FFR2 Gm 55: PHI 7, WSH 2 - Rocked the Red
I'd expect nothing else from this team, Flyers fans think, shaking their heads and smiling all at the same time.
Just 48 hours after being defeated soundly by the struggling New Jersey Devils, the Philadelphia Flyers scorched Capital One Arena with a dominant 7-2 victory over the Washington Capitals, the second best team in the NHL.
This friggin' team, dude. You really can't explain it. I stopped trying to a while ago. Some nights they don't have it, some nights they find it all along the way, and some nights they absorb the talent of their opposition just to combine it with their own to make the beatdown they lay even more painful. They are Dwight Schrute (and not just because that last sentence is literally what he does to his twin in his mother's fetus - if you haven't watched The Office, you're missing out) - weird, often painfully unaware of their surroundings, yet extremely smart, possess a tremendous work ethic, and capable of kicking your ass before you even know it.
This wasn't just a victory; this was utter domination. The Flyers sucked the joy and will to play hockey right out of the Capitals in this game. The tipping point was pretty clear. Period number one was pretty even, with both goaltenders making some outstanding saves. Both teams' top power play units lit the lamp on similar one-timers from Couturier and Oshie.
But then the second period started. Well, it started for one team. From there on out, the Flyers ran the Caps show, scoring three goals in just a minute and 45 seconds, and they never looked back. Michael Raffl started the onslaught with a one-timer off the rush, finishing a gorgeous set-up from NAK. Number 14 scored just 14 ticks later, as Coots beat Holtby for his second of the night with a backhand-forehand breakaway move. James van Deflectsdyk capped off the avalanche with a tip in front, putting the Flyers in the driver's seat for good.
The Capitals did call a timeout to try and get back in the game. Todd Rierden was downright furious with his team, visibly shouting at them on the bench to try and ignite a spark. The referees did their part by giving the Capitals a couple questionable power-plays. But the Flyers PK would not break, and Brian Elliott refused to budge in goal. Birthday boy Robert Hagg did a lot of the heavy lifting, blocking several bombs from Ovechkin, including two in a row on a 4-on-3 kill.
Philadelphia entered the third period with their three-goal lead still in tact, but they weren't about to rest on their laurels. A sloppy Washington turnover led to Nicolas Aube-Kubel firing an absolute dart over the glove of Holtby to pretty much put the game out of reach. Just in case, Captain Claude got in on the fun with a beautiful center passing that TK tipped in. Then G took all the glory for himself, wiring a 5-on-3 power-play goal with... a one-timer! From the left side of the ice! WHAT A CONCEPT!
After just about everyone had an off-night on Thursday, you'd be hard pressed to find a Flyer that didn't look on their A-game tonight. While the enigmatic nature of the Flyers is certainly frustrating, it's nice to know that the club is still good enough to thrash a top team like the Capitals. You're never really sure with these Flyers if a game is going to make them or break them, but at least that fart of a game Thursday won't be the latter.
Could this game be the former? Possibly. After all, the last time the Flyers played the Capitals, they were ailing, losers of four straight at the end of the 1-4-1 nightmare holiday road-trip. A dramatic 3-2 victory over the Caps put the Flyers back on track, as the Flyers rattled off a 5-2-0 record (including that game) before heading into the bye week, which they've emerged from 3-1-1. It certainly wouldn't hurt for that momentum to reemerge, as five of the Flyers next six games are against teams they're directly fighting with for a playoff spot. Being a Flyers fan is all about taking the good with the bad, and there was a whole lot of good Saturday night.
With the hockey world watching to see if Alex Ovechkin could hit 700 goals (he's currently at 698), it was the Flyers captain hitting all the milestones. Claude Giroux's goal was not only his 250th in the NHL, but also his 800th NHL point. Congrats G!
That goal certainly was a long-time coming for Giroux. He entered Saturday on a 13-game goal drought, tied for the longest of his NHL career.
Robert Hagg replaced Shayne Gostisbehere in the lineup Saturday. I was a bit surprised that Ghost wasn't given more of an opportunity to shake off the rust, but AV did say he felt Ghost hadn't gotten enough practices to return to pre-injury form. Hopefully Ghost is feeling good and ready to go soon.
While all of Giroux's milestones were for categories he's dominated for a while, another Flyer celebrated a first. Nicolas Aube-Kubel's tenacity and skill combined perfectly tonight, as the 24-year old recorded a goal, an assist, and a fight - aka a Gordie Howe hat trick, his first in the NHL! Per Bill Meltzer, it's the first for a Flyers rookie since Eric Lindros on March 25, 1993 (NAK = Big E confirmed). It was also NAK's first multi-point game in the bigs.
After being yanked in the third period Thursday, Brian Elliott delivered quite the revenge game for the Flyers. Moose was great in this game. A big save on Backstrom late in the 1st and an amazing desperation stop on Richard Panik in the 2nd were among his highlights.
Matt Niskanen played 390 regular season games for the Caps from 2014-2019, as well as another 70 in the playoffs, winning his first Stanley Cup in 2018. He returned to DC for the first time since being traded to the Flyers in the offseason, and was choked up after receiving a well-deserved tribute on the scoreboard.
POG Helmet Standings Update!
Moose - 4
Raff, Da Snake, Gobs - 3
Steady Eddie, Teeks, Coots, Laughts - 2
Starter, #OskarStrong, Phil, Snowman, Pitsy, Timon, Hollywood, Lyon King, Hagger (Happy 25th!) - 1
Prospect Watch: Congrats to goalie Kirill Ustimenko (tier four on my prospect pyramid) for winning his first ever AHL start for the Phantoms on Saturday, stopping 38 of 41 shots.
Not only did the Flyers win Saturday, but their AHL affiliate the, Phantoms (5-3 over the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins) and ECHL affiliate, the Reading Royals (5-3 over the Wheeling Nailers) won as well. Three cheers for an organizational sweep!
1st - Sean Couturier (PHI) - 2 Goals (14, 15)
2nd - Claude Giroux (PHI) - Goal (14), 2 Assists (23, 24)
3rd - Brian Elliott (PHI) - .926 SV% (25 Saves/27 Shots)
PHI - 2/10 vs. FLA (29-19-6, L2)
WSH - 2/10 vs. NYI (31-16-6, L1)