41 high danger chances compared to the Flyers’ 32.
- Nullifying the Caps’ power play, only allowing one power play goal against in 34:34 of time on ice while shorthanded. On top of that, the Flyers had a shorthanded goal from Kevin Hayes.
Below are the standard head-to-head statistics for the matchups between the Flyers and the Capitals (courtesy of Hockey Ice Storm):
Click to Enlarge
Players to Watch:
- Nicklas Backstrom: 1 goal and 1 assist
- TJ Oshie: 1 goal and 1 assist
- Evgeny Kuznetsov: 1 goal and 1 assist
- Braden Holtby: .857 save percentage, 4.15 goals against average. Will be a player to watch to see if he can right the ship, with a career .910 save percentage and 2.69 goals against average against the Flyers.
- Claude Giroux: 2 goals and 3 assists
- Travis Konecny: 3 goals and 1 assist
- Sean Couturier: 2 goals and 2 assists
- Carter Hart: .953 save percentage, 1.45 goals against average
By Justin Trudel