The Flyers are undefeated this season with Simon Gagne in the lineup. Best trade ever, Homer.
Gagne had a goal, five shot attempts, (four of which were on goal) in 16 minutes of ice time as the Flyers rolled all over the Capitals, 4-1. Even the one goal Washington scored, though, was late in the game during throwaway time, and the Flyers really were just the dominant hockey team from start to finish.
It all began just 23 seconds in the game, when Claude Giroux buried a loose puck in front. That would be a theme throughout the night, as the Flyers completely dominated the slot area in front of both Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer, the Caps rookie who made his NHL debut in the second period.
There were stretches in tonight's game where the Flyers seemed to sit back and the Caps were able to generate offensive zone time, but even during those stretches, the chances they got at the net were pretty limited. If there's one bad thing to point to in tonight's game, we can look at a few instances where the Flyers were sloppy with the breakout -- turnovers in the neutral zone, bad decisions pushing the puck through the center of the ice in the defensive zone, which led to turnovers. Things like that. Perhaps a better opponent would have made the Flyers pay there.
But not tonight. From start to finish, the Flyers controlled the puck, frustrated Washington's top players (Alex Ovechkin was laughable, Nicklas Backstrom was invisible), gained the offensive zone with ease and passed the puck around like they were up against a pee wee squad. The result was a pretty nice win and the hope that on Saturday vs. Ottawa, this team can -- finally -- hit the .500 mark. Or NHL-style quasi-.500. Same difference.
A few more bullet points:
* Harry Zolnierczyk hit Mathieu Perrault with a nasty looking hit in the waning seconds of the game. It looked bad in real time, and Harry Z was given a major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct, but I don't think it was a dirty hit. Just about everybody else agreed too -- on both sides of the ice. I do have a problem with throwing that a hit like that in the last minute of the game (like, what's the point?) but I understand that Harry Z must think he has to step up like that regardless of the time given his current shaky status as an everyday player.
* Seriously, Alex Ovechkin was laughable tonight. He had six shots on goal, but I've never seen an easier six shots on goal. "Oh hey look Ovi's shooting from that same spot again. Shocker." Mike Milbury called him out during the second intermission and good God holy crap I agree with Mike Milbury. From the embellishment shown in that linked video there to the shift change *while his team was in the defensive zone!* which in part led to the Flyers' fourth goal, Caps fans should be pretty irked with his performance.
* Gagne looked great tonight. Speedy, confident with the puck, like he's been here all along. He slotted in perfectly both on the power play and on a shutdown line with Max Talbot and Sean Couturier. It's been one game, but he looks like a fantastic addition to the lineup. The Flyers were generally just a positive team from the first line to the fourth tonight, but Gagne was certainly part of that mix.
* Erik Gustafsson blocked a shot in the second period and didn't return. He's a lot better at hockey than Kurtis Foster or Andreas Lilja or hell, even Bruno Gervais, so let's hope he's okay and that he'll be back in there on Saturday.
* Nicklas Grossmann had seven blocked shots tonight. Seven!
* Yo, Gagne's back.
Questions with Answers
- What the ovation like for Simon Gagne? /swoon
- Where does Gagne fit in the lineup, and how does Laviolette use him? Hard minutes, PP time. Right into the fire, and he performed.
- Can the Flyers stop Washington on the PP (or just generally win the special teams game)? Yep! The Caps went 0-for-5 on the PP and the Flyers went 2-for-4 on their PP.
- The Capitals are a good first period team. They've scored first in eight straight games. When playing a team that's playing their second game in two nights, we always talk about the importance of getting off to a strong start. Can the Flyers control the early portion of the game? haha yep
- Any lingering effects from the Wayne Simmonds/John Erskine hit the last time these teams met? You would have never known it happened.
Comment of the Night