Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals end their season series against the Philadelphia Flyers with back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday in the nation’s capital. After the Flyers took the first meeting of the season between the two teams, their fifth straight victory against Washington, the Capitals have taken the last five games against them, including a 6-1 win at home on April 13 and a 6-3 win in Philadelphia four days later. NBC Sports Washington will broadcast both games locally starting at 7 PM each night. NHL Network will also telecast Friday’s game nationally.
The Flyers end the season with four of six at home and play their final two road games in Washington before ending their season on Monday against the New Jersey Devils. The Flyers are 12-11-3 away from Wells Fargo Center this season, including three straight regulation losses where they have allowed 15 goals over that stretch. Five of their last nine games were against the Devils and they have gone 1-3-0 in those games so far.
Just when it appeared the Flyers were ready to take a big step after earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference in the Toronto bubble last season, the team will miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth time in nine seasons. One more loss by the Flyers or one more point earned by the New York Rangers will ensure that they will finish sixth in the East Division. The team has lost four of their past five in regulation. After an 8-3-2 start the season, the Flyers are 15-20-5, 27th in the NHL over that span.
Forward Jakub Voracek leads the orange and black with 34 assists and 43 points in 50 games this season. The 31-year-old has one goal and 10 points in his last eight games but has gotten on the scoresheet in one of the past three since a five-game point-streak ended. He earned three assists in the Flyers’ 7-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. Forward Joel Farabee leads the Flyers with 17 goals in 52 games. The 21-year-old earned two goals and four points in his previous two games before failing to get on the scoresheet in the team’s 7-3 loss to the Penguins on Tuesday.
The Flyers’ average of 2.85 goals-per-game this season is tied with the Montreal Canadiens for the league average but their average of 3.60 goals-against per game ranks last. The team’s 19.5% power-play efficiency is currently 19th while their 71.9% penalty-killing rate is better than only the Devils (70.5%). The Flyers’ average of 30.2 shots-per-game ranks ninth and 29.1 shots-against per game is good for 12th. Their 53.9% faceoff-winning percentage is tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for second, behind just the Boston Bruins (55.4%).
The Flyers’ 52% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage is currently 10th in the NHL and their 50.52% expected goals-for percentage ranks 13th. Their 50.88% five-on-five scoring chances-for is 12th. The team shoots at an 8.22% rate at five-on-five, 12th, but their .8926 five-on-five save percentage is dead last. As a result, the Flyers’ 0.975 PDO is the worst this season.
The Capitals close out their season with a three-game homestand starting on Friday and continue a stretch where they play six out of eight on home ice. They dropped four of their past six home games (2-3-1), including their past two to the Penguins by a combined score of 8-4. Though, one of those victories was a 6-1 win over the Flyers. Overall, the Capitals are 15-7-3 at Capital One Arena this season.
The Capitals have gone 9-3-1 since a stretch where they dropped four of six games at the beginning of April. The team is coming off of a hard-fought, nasty two-game series sweep at the Rangers, including a 4-2 win on Wednesday where 141 penalty minutes were doled out. The Capitals entered Thursday tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the East Division and could clinch home-ice advantage for the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win on Friday and regulation losses by the Penguins and New York Islanders on Thursday.
Center Nicklas Backstrom leads the Capitals with 38 assists and 53 points in 53 games this season. The 33-year-old has points (one goal, two points) in consecutive games and five points in as many games. Captain Alex Ovechkin, who has missed all but 39 seconds of the past six games due to a lower-body injury, leads the team with 24 goals in 44 games this season. His status for Friday and Saturday is uncertain but the Capitals will certainly be cautious with the team closing in on the East Division title. Forward Daniel Sprong, who missed Wednesday’s 4-2 win with a non-COVID-related illness, has posted five goals in five games since Ovechkin has been out. The 24-year-old has skated in Ovechkin’s spot in the top-six forward group. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov has been scratched the past two games and was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol for the second time this season on Tuesday.
The Capitals’ average of 3.43 goals-per-game this season trails only the Colorado Avalanche (3.49) but their average of 2.92 goals-against per game ranks 18th. The team’s 25.9% power-play efficiency trails just the Edmonton Oilers (27.2%) and Hurricanes (26.6%) and their 83.4% penalty-killing rate is good for seventh. The team’s average of 29.2 shots-per-game is tied with the New York Islanders for 21st but their average of 28.8 shots-against per game is 11th. The team’s 49.3% faceoff-winning percentage ranks 21st.
The Capitals’ 50.44% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage is currently 13th while their 51.35% ranks 12th, slightly ahead of the Flyers. Their 51.44% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage is good for 11th. The team’s 10.38% five-on-five shooting percentage trails only the Minnesota Wild (10.52%) but .915 five-on-five save percentage ranks 18th. Their 1.019 PDO is worse than just the Wild (1.028) and Toronto Maple Leafs (1.022).
Flyers – Brian Elliott, 36 (13-9-2, .886 save percentage, 3.15 goals-against average, two shutouts this season), will start Friday and Alex Lyon, 28 (1-3-0, .876 save percentage, 3.69 goals-against average), will be in net on Saturday. Elliott has gone 10-9-0 with a .883 save percentage and a 3.38 goals-against percentage in 22 career games against the Capitals, including 0-2-0 with a .794 save percentage and a 5.50 goals-against average this season. Lyon made 35 saves in the Flyers’ 6-3 loss to the Capitals on April 17 (.875 save percentage) and is 0-1-0 with an .889 save percentage and a 4.59 goals-against percentage in two career games against the Capitals in his career.
Capitals – Vitek Vanecek, 25 (20-9-4, .907 save percentage, 2.73 goals-against average, two shutouts), and Ilya Samsonov, 24 (13-4-1, .902 save percentage, 2.69 goals-against average, two shutouts). Samsonov has gone 5-0-0 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.31 goals-against average in six career games against the Flyers. Vanecek was pulled after giving up four goals on 14 shots in the first 36:36 of the Capitals’ 7-4 loss to the Flyers on February 7, his lone career start against the Flyers.
By Harrison Brown