Last season the Flyers endured a 10-game losing streak, their current streak is up to seven after a 3-0 loss to the Blues. How low can they go? Well here comes a visit to the powerhouse Capitals to put number eight firmly on the table.
It’s hard to believe this is the first meeting between these two Metropolitan rivals this season, given the Flyers have already played 10 division games without including the defending Cup Champions even once.
The Flyers carry just a .05% chance at making the playoffs per Hockey-reference prior to last night’s game against the Blues. Not to worry for those fans clamoring for the Flyers to dive further into the Jack Hughes/Kaapo Kakko sweepstakes as they’ll get the Capitals three times in February alone during prime tank season.
A trip to DC could only further the Flyers’ issues lately as the Caps once again find themselves atop the division despite losing three of their past five games. Alex Ovechkin leads a high-flying offense that continues to score at a great clip with the sixth-most goals in the NHL coming in and the veteran sniper has already eclipsed the 30-goal mark and is on-pace for 60 goals. To be scoring at that kind of rate at 33 years old is pretty insane and Ovechkin has 33 goals in 49 career games against the Flyers, so expect more fireworks from No. 8 in red again.
As a whole, the Caps have been let down by a surprisingly average power play (11th overall at 21.4%) and a below average penalty kill (25th at 77.2%) but are one of the NHL’s best goal scoring teams at 5-on-5 with a 56.82 Goals For% per NaturalStatTrick, thus making up for their special teams shortcomings.
The Flyers, meanwhile, have been let down just about everywhere this season. From the 29th-ranked power play to the 28th-ranked penalty kill and down to their dead-last team save percentage (87.93%) in all situations, not much has gone right for the Orange and Black. They have just two points during a season-high six-game losing streak and have their sights set on the 10-game losing skid they endured just a season ago.
Three power play goals across their past two losses has provided some positive energy though, and the play of rookie netminder Carter Hart has continued to be a bright spot in an otherwise lost season. Hart will give way to veteran Mike McKenna, who will make his first start for the Flyers and become the seventh goaltender to start a game for the club through just 42 games.
Here are three things to watch for as the Flyers look to break another long losing streak and get back in the win column tonight against the Capitals.
Keep the momentum going on the power play
This one is pretty simple as the Flyers’ power play is starting to heat up here a little and draws a pretty bad penalty kill unit in the Caps. For whatever reason the Capitals’ netminders haven’t been very good on the penalty kill and carry a league-worst 81.36 save percentage on the kill this season.
Of course bad goaltending means the Flyers will have to, in fact, shoot the puck in order to make the Caps pay, but if they can get pucks on net there’s a good chance that they’re going to be rewarded.
O Captain, My Captain
During the six-game losing streak Claude Giroux posted just four points, with multi-point efforts against the Hurricanes and the Lightning (though the goal against Tampa Bay was a potential goal of the year candidate). Others are far more at fault than Giroux is for the Flyers’ current issues, but the captain still has the ability to win a game by himself and a visit to DC could do the trick for Giroux, who has been a point per-game player (18G, 19A for 37 points in 37 games) against the Capitals.
Giroux hasn’t gotten much support, but that likely won’t change anytime soon with the Flyers expected to unload at least Wayne Simmonds in the coming weeks. Others are due to step up, but it’s likely back on No. 28 to put this really awful team on his back just to get a win.
Scoracek vs. the Metro
One of the guys who could really ease the pressure on Giroux is Jake Voracek, who might be having the most empty .78 point per game season of all-time. The enigmatic winger has been far more noticeable with his inconsistent back checking that his distributing this season and has let his frustration get the better of him more often than not amid a trying season for both player and team.
Voracek was blunt in pointing out that he’s one of the few among the Flyers’ core that doesn’t have no-trade protection and perhaps that has weighted on his mind through the first 41 games as the team senses changes are on the way. But one thing that could cheer him up is the Capitals, a team he’s scored 26 points in 33 career games. The 13 goals against the Caps are tied for the second-most he has against any other club, trailing the 19 he owns against another Metro rival in the Penguins.
Getting Voracek on the scoresheet and on a scoring roll would go a long way in improving team morale and perhaps propelling the Flyers into one last run towards the playoff picture with things looking bleaker by the day in that regard.
Flyers Projected Lineup
Giroux — Couturier — Konecny
Lindblom — Patrick — Voracek
JVR — Weal — Simmonds
Raffl — Laughton — Weise
Provorov — Sanheim
Gostisbehere — Gudas
Hagg — Folin