The Flyers finally take a break from battling the Penguins today, instead facing off against the Peter Laviolette-led Washington Capitals. With the two teams in a tight race in the standings, today’s points will be crucial for a Philly team looking to rebound from a heartbreaking loss. What can you expect, who should you keep an eye on, and what’s the music of choice for today? Find out below.
The obvious topic of conversation here is the guy for which this article is named: Tom Wilson. The notorious winger crosses the line with regularity when it comes to late hits and hits to the head, so it shouldn’t come as a massive shock that he’s once again on his bullshit. Wilson hospitalized Boston’s Brandon Carlo on this hit to the head, earning him a seven game suspension:
While some might call this a hit that toes the line, the NHL DOPS cited Wilson’s significant history of dangerous hits on defenseless players. The bottom line in this instance is that Wilson has to be more disciplined with his method of delivering checks, especially given his track record.
The Caps will miss their most physical player in more ways than one; while he’s currently in the midst of a down season, Wilson has been an impact forward in terms of point totals and analytics. He’s the rare case of an “enforcer” who’s simultaneously super-physical and useful. Wilson is third on the team in points (seventeen) and tied with Alex Ovechkin for third in goals among all Caps (seven).
The player to watch on Washington’s roster is always Alex Ovechkin, but I’d recommend zeroing in on Jakub Vrana as well. The Czech winger is second on the team in goals this year and grades out as the Caps’ best even strength weapon on offense. Vrana continues to build steadily upon his breakout 2018-2019 season; he was even considered the Capitals’ most valuable player by Evolving Hockey’s WAR stat.
In net for Washington, you’ll get a look at sophomore goalie Ilya Samsonov. Long a top prospect in the system for the Caps thanks to his stellar performance in the KHL, the former 22nd overall pick has been sidelined by a bout with COVID-19. He’s been rough in a limited sample size this year, but Samsonov has ample talent to be a stud starting goalie, as he showed in his one year in the AHL (in his final 25 games with Hershey, Samsonov posted a .925 SV% and 1.88 GAA).
Yesterday’s loss was upsetting, to say the least. The Flyers looked like they were going to take a stranglehold heading into the third period, but Brian Elliott allowed his worst goal of the season to swing momentum the other way.
Philly comes into this one likely missing Phil Myers, but they’re also going to benefit from the bump that a returning Joel Farabee brings. The Flyers demolished the Caps on the scoreboard in their first matchup of the year, but the two teams have been headed in opposite directions as of late. The Flyers have dropped from first in the division in points percentage to fourth, albeit with a smaller sample size than Washington. The importance of taking advantage of the absence of Wilson cannot be overstated.
That might be a problem, however, given the status of the Orange & Black’s special teams. The Flyers rank just outside of the bottom ten in powerplay success rate and have the league’s fourth-worst penalty kill. This is a bit... sub-optimal given that the Caps have the league’s fifth ranked powerplay. With a struggling Carter Hart getting the start, the Flyers will need to avoid taking stupid penalties to give themselves a chance.
Three Big Things
- Eyes on the goalies. Carter Hart and Ilya Samsonov have both been inconsistent through their young careers, but they also each possess the ability to steal games out of nowhere. Whoever shows up between the two could determine the outcome of this game.
- Does Travis Konecny continue to trend upward? The speedy winger had his best game in a long, long time last night, so hopefully he’ll continue to improve.
- Will Jake Voracek respond well to reduced ice time? The Czech star has gone relatively quiet lately, resulting in a drop in ice time by Alain Vigneault. While he’s been fine, it’s clear that AV knows Voracek is capable of more. Will he rise to the challenge or continue to struggle to produce?
It’s a Sunday, so I finally get to break out a song I’ve been wanting to use.
Happy gameday folks, and as always, go Flyers.
Our good pal Greg from Japers’ Rink gave us the lowdown on how the Caps have been playing in the month since the Flyers played them last.