WASHINGTON -- It's been a long time since we could say that both the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals are a pair of the NHL's worst teams, but heading into tonight's meeting between the clubs, that's the situation.
The Flyers are currently 13th in the Eastern Conference, just a point ahead of the lowly Capitals, who literally might be the worst team in hockey. They were thoroughly -- thoroughly -- outplayed by the Toronto Maple Leafs last night and with a 1-5-1 record are at the bottom of the league standings in the early going.
The problems for the Capitals have been pretty similar to those the Flyers have faced: Can't score, no special teams game to speak of. Toronto went one-for-eight on the power play last night, improving Washington's PK percentage to 73.7 percent. Their power play is not much better, Joel Ward is their leading scorer and they have just 2.14 goals per game so far this season. (Of course, that's 0.14 more goals than the Flyers have per game...)
Unlike the Flyers, though, the Capitals have also struggled on the defensive side of the puck. They've allowed 3.57 goals per game (compared to the Flyers' 2.86 per game) and could have a legitimate goalie controversy (in a bad way) brewing between Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth, neither of whom have grabbed the reins of the starting gig.
Holtby was the starter to begin the year, but Neuvirth has played five games to Holtby's two this year. Both have save percentages under .900. Neuvirth has played well in recent games, though, including last night.
Ilya Bryzgalov, meanwhile, has a .924 save percentage in six games -- fifth in the league amongst goalies who have started at least five. /insert Flyers goaltending narrative joke here
The keys for the Flyers are simple tonight:
* Use the opportunity against another weak PK/PP team to get your own house in order. Maybe score a power play goal tonight. That'd be really fun.
* Continue controlling the play and generating positive chances at even strength, because eventually the pucks are going to go in the net.
* Stay out of the God-damned penalty box.
* Continue to limit and frustrate Alex Ovechkin.
* And uh, I guess stop Joel Ward, because that dude has four goals.
Puck drop at 7 p.m. on CSN. There's no morning skate for the Flyers here in D.C. today, so we'll have to wait until warmups to get a handle on lineups.