Since this is the first time the Capitals have made the post season, I had to reach back to my Geocities days to find any kind of template for breaking down the Capitals/Flyers series. You remember having a site on Geocities don't you? My introduction and 101 to learning HTML.
Anyway, the last time I did this I broke it down by just about every aspect of the game.
#6 Philadelphia Flyers at #3 Washington Capitals - Round 1 breakdown
Don't scoff at the Philadelphia Flyers offensive core. They can score. Mike Richards is the heart of the Flyer line up, he can score, he can hit and he can fight. The Flyers have 6 players that have 20 goals or better on the season: Richards, Jeff Carter, Mike Knuble, Daniel Briere, Scott Hartnell and Joffery Lupul. Only Briere is in question with a knee injury.
As far as the Capitals, they are enjoying one of the most potent offenses in team history. All lead by Alex Ovechkin. Alex Semin and Nick Backstrom add to that mixture for a young talented forwards that are making names for themselves in the hockey world.
The Flyers and Caps are pretty even in terms of goals for per game. 3.09 goals for Philly, 2.90 for the Caps.
If there is one area the Flyers lack, it's their defensive core. While they updated their forward line, their blue liners are slow and inept often leading to penalties. They don't lack in character though, Darien Hatcher and Jason Smith are some hard nosed defenders, so the hits are coming and they are going to hurt.
For the Capitals they do have some veteran leadership in Tom Poti. But for the most part they are a young group with little to no playoff experience. But what they lack in experience, they make up for in positioning and speed. Not to mention Mike Green, the Caps' best offensive defensemen makes up for the mistakes.
The Capitals and Flyers are knotted at 2.77 goals against for the season.
Power Play: Flyers
The Flyers have some pretty heavy duty weapons on the power play. With 6 players who know how to score, they can make you pay if you take unnecessary penalties. Basically if Philly can play all offense, they would.
The Caps power play is nothing to write home about. The Caps 5 on 3 power play has failed to produce consistently. In the playoffs where every thing is magnified, they will have to find a way to find the back of the net when opportunity arises.
The Flyers are ranked 4th in the NHL on the power play, the Caps are a tenth.
Penalty Kill: Flyers
The Fly Boys certainly have had a lot of practice on the penalty kill this year. They have been shorthanded 388 times this season, tying them for second in the league. But they have also have only been scored on 65 times.
For the Caps, they haven't faired as well. They have had stretches of shutting out team on the power play. But it's usually been the stupid or unnecessary penalty that has hurt the Caps the most. Their kill is been much better with Quintin Laing and David Steckel in the lineup.
The Flyers are ranked 10th in the league a man down, the Caps are 25th.
Marty Biron was the Flyers savior following the horrendous season they had last year. Picked up from the Sabres and signed before the season got old to a long term contract, Biron was their number one. But he is unproven in the post season, and has been so-so this season.
Cristobal Huet was picked up at the trade deadline and did it ever make an impact on this Capital team. The calm 30 year old has been the rock the Caps have leaned on for their amazing run to get a playoff spot at the end of the season winning his last 8 straight starts.
Biron's stats are 30 wins, 2.59 goals against and a .918 save%, Huet's tenure in Washington has yielded 11 wins, 1.63 goals agianst and a .936 save%.
It could be a draw. Neither Bruce Boudreau nor John Stevens have much Stanley Cup playoff experience, both do have Calder Cup experience. Since coming on board though, Bruce Boudreau has had a much better winning percentage since taking over the team.
The Caps had to over come adversity to win the Southeast Division. The Flyers were in trouble of losing their playoff spot late in the season to Buffalo, Washington and Florida. But the Flyers didn't have to do it on a 6 game road trip like the Caps did. Momentum is definitely in the Caps favor.
Capitals win in 6 games.
Special teams mean something here for both teams. Neither team can afford to take dumb penalties. This series will not be short on goals since both teams rely on their offense. That means goaltending and defense will be key. And I gave that advantage to the Capitals. But the Caps need some secondary scoring. Ovechkin will not be able to do it on his own.
Both teams have been hot down the stretch, the Flyers winning 7 of their last nine and the Caps winning 11 of their last 12. The Caps are 2-2-0 against the Flyers during the regular season.
If Philly takes the first game at the phone booth, that might shake the Capitals confidence, but if we have learned anything about the Capitals it is they are a resilient team. A loss will just make this team work harder. Both teams will have to be at the top of their game for any chance at making round 2.