So they did it – with some help from a faltering Carolina team – and here the Caps are, at the brink of what looks to be a very exciting NHL playoff season in the run to Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Caps haven’t faced the Flyers in the playoffs since 1989, and have split this season with them: Caps went 2-2-0, with 14 goals scored; the Flyers pulled a 2-1-1 record while scoring 15 goals. So does either team have an edge going into Friday’s Game One here at the Verizon Center?
Don’t look to the special teams to win it, though. The bruising Flyers have the second-highest power play success rate – but you have to counter that with wunderkind Ovechkin’s whopping 22 PP goals. And both penalty-killing lines enter the dance on a roll.
So what about offense?
Even. The Flyers bring to the ice a balanced but gritty line of experienced players that, at times, can be an oppressive force, wearing down opponents in the corners. The Caps’ offense is largely inexperienced in playoff hockey, but they’ve got some dynamic players in Ovechkin, Semin, and Koslov. More importantly, however, the Caps can score goals when needed during crunch time – provided Biron’s not standing tall in net for the Flyers.
Defense is also a push. Both sides of the blue line have some big bodies to bruise with, but the Flyer’s experience can be negated with solid two-way play from Mike Green.
Goaltending? About equal. Biron’s inexperience in the playoffs is balanced by his current hot streak – he pulled out two amazing shutouts in a row and seems to have hit his stride just in time to keep the Flyers from sinking. Huet’s posted solid numbers for the Caps and has a GAA under two in his last thirteen.
Coaching? John Stevens and Bruce Boudreau are both NHL playoff rookies that have done astonishing things with their teams this year.
Emotional quotient? Definitely in the Capital’s favor. They’ve pulled out a stunning drive after the trade deadline, stealing the Southeast Division title from the Hurricanes and riding some stellar play from Ovechikin, Laich and Huet. The Flyers all but managed to keep their free-fall from kicking them out of the playoffs, so the edge really goes to the high-flying Caps. Add in Ovechkin’s first run in the playoffs, and you’re looking at one supercharged emotional team right now.
The question really comes down to this: can the rest of the Capital’s bench step up and score when Ovechkin’s buried under orange and black sweaters? Because the key to a Flyer’s victory here is going to be stifling the Cap’s superstar every way they can.
If the rest of the team can step it up and crack Biron’s wall (and avoid multiple Flyer bruises), look for the Caps to take it in six.
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs