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Flyers at Capitals preview: Go Birds

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Kate Frese / SBNation

Here we are, folks. It’s time we talk about the biggest sporting event that a Philadelphia team is participating in this weekend: the one that the Flyers are taking part in.

...

I kid, of course.

Still, we’ve got a good appetizer here to Sunday evening’s main course of Philadelphia sports, as the Flyers have a very interesting matchup with the Metropolitan Division’s top team down in D.C.

On the surface, this is a bit of a “feels like a loss” game. The Flyers are on a back-to-back, on the road, against a team that had Saturday off (after playing at home this past Friday night). The team they’re squaring off with, after a rough opening stretch this season, has been on a bit of a tear for a couple of months now, and they’ve also got one of the league’s most talented rosters on paper. It would not be hard to chalk this up as a loss before we really even get going.

But there are reasons for optimism here. Things are trending in the right direction for the Flyers, who have won six of their last seven games and have for the most part looked good in doing so. They’ve only lost two games since the new year (we’ll ignore the fact that both of those were duds against divisional rivals ahead of them in the standings), and are playing some of their best hockey of the season.

Plus, while the Capitals have rallied to the top of the Metro over the past couple of months, there are signs that they may be vulnerable. For one, they’ve won just one of their last four games, and that win involved a game-winning goal over the Carolina Hurricanes with just two seconds on the clock. And on top of that, their team-level possession numbers paint a picture of a team that shouldn’t quite be as good as it is — they’re in the bottom third of the league in shot attempt share, and they’re getting pummeled if you account for shot quality by way of Expected Goals.

(Also, the last time these two teams played, the Flyers dropped an 8-ball on ‘em. Not that this really matters in the grand scheme of things, but it sure was fun, wasn’t it?)

Even acknowledging that there’s still obvious high-end talent on this team, such as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov, something feels off with this iteration of the Washington Capitals. Today’s game could go in a number of different ways. And the Flyers have at least a puncher’s chance to come out and turn this Metro weekend back-to-back into a sweep, even if the odds seem tall at first glance.

Saturday’s win came largely on the heels of fantastic performances from the team’s best players, as the Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny top line and the Ivan Provorov - Shayne Gostisbehere top defensive pairing were both outstanding. Doing that again today will be tough, especially if those groups are matched up with the cream of Washington’s crop. Some strong performances from the other two-thirds-or-so of the lineup would go a long way, particularly against a Washington team whose depth is nothing terribly interesting.

As of this writing, no word yet on who will get the start in net for the Flyers. Michal Neuvirth has started (and played well in) the team’s last two outings, but the back-to-back seems like a good chance to get Brian Elliott back out there. Meanwhile, Braden Holtby will likely get the start for Washington after Phillipp Grubauer started in the team’s last game.

We don’t know for sure if any lineup changes will be made today, but after a fairly strong effort against the Devils yesterday, the guess here is that they’ll probably stay the same, which would mean Brandon Manning stays in for Travis Sanheim and Tyrell Goulbourne remains in place of any potential forward replacement.

It’s an NBC game for the first time this season. Go Eagles. And go Flyers.


Today’s game begins at 12:30 p.m. ET and can be:

  • Seen on TV in the US via NBC (or via stream on the NBC Sports App)
  • Heard via radio locally on 97.5 The Fanatic
  • Seen on TV in Canada via TVA Sports
  • Heard elsewhere via Sirius XM

Projected Flyers lineup:

Forwards

Giroux - Couturier - Konecny

Raffl - Filppula - Voracek

Weal - Patrick - Simmonds

Lehtera - Laughton - Goulbourne

Defensemen

Provorov - Gostisbehere

Hagg - MacDonald

Manning - Gudas

Goalies

Elliott

(Neuvirth)