Photo is by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images
Well folks, the NHL playoffs are upon us with some first round matchups beginning this evening on NCBSN. The Flyers and Capitals will begin their arduous journey towards the Stanley Cup final tomorrow at 7:00 but before the Metro division foes meet, I thought it’d be interesting to put together an Eastern Conference, playoff preview for the Flyers and Capitals today or if you’re a boxing/MMA fan like me, consider this your tale of the tape. So let’s get into character here as we first take a look at the Washington Capitals.
Record: 56 -18 -8
Division Placing: 1st in Metro
Conference Placing: 1st in Eastern Conference
Season Accolades: 2016 President Trophy winners for best regular season record
Team Scope: Finishing up the 2015-2016 campaign with the NHL’s best goal differential at +59, the Washington Capitals are out to shed their playoff pretender label of years past this playoff. Led by hard-nosed Coach Barry Trotz, the Capitals are now one of the league’s most physical and offensively skilled teams as they have few deficiencies on both ends of the rink. Alexander Ovechkin continues to lead the way for this squad as he recorded his 8th season with 45 goals or more this year with 50.
Gone are the days where Ovechkin was the Capitals sole weapon in their arsenal as the organization has gone out and brought in the likes of the slippery TJ Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and the playoff tested Justin Williams to augment their captain. In addition to this, Washington is credibly deep on dee and has the league’s most winningest goaltender of 2016 in Braden Holtby between the pipes.
The Capitals will win this series if…..
They respect the opposition. While the Capitals were cruising to a President Trophy winning season and locked 1st place in the East, the Flyers were practically scratching and clawing their way into the playoffs in the final 2 months of the season. The Caps need to be mindful of that fact as opting to outwork the Flyers is their best bet in winning this series.
Washington is the better and more talented of the 2 squads and they don’t want a resilient Philadelphia team getting any big ideas in thwarting their Stanley Cup aspirations by allowing them to continuously hang around in this series. Coming out with a dogged and yeoman’s-like work ethic in game 1 could put some doubt in the Flyers’ heads early.
Record: 41 -27 -14
Division Placing: 5th in Metro
Conference Placing: 7th in Eastern Conference
Season Accolades: won 20 of their last 35 games to clinch playoff berth
Team Scope: Many believed this season to be another transitional year for the Flyers as they entered 2015-2016 with a rookie head coach and little depth both in their forward core and dee ranks. With time, Coach Hakstol brought the group together and with a ghostly rookie defenseman joining the fray, the Flyers made a mad dash towards the playoffs and eventually got in for the 38th time in franchise history.
The Flyers were buoyed in 2016 by Claude Giroux’s excellence, Wayne Simmonds’ net front presence and stellar goaltending from both Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth, but perhaps what played the most pivotal of roles was the arrival of rookie sensation Shayne Gostsibehere. In addition to this, the Flyers finally received some semblance of secondary scoring this season from maturing players like Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier as well.
The Flyers will win this series if…..
Their star players play like star players. Sometimes the most dangerous team in all of sports is the one hopped on adrenaline and emotion and when this Flyers team is, they have proven over the last 2 seasons that they can beat anyone. Philadelphia will undoubtedly play with heavy hearts in game 1 as the organization is still mourning the loss of their founder and owner Ed Snider, but one gets the feeling that the Flyers will play their most inspired hockey of the year in remembrance of Snider.
This begins with the club’s best players in Giroux, Simmonds, Voracek and Mason. The team will go as they go in this series and getting consistent contributions from the top line and goaltender will be of the upmost importance for the duration of the series.