It's never not interesting with these jerks.
Well, maybe I should clarify which jerks I'm talking about here.
The Flyers and Capitals played their fifth and final (almost certainly, as I can't see a scenario in which both of these teams make the playoffs) game of the season with each other tonight. If you watched the first four, you probably came into this one expecting some sort of combination of lots of scoring, bad defense, and questionable behavior. If this was your expectation, you did not leave disappointed.
A lot happened in this game -- Andrew MacDonald making his Flyers debut and not at all looking out of place, Claude Giroux jumping over the point-per-game mark for the first time this season with his second straight two-goal, three-point outing, the Flyers completely dominating every facet of the game for the first two periods, the Flyers then letting the Caps almost get all the way back thanks to some bad defense and silly penalties, etc. -- and as mentioned, you'd have been silly to expect much less between these two teams. Most of us probably watched the last ten minutes or so of this game from the fetal position, and if we're being honest, we were all probably expecting overtime.
But we didn't get it! And as such, the Flyers have swept a huge three-game stretch against two of their biggest rivals and divisional foes, and they're still sitting in second place in the Metropolitan Division. They're giving us heart attacks in the process, but it's hard to complain too much when the wins are coming.
* This game made some news across the hockey landscape tonight in the first period, when the Flyers and Caps got into -- surprise! -- a line brawl (no, not that one, a different one). Basically, a bit after the Flyers made it a 2-0 game, the Capitals took exception to a (clean) hit by Luke Schenn, and after everyone gets together near the boards and a few shoves are exchanged all hell breaks loose. Vincent Lecavalier, who threw and received plenty of punches in the process, would sit for the last 48 minutes of the game as a result, though I'm not sure the refs got the right guy there -- Wayne Simmonds, who was the, uh, fourth? man in on John Erskine, probably should have got that honor (dishonor?). It's rather obvious by now that there's just some not good feelings between these two teams, and Simmonds in particular probably needed to calm down a bit there (remember, he and Erskine have a bit of a history). Not a whole lot more else to say there.
* So anyways. The hockey side of things. As mentioned, the first two periods of this game were pretty much complete domination by the Flyers. The score through two periods was 4-1, the shot count was 23-8 Flyers, and there were times where it didn't really feel that close. The Flyers were, well, y'know, flying. Everywhere. Playing physical, moving quickly, passing well, getting the puck to the net, all that good stuff. All four lines (well, what was left of them after Lecavalier left the game) were making contributions, getting chances, taking the body, and setting a really good tone throughout. Everyone from Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek (more on him/them in a minute) to Zac Rinaldo and Adam Hall were getting in on the fun. Good times.
* Meanwhile, things got a little bit hairy in the final twenty. There's no doubting that the Flyers let up more than a bit -- and obviously some pushback is expected when a team with the Caps' offensive firepower trails by that much at that point in the game -- but undoubtedly the biggest problem was probably the matter of committing bad penalties and letting the Caps get their always-dangerous power play on the ice. It's not often this year that the Flyers' power play has been thoroughly bested by the other team (and it's been even less often that the Flyers have won in spite of that), but this is why living on the edge with a team that takes as many penalties as the Flyers do can be a problem. Most teams have issues focusing when they have a big lead like that, but it'd be nice if we could see a bit better of an effort to prevent such a thing, especially against an opponent that already has one three-goal comeback against them this year.
* So let's talk about Claude Giroux. He scored two goals tonight (three days after doing the same thing), the first of which came off of a really pretty move in front of the net and the second of which came off of an embarrassing turnover from behind the net by Mike Green. He also picked up an assist on one of Jakub Voracek's two goals, giving him three points. He also was all over the place in those first two periods, skating around like a madman, hitting guys, and nearly scoring another goal or two. This was his second straight three-point game. He's scored 64 points in 63 games this year, which is sixth-best in the National Hockey League. He has 1.24 points per game since the beginning of December, which is even better than the pace he was on in the 2011-12 season that made the world notice him. He is one of the best centers in the NHL, if not one of the best players outright, and you are a batshit lunatic if you have any thoughts otherwise. Apparently some people need to be reminded of this. Every once in a while Claude himself will take care of that for you. Tonight was one of those nights.
* But enough about that guy. Let's talk about the guy people are actually wondering about tonight. (joking) (mostly) Andrew MacDonald played 18:07 in his Flyers debut tonight, with all but 1:18 of that coming at even strength and most of it coming with Luke Schenn. He had his down moments -- he was on the ice for a chance against within his first couple shifts, and the Capitals' first goal nicked his glove while he was out on the penalty kill -- but all in all it was a pretty solid game. He seemed to be pretty sound positionally, didn't really make any glaring mistakes, he actually got the offense moving up-ice a couple of times (the biggest concern about him, in all honesty), and he even picked up a secondary assist when he sent a pass across to Luke Schenn, whose shot to the net was tipped in by Michael Raffl. And he came out right around even in shot attempts, for those concerned about such things (15 for, 14 against at even strength). The Flyers eased him into things, giving him relatively easy minutes (particularly compared to what he was dealing with on Long Island). We'll see how that changes in the long-term. But for now, not bad at all.
* Other notes: Jakub Voracek scored two goals and -- as often happens when Giroux is at the top of his game -- looked pretty dangerous throughout. The whole top line was good ... Sean Couturier played 20:41, mostly against Alex Ovechkin's top line, and did quite well against him/them, again. Meanwhile, Steve Downie committed a penalty early in the third period, but he drew one earlier in the game and was pretty sound defensively after a couple of rough games over the weekend ... I actually thought MacDonald's partner, Luke Schenn, had a pretty decent game, with the exception of one bad penalty when he got caught behind a guy and probably should've been called for a penalty shot. But yeah, good otherwise. I'm still skeptical of that pairing long-term, but it got off on the right foot ... Mark Streit also took a dumb penalty that led to a Capitals third-period power-play goal, but I thought he was also really active in the offensive zone tonight, even with no goals or points. The kind of game you're hoping for from him, all things considered.
Comment of the Night:
F**k you Oates I want my 3 picks back you prick!
-- MJDII, inciting the ghosts of trade deadlines past
Toronto on Saturday night. Bringing three straight wins with us. Go Flyers.