October 27 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Versus Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Podcast at 2 p.m. and Two-Man Advantage live pre-game stream at 5:45, both on washingtoncaps.com
Philadelphia Flyers (5-3-1)
Washington Capitals (6-2-2)
After a successful – if somewhat sloppy – two-game road trip, the Capitals return to Verizon Center where they will play three of their next four games. First up are the Philadelphia Flyers, who make their first Phone Booth visit of the 2009-10 season on Tuesday.
The Caps held on for a 5-4 win in Atlanta on Thursday after taking a 5-2 second-period lead. On Saturday against the Islanders in New York, the Caps were held scoreless for the first 40 minutes and went into the third period trailing 1-0. When the Isles’ Jeff Tambellini tallied at 3:44 of the third period, it marked the first time all season that Washington trailed by as many as two goals in a game.
The Caps stayed down by two for less than three minutes. Mike Green scored to run his scoring streak to five straight games, Keith Aucoin tied it and then Green fed Brooks Laich for the overtime game-winner.
“That’s an interesting stat,” says Boudreau about not trailing by as many as two goals until game No. 10. “We’re a good team. That’s why we haven’t been behind by more than two goals, including preseason. They compete hard. Sometimes, it doesn’t go our way. But for the most part this year, they’ve been playing pretty well.”
Washington has led in each of its 10 games this season, although it did not lead on Long Island until Laich’s overtime strike.
“There’s been a lot of talk about how we feel we’re sort of playing mediocre hockey; we’re not playing our best hockey,” says Laich. “We’re 6-2-2 and I still think we have a lot more to give. I think we can be a very dangerous hockey team.”
Washington has had some difficulty holding late leads in the early going this season, but until Saturday, it had not trailed at all in a game in the last two weeks, not since a 3-2 loss in Detroit on Oct. 10.
“Playing from behind and playing with a lead are two different things,” relates Laich. “It’s nice to be able to come back, but when you have a lead you want to be solid and just carry it right through to the buzzer and not have to kill a 5-on-3 at the end of the game or have the other team pull their goalie and try to tie it up. You want to just take care of the game and almost be robotic at the end of games.”
Ten games in, the Caps have already won six. That’s more than they’ve won in any October since 1997-98 (7-4-2).
“We haven’t been outplayed,” says right wing Mike Knuble. “We haven’t been outclassed by anybody. And we’ve had the lead in every game. [Saturday night is] the first time we’ve played from behind. You want to play on that high level all the time. In October, as long as you’re getting the points, you can work out the kinks.”
The Caps are getting the points, and now they’ll have ample opportunity to work out the kinks. Beginning with Philly’s visit on Tuesday, Washington will play four games in six nights this week.
“It’s a busy week,” admits Laich. “And having last week where we only had two games and had three really good practice days was nice. That prepares you for the schedule. As players and coaches, you always look forward. You play out scenarios: ‘If we can win a couple here, then maybe we can put a stretch of three, four, five, six together.’
“We’ve won four in a row now. And this is a big test for us this week. You want to win the first game. You can’t look by Philadelphia. They’re playing well. I watched their game last night on TV. And we want a little revenge from the last game [we played against them].
“First game of the week, you always want to get that win and start it off on a good note.”
The Flyers prevailed in a wild one back on Oct. 6 when these two teams met for the first time in 2009-10, taking a 6-5 decision in overtime. That victory pushed the Flyers to 3-0 on the season; they’ve gone 2-3-1 since. Philly is fourth in the Atlantic Division standings.
Most recently, the Flyers dropped a 4-1 home ice decision to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night. Philadelphia has scored four or more goals in five of its first nine games. It has scored two or fewer goals in each of its other four games.
Like the Capitals, Philly has also been struggling of late on the power play. The Flyers are 2-for-13 (15.4%) with the extra man in their last four games. Philadelphia has had multiple power play goals in five of its nine games this season, including three extra-man strikes in nine attempts in its previous meeting with Washington on Oct. 6.
Also like the Caps, the Flyers are coming off a dismal performance in the face-off circle. Washington dropped 70% of its face-offs on Saturday night against the Islanders while Philadelphia lost 64% of its draws in Sunday’s setback to the Sharks.