Heading into this week, there have been many stories throughout the hockey world on how important these next three games are for the Flyers. WIth big tests against the Capitals, Penguins, and Ducks, one writer has even deemed it a "season-defining week."
Sorry Fish, but I'd like to think the team's "season-defining week" will occur at some point in May or June. Still, there's no denying these are intriguing games. Can you really judge either team in October? Probably not, but that doesn't mean these games can't tell you something.
Entering tonight's game, I wanted to check up on the Capitals. Currently leading the Southeast Division, the Caps are also 2-0 after a 4-1 win in Boston and a 6-4 win against Toronto. But how good are the Caps actually?
After the jump, I asked David Getz of Japers' Rink three questions.
1) There's an awful lot of hype surrounding this game. Is it reasonable, ridiculous, or really good marketing?
Honestly, I'd say it's pretty reasonable. The Capitals and Flyers were two of the East's best teams last year. Both have added important new pieces (Mike Knuble to the Caps; Chris Pronger to the Flyers), and both have questions about whether their goaltending is going to come through. It's hard to imagine a more exciting matchup in the season's first full week.
That said, it would be ridiculous to leap to any conclusions based on tonight's game. It doesn't matter if the teams go to a shootout or if one blows the other out 7-1, both are still going to be Cup contenders.
2) Varlamov gave up 4 goals against Toronto. Is that a reason to worry, and Theodore be trusted against strong competition again (after starting against Boston)?
I don't see any reason to worry. For the most part Caps fans know that Varlamov, last year's playoffs notwithstanding, is a very talented but very young goaltender, not the savior that some are claiming him as. I don't think that's changed any, especially since he wasn't getting very much support from his teammates in the third period on Saturday.
Jose Theodore has the talent to handle any team in the NHL. Whether or not he can do it on any given night is the question, and personally I'm hoping Varlamov proves he can be a solid NHL number one this season, because I just don't have that much confidence in Theodore
3) The Caps seems to finally have a balanced scoring attack. Enough to get past 45-50 minutes of Pronger and/or Timonen?
Yes. The Caps have everything you need on offense: speed, skill, size, depth, grit. The Flyers defense is probably the best in the East (especially in terms of top-end talent), but there's only so much you can do.
The biggest reason the Caps can produce against anyone is their powerplay. It's very difficult to play against a team with this kind of speed and aggressiveness and not find yourself shorthanded three or four times in a game, and once that powerplay hits the ice, you're in trouble.
Of course there are no guarantees, that defense is crazy good, and Ray Emery's been excellent so far this season, but the Capitals are certainly capable of throwing up five or six on anyone on any given night.
After watching Varlamov fall apart against the Penguins last year, here's to hoping the Flyers remember the only thing they have to do in order to beat him: Shoot high.