Well, it comes down to this.
The Flyers have their backs against the wall tonight in Game 4 of their first round series against the President's Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, and they're looking to avoid what would be just the seventh sweep in franchise history.
The others, for the record: 1968-69 in the quarterfinal round against St. Louis, 1970-71 in the quarterfinal round against Chicago, 1975-76 in the Cup Finals against the Canadiens, 1976-77 in the semifinals against Boston, 1996-97 in the Cup Finals against Detroit, and 2010-11 in the conference semifinals against Boston.
If the rest of the series thus far is any indication, it's not going to be an easy task for Philadelphia this evening. The Flyers have been completely outclassed by Washington on special teams, with the penalty kill playing horrendously and the power play not much better. There are still signs of life at even strength, but the bottom line is that the Flyers are going to have to be significantly better on special teams if they want to extend this series -- no matter how they do at 5-on-5 play.
They're also going to need to be better in goal. Steve Mason has been a horse all season, and he's largely the reason they are here still playing in the postseason. But whether he tweaked something in Game 2 and is playing slightly hurt, or he's just not playing up to snuff for another reason, he's given up more than one back-breaking goal in each of the last two games. Is it enough to start Michal Neuvirth tonight?
That's up for debate, and largely probably comes down to Dave Hakstol's philosophy, or even his read on his team. Does he think they'd rally around Neuvirth, or does he think pulling Mason out of the net would have a demoralizing effect? Is he the type of guy that sticks with the horse that got him here, or does he believe a shake up could do the team good? Hard to truly have a full read on this unless you're in that locker room.
In any event, it's do-or-die for the Flyers. They'll need to improve in a lot of parts of the game if they want to extend this series, and hopefully they have an answer for Washington's power play. It'd be a damn shame if this fun season -- which, we must remind you is already a success no matter how tonight goes -- ended in a sweep, particularly after the embarrassment that was Game 3.
Go Flyers. Let's hope this doesn't end tonight. I'm just not ready to talk about the draft yet.
|2016 Eastern Conference Round 1 :: Game 4|
|Wednesday, April 20, 2016 :: 7 p.m. ET|
|Wells Fargo Center :: Philadelphia, Pa., USA|
|Get the Washington perspective at Japers' Rink|
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