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Capitals 5, Flyers 3: If you love me, let me go

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I am tired. I just want to rest.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I know this is a bad look because I’m, you know, responsible for “covering” these games, but I’ll be completely honest and say that I forgot there was a game tonight. A playoff push is allegedly being made, and yet if you had asked me what I had planned for this evening, I would have said I was burrowing underneath the covers and watching Bon Appetit videos all night. The Flyers had other plans for me.

It was increasingly clear by the end of the first period that this was not going to be a fun game for the “what if we make the playoffs, lol” crowd. By the second period, that sentiment seemed even more true. Then, of course, a promising burst of offensive power in the third period made it seem actually legitimately possibly that the Flyers were going to pull a win right out of their asses. Like a bunch of tricksters. Good God.

They did not do that. It looked like they might, but let us not be fooled. These are the squandering boys we love so much.

Right away, the Flyers had some issues. These are not the same issues I was having, as I myself had consumed too many protein bars (no questions necessary) and was feeling some type of nauseous. I will say the play of much of this period did not help the nausea. These boys don’t respect me.

The play in the defensive zone was just laughable in some parts of this period, specifically in the opening few minutes. The Flyers kept coughing up the puck at random, looking a little tired and slow to react. It sort of looked like one of the games from the first few months of the season, when you could sense the lack of effort, but I don’t feel that’s the case here. This just looked like a classic case of being off; nothing more complicated than that. The Capitals are a good team. This was always to be expected. Keep up.

Although I will concede that Brian Elliott looked prepared to make the saves early on, there are some things that cannot be stopped or predicted, and only so much a goaltender can do. I am speaking now of an insane play by Alex Ovechkin that involved him making a pass while falling to the ground, getting the puck to—ah, come on, fuck. Tom Wilson scored at 5:55. Obviously this would happen to me.

It was around this point that I began to extremely regret the amount of protein bars I had eaten. It perhaps was not the quantity of protein, but the limited time frame in which I ingested it. At any rate, I am in some kind of pain. I will be updating you all on the level of my pain on a scale from 1-10 throughout the rest of this recap if necessary. Right now it is about a moderate 5.

TJ Oshie would take the first penalty of the game at 7:43, a hooking call. This would be an opportune time to shift the momentum. Let them know we will not be easily conquered by these so-called “defending” “Stanley Cup” “champions.” What does that even mean, anyway? You got to touch some stupid hunk of metal? Who gives a shit? Not me. I’m into this sport for the little things, folks, the 2-1 losses, goaltender interference reviews, delay of game penalties. That’s what hockey is all about. So the Capitals are “champions,” whatever that means. Have you seen our face-off record? You idiots. You fucking fools.

Right, the power play was really bad. Do you remember that season—think it was 2016-17— when the Flyers could only score on the power play? I remember attending a game that season, my very first in Philadelphia, and seeing Brayden Schenn (God rest his soul) score a hat trick entirely on the power play, and those were the only goals scored in the entire game. We should, perhaps, find a happy middle between that and now. Please. I will do anything.

After failing to get even a single shot on goal during that power play, I suffered something of a rage blackout, or at the very least I discovered that I have narcolepsy. Regardless, one minute I was watching the Flyers under-performing in a familiar and grounding way, and the next minute they were being scored on, in a nebulous sequence of events.

The puck appeared to hit the crossbar, as we all heard the telltale ding, but upon further review it was determined that it had actually hit the camera inside the net, which means that it definitely entirely crossed over the goal line. No two ways about it. You could tell the Wells Fargo Center desperately wanted to jeer at this call, but even the spattered booing was halfhearted. We cannot turn back time, friends, and we all have eyeballs. Brett Connolly, a man I have genuinely never heard of, scored to give the Capitals a two goal lead at 14:16.

Here’s a fun question for you to marinate on: how can we absolve ourselves of our sins? By this, I mean someone will have to pay for making a whole lot of us believe we could make the playoffs. If it’s me, then so be it. Nail me to the cross. Let the townsfolk hear of my crimes. “Emily believed in the Flyers, and she is being tried for treason.” Throw me into the river. I don’t know. I will accept the blame.

AFTER ONE: 2-0 Capitals, shots 15-7 Capitals; Capitals goals scored by Tom Wilson (5:55) and Brett Connolly (14:16)

First of all, I threw up some homogeneous mixture of bile and protein bars during intermission, and let me just say, holy Christ, do I feel better. This recap can begin anew now, and just in time.

The subsequent twenty minutes after I hurled my guts were just flat-out, no sugarcoating, absolutely candidly awful. At some point when you are watching a hockey game, there may be a point where you decide to cash it in and tune out a little, a significant moment when you realize that there is no way they will come out of this game alive and you resign yourself to scrolling through social media lackadaisically, glancing over every so often to see your disappointing children do what they do most splendidly (disappointing you).

Unfortunately for myself, I am a “writer” and I have to “pay” “attention” to what’s going on. Otherwise, I would be doing the aforementioned ritual. My point here is thus: at about halfway through this period, I decided they were going to lose, and it was pointless to pretend otherwise.

So, here begins the series of events leading to that moment:

Sean Couturier took a tripping penalty at 1:49. It’s an excellent idea to give a power play to the Washington Capitals, or so I was told by a man with beady little shark eyes in a trench coat who approached me outside the Wawa on 34th and Market. Now that I’m thinking about it, those unfeeling dead eyes, simultaneously vacant and impossibly villainous, reminded me quite a bit of Tom Wilson. Wait a goddamn sec—

It was someone’s bright idea to not cover Ovechkin on the power play. I have no idea who the culprit is, but there really is no fitting punishment. The guy does not miss. That’s 3-0 Washington at 2:32 in the second.

