A pair of 2-0 teams go toe-to-toe on Tuesday night in Philadelphia when the Caps take on the Flyers at Wachovia Center. After winning Thursday in Boston and Saturday vs. Toronto in their home opener, the Caps travel to Philly to serve as the opposition in Philadelphia's home opener. The Flyers have won twice on the road, blanking the Hurricanes on Friday and downing the Devils on Saturday.
The Caps have scored 10 goals in their first two games while Philadelphia has surrendered just two. Eight of Washington's 10 tallies have come from three different players: Alex Ovechkin (three), Brooks Laich (three) and Alexander Semin (two).
The Capitals allowed only two goals in their first five periods of the season but were nicked for three in the third period of Saturday's 6-4 win over the Leafs.
Although the Caps are 2-0, coach Bruce Boudreau says he'll be tweaking the defense for Tuesday night's game with the Flyers. The Capitals are carrying eight blueliners at the moment, a situation that makes it difficult to keep them all fresh, happy and invested. Jeff Schultz and Tyler Sloan have watched the first two games from the press box.
"One of them will play [Tuesday]," says Boudreau. "I don't think we'll put Sloan and Schultz in, but one will play and then maybe one will play on Thursday [against the Rangers]. It's just important. It's not that we're experimenting. We've got two really good defensemen sitting out, and I have no qualms about putting them in. We need to get them some game time as well."
Although the Caps are off to a strong start, Boudreau knows the team can't take its foot off the gas, especially against the Flyers in their home opener.
"People say you're off to a good start," notes Boudreau. "At 2-0, there's still 99% of the schedule left. In a week you could be under .500. If we were 16-0 or something, that's a little bit of a different story. Detroit's 0-2 and I don't think they're worried about rebounding and having a good season."
Washington's special teams have been strong in the first two games. The Capitals are 3-for-7 (42.9%) on the power play and they've successfully killed all eight shorthanded situations they've faced.
Philadelphia remade its blueline with the offseason acquisition of veteran Chris Pronger from the Anaheim Ducks. Pronger annually ranks among the league's leaders in ice time, and his presence on the roster enables Philly to take a page out of Anaheim's book and ride its top four defensemen (Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle) for more than 20 minutes a night while doling out ice time much more sparingly to the third pair (Ryan Parent and Danny Syvret).
The defense has been strong in front of enigmatic Ray Emery, back in the NHL after a one-year exile to Russia's KHL. The Flyers gave Emery a second chance and the talented but sometimes troubled netminder has responded with 52 stops on 54 shots in his first two games in the black and orange.
Up front, the Flyers lost a pair of 20-goal scorers in Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul. Knuble signed with the Caps as a free agent and the Flyers had to part with Lupul as part of the deal for Pronger.
Philadelphia believes that youngster Claude Giroux and a healthy Danny Briere can help replace the scoring lost with the departures of Knuble and Lupul.
A Flyer for the last four seasons, Knuble will be returning to Philly for the first time since Philly's last home game of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.
"Leaving Boston [where he played before he went to Philadelphia]," begins Knuble, "I had a year with the lockout to change. Going back to Philly, it's their home opener and it's pretty early in the season. I don't know if that's a positive. I'm going to try to treat it as another game but of course there is some history there. I'm looking forward to trying to get us a win there. I think as a player, you just want to play well. You want to have a good game and try your best to win the game. It's really no secret. You want to play well every game, but I guess certain ones stand out a little bit more on the schedule.
"It's kind of ironic just to play the last home game there in Philly and then play the first home game the next season, but on the other team. But last year we had guys who were traded literally after the morning skate to the team we were playing that night. So there are people in more difficult situations than me."
Philly is off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 1998-99. The always physical Flyers added some more toughness in the off-season with the addition of Pronger and free agent forward Ian Laperriere.
"It's something they can use to their advantage," says Knuble of the Flyers' reputation for playing particularly hard-nosed hockey. "You try and use it, especially at home. It's a tough place to play. You hear of people getting the "Philadelphia Flu" and all that stuff. It goes back more to the Broad Street [Bullies] days.
"It's one of those organizations with a great tradition. There's always a story or something in Philadelphia that's going on pertinent to the league. Maybe some people embrace that and think it's great and other people probably can't stand Philly for that. It's one of those places where there is probably equal love and hate amongst people on the outside."