We knew this series was going to be difficult coming in. Beating this season's runaway President's Trophy winners was always going to be a tall task. The Flyers' having lost Game 1, in that sense, is not much of a surprise.
Still, it would be more than a bit of a disappointment to head back to Philadelphia down in the series 2-0. And with the news of center Sean Couturier being out for the series with what appears to be a shoulder injury, that task will certainly be a bit tougher than we would have anticipated at this time a day or two ago.
While the Capitals didn't totally blow the doors off the Flyers in Game 1, they pretty well controlled the second and third period of the game and deserved to walk away with the win. As Charlie noted on Friday, Washington was just a bit better at just about everything than the Flyers were, and when that happens you're not going to win many hockey games.
So after taking a day to recover from a chippy, emotional, and ultimately futile Game 1 (and to go to the White House in the process, apparently), the Flyers will try and make things right this fine evening.
There are a lot of big questions facing the Flyers coming into this game. Here are three of them.
What do the lines look like without Couturier, and who steps up?
The Flyers didn't run lines this morning at practice, so we're left in the dark as to what exactly the combinations will look like tonight. Though Hakstol hasn't said it himself, it's essentially confirmed that Scott Laughton is the one who will replace Couturier in the lineup, which should come as no surprise. We'll guess that the "Untouchables" fourth line of Chris VandeVelde, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Ryan White is going to remain ... well, untouched ... which would suggest Laughton will be somewhere in the top three lines.
In terms of lineup compilation, the big question is whether or not Hakstol will split Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek onto separate lines to try and match up with the Capitals' lethal top-6. They've been together on the top line with Wayne Simmonds for the past few games, but with no Couturier to anchor the second line, that could become an even more dangerous matchup for the Flyers without a possession-dominant scorer on it. Voracek has struggled a bit lately, but his presence would surely give the Flyers the best chance they have at icing a dangerous second line.
Can the special teams battle even out a bit?
We here at BSH were pretty optimistic about the Flyers' chances to hang with the Capitals on special teams in this series -- certainly mroeso than most were, I would guess -- but Game 1 made that seem like a pretty far-fetched proposition. The Flyers' four power play opportunities were all fruitless, and while the Capitals scored on only one of their six power play opportunities on the night, they were pretty consistently firing away at will, and only a willingness to block shots and a strong performance by Steve Mason held them off the board even further.
Both units got a bit better as the game went on. The Flyers' final power play of the night was their best one, and their four-minute penalty kill following Sam Gagner's high-sticking penalty was a very solid effort. But they're going to need better performances still across the board tonight. No Couturier will certainly make that job tougher for the penalty kill, but they're going to have to find a way regardless. With breaking even at 5-on-5 looking more and more like an uphill battle, special teams are going to be that much more important.
Can the Flyers keep their cool?
Like you would expect Game 1 of a playoff series between two proud divisional rivals to be, Thursday's game was physical and tension-filled. Things boiled over a couple of times in the third period after various hits from both sides, particularly after a Tom Wilson boarding of Andrew MacDonald that Wayne Simmonds responded to in kind.
The Capitals are not only extremely talented, they're a very physical team, and they showed that on Thursday. They will likely do so again tonight. Whether or not the Flyers can stay composed and play their game in the midst of that physicality -- and not get too thrown off or frustrated if they can't -- will go a long way towards figuring out whether or not they can even this thing up.
Game at 7. On TV on CNBC for anyone out of market; otherwise, it should be at the same place you watched Game 1. (Check here if you don't remember where that is.)
Bring it home. Go Flyers.
|EAsTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1 :: Game 2|
|Saturday, April 16, 2016 :: 7:00 p.m. ET|
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