Do you want to hazard a guess as to what happened a mere two minutes later? Go on.

Andre Burakovsky scored another goal for the Capitals at 4:18. At this point, my reaction was just to chuckle quietly to myself, shaking my head. We are all fools for love.

Scott Gordon was having none of this soft-goals-against bullshit from Brian Elliott, so he did the Old Yeller thing and took him out behind the barn while Cam Talbot came in to replace him. I don’t have anything personal against Elliott, and his play as of late after returning from his conditioning stint has been encouragingly competent, but he just didn’t have it tonight. That’s bound to happen.

Alright, so we’re starting off on a new foot here. A refreshed, well-rested goaltender in net could be just what this game needed. Perhaps this will shift momentum. Perhaps this will spark the comeback. Talbot had a chance to prove himself, a chance to help the boys overcome this deficit, and—

—he let in a goal from Nicklas Backstrom at 5:37.

I suppose that is fitting.

A delayed penalty was called on Robert Hagg at 10:30, and if this game didn’t already feel over, this seemed to be the final death knell. Surely the Flyers will do what they always do and leave Ovechkin with enough space to just leisurely careen the puck to the net, and this 5-0 game will go to 6-0, and that will definitely be it, as if there was any doubt.

This is not what happened, however. The Flyers killed the penalty, and did it rather well. What absolute typical bullshit from these guys. Just let death take you. Give it up. Lay down flat on the ice and order some pork buns from Grubhub to be delivered directly to center ice. It’s time to let go.

Of course now is the time for Phil Myers, who has been nothing short of excellent, to score his first NHL goal, with just twelve seconds left in the period. I felt some kind of fluttering warmth in my chest. That is our little boy. What a game to do it.

AFTER TWO: 5-1 Capitals, shots 25-16 Capitals; Capitals goals scored by Alex Ovechkin (2:32), Andre Burakovsky (4:18), and Nicklas Backstrom (5:37), Flyers goal scored by Philippe Myers (19:48)

I still couldn’t believe I had an entire period left to watch. Haven’t I been through enough?

Just as that thought entered my head, a mere ten seconds into the period, Claude Giroux came through for me in the same way that he always does, lifting my soul and raising me up to stand on mountains. Although this was thrilling in a way it always is when Claude Giroux does anything in my line of sight, I began to feel something akin to “exhaustion” at the thought of the Flyers actually trying to make a comeback here.

As said by the illustrious Charlie O’Connor, this game felt like a worldkin of the entire Flyers season: an uninspired first half rife with fatal mistakes subsequently followed by a sudden burst of energy and effort that would inevitably fall just a hair short of making a difference. They weren’t going to win this game. That seemed obvious in the second period, and yet for a moment they let me believe they were going to do it, just as it seemed obvious they were going to finish in the bottom-5 in December, and now they’re fooling us into believing they have playoff hopes.

Anyway, I’m fixating. Moving on.

Scott Laughton was called for interference at 2:29, and it is time to witness the Washington power play yet again. I enjoy this. It doesn’t infuriate me, it is fun for me, and I am laughing.

Preserving my sanity just slightly, the Capitals couldn’t manage to score on this one, not that it would really matter. The closest opportunity they had involved a nearly-foolproof Ovechkin chance that Ivan Provorov got a stick on, singlehandedly preventing the goal and playing goaltender for a moment. That’s what I like to call versatility.

Here’s a sequence of words that makes the hair on my arms stand straight up: “Andrew MacDonald with a shot” followed by some variation of “and the Flyers score!” I fell from my computer chair and dropped to my knees, folding my hands in prayer, begging whichever deity who was listening to say that it was tipped in by someone else’s stick. I felt the presence of a higher power all around me. The voice of an all-powerful being, not tethered by time or space or morality, whispered into my ear: “You stupid goddamn idiot, do you even watch these games, they literally just said Scott Laughton tipped that one in.” I felt at peace.

Laughton’s goal at 7:48 was probably meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but it always feels nice to see him score, even when I’m worried I’m going to have to go back and edit the tone I was using for the entire recap. I love that guy.

Tom Wilson and [squints suspiciously] Andrew MacDonald would soon engage in a bit of a tussle at 10:23. I have no idea what was said or done to instigate this, but I wish I did. The petty disputes of hockey players is in the absolute top tier of my interests. Both players would receive minor penalties for roughing, and we would get a nice little bout of 4-on-4 hockey in the second half of the third period. Nothing particularly thrilling went down here, but a change of pace is nice.

With just over three minutes left in the game, Talbot fled to the bench for the additional skater. It would have been very funny—not irritating in the least—if the Flyers actually pulled off a final push here. It’s a good thing they didn’t.

It would be nice to make the playoffs. It would also be nice if we could just get mathematically eliminated as soon as humanly possible so I can just coast the rest of the season, living like a king atop a throne, doing my recaps with a cold one in my hand and not giving a single care about whether we win or lose. I am imagining this life for myself. It’s tantalizing. It’s all I want. Just give it to me.

AFTER THREE: 5-3 Capitals, shots 35-30 Capitals; Flyers goals scored by Claude Giroux (0:10) and Scott Laughton (7:48)