Capitals 5, Flyers 3: Showed up late, left early

Can’t expect to win a hockey game when you only play well for ten minutes or so, fellas.

Wrapping up the preseason, the Washington Capitals and your Philadelphia Flyers met tonight to play a hockey game. Surprisingly, it was actually pretty eventful, featuring goals, fighting, and other stuff. What happened, who were the players to watch, and why did this game matter? All of that and more below.

What went right?

Despite a dismal first period, the Flyers got things cooking midway through the second frame and flashed some legitimately exciting finishing ability. Claude Giroux opened the scoring after a dominant shift from the top line, dunking home a rebound with a smooth, patient approach:

That ignited something in the fellas wearing the Orange & Black, who proceeded to finally dictate the pace and style of play, putting the Caps on their heels. That culminated in this absolute stunner of a Cam Atkinson goal off of an odd-man rush:

SHEESH. After some more tenacious forechecking and surprisingly clean breakouts, Atkinson closed out the period with his second tally of the night on a knuckle puck (of Mighty Ducks fame):

After getting stuffed in a locker to start the third period, Nicolas Aubé-Kubel mixed things up with Nick Jensen. Was this worthy of praise? Maybe not, but it was absolutely one of the more positive things that the Flyers did in the midst of a painful collapse.

The play on the ice wasn’t encouraging, but at the very least the players stuck up for each other. That’s pretty much the only positive thing to say about how they looked in this game outside of a strong 10 minutes or so. Alain Vigneault and company have a lot to figure out.

What went wrong?

The entire first period was lifeless Flyers hockey under Alain Vigneault, very similar to what we saw most of last year. The forecheck was frustrated, players constantly lost battles in the boards, and an awful defensive gaffe cost Philly a goal when Lars Eller tapped one past Martin Jones.

Not great stuff from Keith Yandle, who fumbled the puck here; also not great from Justin Braun on failing to prevent the goal, although I think he’s less to blame here. Not much Jones can do. He also couldn’t do much about John Carlson picking the corner like prime Ovechkin on Washington’s second goal of the night:

The most concerning thing before this group turned it on in the second period was absolutely the breakout. The first and second passes seen in this game weren’t crisp, well timed, or well received; everything looked messy and incongruent.

The power play also looked a bit overaggressive at times, with players forcing cross-crease passes when they weren’t through open lanes. The Flyers are doing the right things with the man advantage structurally, but seemingly need a bit more time to figure out how to open things up and execute. Going 0/4 on power play opportunities is less than ideal, to say the least.

The third period brought a whole new wave of disasters, starting with a brutal Flyers penalty kill where Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier were caught standing around in front of the net watching the puck. Ryan Ellis failing to get a stick on the ensuing pass didn’t help things.

Shortly afterwards, the Capitals nearly scored on a Daniel Sprong shot from way downtown. The Flyers escaped going down 4-3 minutes into the third period due to the play being offside upon review, but it was a shaky goal allowed by Martin Jones regardless.

It didn’t particularly matter. Shortly thereafter, Ryan Ellis had a bad turnover, Anthony Mantha and Conor Sheary combined for a 2-on-1, and Mantha buried a beautiful cross-crease pass that Provorov committed to a moment too slowly. The total defensive breakdown by the Flyers made it 4-3 yet again.

Continuing one of the worst games I’ve seen Sean Couturier play in a long, long time, the toothless wonder took a double minor penalty to sustain Washington’s momentum. Not a banner night from the top forwards on the team; it’d be remiss to not also mention how invisible Travis Konecny looked, although he wasn’t noticeably bad either.

Joel Farabee threw a crosscheck on Hendrix Lapierre after the young forward went down, which was a pretty cheap move. What happened afterward (Tom Wilson screaming towards No. 86 and trying to remove his head from his body via his hands) was even worse. Just an overemotional exchange in a preseason game that was full of them.

The Caps sealed the deal with an empty net goal after an etiolated attempt to tie the game by Philadelphia. The Flyers followed this up by getting their heads kicked in for the remainder of the game.

Lastly, at the beginning of this game Alex Ovechkin was injured after reefing Travis Konecny with a huge hit at the blue line. It looked like TK’s skate hit The Great Eight in the leg or knee upon review; Ovechkin did not return with a lower body injury. Not having to face Ovechkin for a span might be good news for the Flyers, but it’s undoubtedly bad news for hockey and fans of hockey.

Three Big Things

  1. Y’know what might be nice? If the Flyers played a single unit of defense, that’s what. Seemingly confounded by Washington’s crazy and unique scheme of having a third man high, Philly’s breakout looked horrible for much of the evening, which in turn led to more sustained Washington possessions in the defensive zone and more opportunities for breakdowns (of which there were many). The team also looked terrible defending against the rush and got spanked on the first power play chance the Caps had. Props, at least, for preventing a power play goal during Sean Couturier’s double minor.
  2. This was an insanely physical and chippy game for a preseason affair. The Flyers and the Capitals do not like each other, which is an interesting development. Circle the meetings between these teams on your calendars, especially if Ovechkin misses significant time. His injury isn’t the Flyers’ fault, but you know how hockey teams can be about that kind of thing.
  3. Martin Jones actually wasn’t to blame on any of the goals that counted tonight, but that doesn’t mean he was exciting or even just “fine.” The overturned Daniel Sprong goal in the third period that he gave up was one of the worst plays I’ve seen from a Flyers goalie since 2018. Considering what we witnessed this past year? That’s saying a lot. I still think Jones is capable of putting together solid outings, but his inconsistency has marred his career twilight. Behind a Flyers defense that’s allowing plenty of shots, that doesn’t bode well. Hopefully he figures it out (or Carter Hart just breaks out as a top three goalie in the league).

Post Game Tunes

The regular season starts a week from today. Until then, keep it between the lines, folks.

Good night, good hockey, and as always, go Flyers.