November 20 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Podcast at 2 pm on washingtoncaps.com
Philadelphia Flyers (12-6-2)
Washington Capitals (14-5-1)
Saturday night’s Capitals-Flyers game at Verizon Center pits the two top teams in the Eastern Conference, and two of the NHL’s hottest clubs of late. Washington is 8-1-1 in its last 10 while Philadelphia is 9-2-1 in its last dozen.
The game also pits a pair of teams that are eager to put their most recent games behind them.
Washington comes in on the heels of a 5-0 loss to the Thrashers on Friday night in Atlanta. Philadelphia frittered away two-goal leads three times in an 8-7 home ice loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
The Capitals are 2-1 this season when playing the second of back-to-back contests. They are 2-0 in those games when coming off a loss, as they are on Saturday against the Flyers.
Of Washington’s five regulation losses this season, two have come to the Thrashers (both in Atlanta) and two have come against the Boston Bruins. The Caps are 4-2 against Southeast Division opponents this season.
Friday night’s whitewashing was the first the Caps have suffered since last Dec. 9 in Buffalo. The Capitals went 70 regular season games in between whitewash setbacks.
“Sometimes you have to play this game with a little bit of amnesia,” says Caps forward Brooks Laich, of the team’s loss on Friday in Atlanta. “It wasn’t a good game, we know that. Individually, we weren’t good, and that’s how we have to look at it. I’ve got to be better, and each player has to approach it like that and that will make us better.
“A little bit of amnesia; you don’t want to totally forget about it. But push it aside for now and move on and look forward to preparing for [Saturday] night.”
With 20 games now in the rear view mirror, Washington is virtually at the quarter pole of the 2010-11 regular season. Although the 20th game produced the season’s most unsightly loss to date, the Capitals went 8-1-1 in their last 10 games after going just 6-4 in their first 10.
“We won’t forget about it,” says Boudreau. “It’s one game. It’s not the end of the world. It’s probably as bad a defeat as I think I’ve had since I’ve been here. But at the same time, we’ll regroup and we’ll come to bat again [Saturday].”
Special teams have been key for the Caps of late, for various reasons. The Washington power play has been excellent – despite relatively few chances – over the last 10 games. The Caps have converted 11 of 31 (35.5%) power play chances during that span.
Washington has had only 10 man-advantage chances in its last five games, with no more than three power play chances in any one of those games. The team’s current run of five straight games with three or fewer power play chances is its longest such streak since Jan. 24-Feb. 6, 2008 when it went six straight games with three or fewer man-advantage opportunities.
“Teams are smart,” says Caps forward Brooks Laich. “They’re not taking four or five penalties against us. They’re only giving us one or two looks a game. As a power play unit, sometimes it’s tough to get in a rhythm when that happens.
“Our team usually goes as our power play goes. When we score on the power play, we end up scoring four or five goals in the game, usually.”
The numbers bear out what Laich is saying. Washington is 10-0 in games in which it scores at least one power play goal. The Capitals have averaged 4.8 goals per game in those 10 contests.
On the other side of the special teams ledger, the Caps’ penalty killing corps is living off its strong start. The Capitals killed off each of the first 25 shorthanded situations they faced this season, but they’ve surrendered at least one power play goal in seven of the nine games they’ve played this month.
On the season, Washington still ranks 11th in the league in penalty killing with a respectable 84.2% kill rate. But the Capitals are just 23-for-31 (74.2%) while shorthanded in nine November games, a rate that would rank 29th overall in the NHL right now.
Washington and Philadelphia met 13 days ago at Verizon Center in the first of the four meetings between the two teams this season. With Holtby making his first NHL start in that one, the Caps came away with a 3-2 victory over the Flyers.
Philadelphia has surpassed Washington in goals per game. With 3.5 tallies per tilt, the Flyers rank third in the NHL behind Detroit (3.59) and Colorado (3.53). The Caps have averaged 3.45 goals per game.
Behind rookie netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, the Flyers are sixth in the circuit with an average of 2.45 goals allowed per game. Bobrovksy, who figures to start on Saturday against Washington, has started each of Philadelphia’s last dozen games. He was pulled after allowing four goals in the first period of Thursday’s loss to the Lightning.
Philadelphia’s penalty killing outfit has been taxed in its last two games, facing a total of 17 shorthanded situations. It has killed off a dozen of those for a meager kill rate of 70.5%.