On the one hand, it's pretty crazy that we're even here talking about this game that's going to happen today. The Flyers trailed this series 3-0 as recently as 96 hours ago, on the heels of a brutal loss that left this entire team and fanbase with a bitter taste in its mouth for a number of reasons. The rest of the series felt almost like a formality, and everyone would have been forgiven for not seeing games 4 and 5 playing out quite the way they did.
On the other hand, this team has looked dead in the water a handful of times already this season and has managed to come back from each of them, so maybe we shouldn't be too surprised that we're preparing for a Game 6 this fine morning.
Now, let's start by addressing the obvious: the win two days ago that forced this sixth game to become a reality is not one the Flyers should try and re-create today if they're looking to bring this series back to D.C. for a seventh game. While watching Michal Neuvirth stop everything that moved on Friday night was fun, the whole "completely neglect playing any sort of offense and let the Capitals control the puck almost exclusively for 40 straight minutes" plan is a blueprint that is going to fail nine times out of ten, and we already saw the tenth time happen once. You know it, I know it, and most importantly, the Flyers know it. Today will have to be a much better all-around game than the last one was.
How do they actually make it happen, though? Tough to say. For all of the inevitable talk about how the pressure's now on the Capitals after two straight losses, one could reasonably point out that they've bulldozed the Flyers territorially for four straight periods of hockey now, maneuvering across the ice and into the offensive zone regularly and with ease. Washington could do a whole lot worse than just saying "keep doing what we're doing" and hoping that Neuvirth eventually falls from his superhuman state of the past two games to merely good (or -- gulp -- worse).
Essentially, the Flyers are going to have to find a way to play a game at evens more like they did in Games 2 and 3 -- where they had the puck for much of the game and usually got good pressure only to be undone by their own special teams and Braden Holtby -- while also keeping up the improved discipline, penalty kill, and goaltending that they've shown in Games 4 and 5. A complete performance, more or less.
It's a tall task, no doubt. But while Washington certainly still has control of the series and is primed to put it away with another good performance, there is probably something to the idea that the Flyers can really ratchet up the pressure on them today if they can get out to an early lead. The Caps have lost two straight games in regulation for the first time all season. They've gone from enjoying the series and laughing the Flyers off the ice to entering full serious and non-smiling mode, apparently. They are clearly getting a bit frustrated at the fact that this series is still happening. And, with that frustration in mind, they found themselves on the giving end of a number of bad penalties on Friday night, ranging from silly and stupid to outright dirty and dangerous.
They're facing actual adversity for the first time in a while, and it's anyone's guess as to how they're going to react to it in a game knowing that the series could be tied up if things don't go well.
The Flyers have gotten out to pretty good starts in almost every game of the series, and the Caps -- as they have been wont to do for much of this season -- have fought back from their own unimpressive starts by way of outstanding third period play in almost every game as well. The longer the game goes tied or worse, the harder it is to see the Flyers getting a season-saving win. But if the orange and black can attack, keep the Capitals on the defensive, force some mistakes by Washington, and get a greasy goal (or maybe even two!) past Holtby before the first intermission? Then it's possible we could see things snowball a bit. We can only hope.
And if none of that works out ... screw it, maybe Neuvirth can just do all of that cool stuff again. Remember, we're talking about a potential elimination game against the Capitals. Anything could happen. (Lord knows they're already prepared for anything down by the Beltway.)
Lineups for both sides are probably going to stay the same. Scott Laughton is out once again, though he'll skate on Monday (if the series extends to a Game 7, that is). Sean Couturier, meanwhile, remains out and is presumably still out for any potential games in this series, though he was spotted skating and shooting on his own yesterday morning.
Game's on NBC. Do or die, again. Go Flyers.
|2016 Eastern Conference Round 1 :: Game 6|
|Sunday, April 24, 2016 :: 12 p.m. ET|
|Wells Fargo Center :: Philadelphia, Pa., USA|
|Get the Washington perspective at Japers' Rink|
|How to Watch / Listen In Philly|
|HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN Elsewhere|
|Ovechkin - Backstrom - Oshie||1st Line||Schenn - Giroux - Simmonds|
|Burakovsky - Kuznetsov - Williams||2nd Line||Voracek - Raffl - Gagner|
|Chimera - Richards - Johansson||3rd Line||McDonald - Cousins - Read|
|Winnik - Beagle - Wilson||4th Line||VandeVelde - Bellemare - White|
|Alzner - Niskanen||1st D Pair||Gostisbehere - MacDonald|
|Schmidt - Carlson||2nd D Pair||Manning - Gudas|
|Orlov - Chorney||3rd D Pair||Streit - Schultz|
|Holtby / Grubauer||Goalies||Neuvirth / Mason|
|Galiev, Orpik, Weber||Notable Scratches||Couturier, Laughton, Medvedev|