*UPDATED* Super Bowl Sunday Scuffle; Washington Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers

 RecordGoaltenderGAA / SV%
Washington Capitals6-2-3Vitek Vanecek2.95 / .911
Philadelphia Flyers7-3-2Brian Elliott2.22 / .932
Predicted Goaltenders

The Capitals look to end a two-game losing skid against the Philadelphia Flyers at high-noon this coming Super Bowl Sunday. The Flyers too are hoping to do the same. In their 27 previous SBS appearances, Washington has put up a 17-9-1 record. In 2016, the Capitals defeated the Flyers 3-2 just hours before the Denver Broncos would take down the Carolina Panthers to hoist the Lombardi trophy for a 3rd time.

On Thursday, the Washington Capitals dropped a 2nd straight game, this time to the New York Rangers by a score of 4-2, after narrowly coming within one goal of tying the game courtesy of Alex Ovechkin’s 709th career goal. The Capitals went with an 11F/7D lineup, so Jonas Siegenthaler slid into the lineup as the single 4th ‘pairing’ defenseman, playing on the 4LW spot. Somewhat of a puzzling move, unless another forward is dealing with a nagging injury. Historically, Washington has been great in the game immediately following a loss and were 10-1-2 in their last 13 games versus the Rangers.

To put it nicely, the Caps were bad. And not just slow-to-start bad. They looked tired, lethargic, not excited to play, and it was very apparent as Washington put together their most boring 60 minutes of ‘action’ since last season’s playoffs. Alex Ovechkin was the only skater to ‘show up’, racking up a whopping 27:17 of ice time, and being triple-shifted at times to try and spur some momentum. Just 1:41 into the first, Ryan Strome scored his 3rd of the season to make it 1-0, Rangers. Strome would go on to score a 2nd goal in the third period, tallying the eventual-game winning goal for his 4th of the season. To start the 2nd period, Caps head-coach Peter Laviolette made many-a-changes to his line combinations in hopes of stirring up some energy. Anthony Bitteto, the better Anthony of whom played for the Rangers, scored to give New York a 2-0 advantage, nine minutes and 15 seconds into the middle frame. Carl Hagelin who played four seasons with the Rangers, scored his first of the season (and it counted this time) to half the Rangers lead with just over a minute remaining in the 2nd.

Washington had some momentum heading into the third period as they started the final 20 with the man-advantage courtesy of a late-period penalty against Brett Howden. Unfortunately, the Caps didn’t convert on that power play, nor were they successful on any of their other four opportunities, so the score stayed 2-1, as mentioned, Strome scored his 2nd goal of the game to make it 3-1. Perhaps the single redeeming moment of this match was when Alex Ovechkin scored the 709th goal of his career to pass Mike Gartner for sole-possession of 7th place on the all-time goals list.

The goal made it 3-2, Rangers, to bring Washington within one. Just short of the 12-minute mark, Brenden Dillon and Kaapo Kakko were assessed matching minors (tripping; embellishment), so play resumed as 4-on-4, but even with the open ice, neither team scored. With the Caps still trailing by one with just over two minutes remaining, goaltender Vitek Vanecek vacated the next for the extra attacker. Unfortunately, Pavel Buchnevich potted an empty-net goal to make it 4-2 with 27 seconds left on the clock.

Despite being outshot heavily in the first period, 15-8, the Capitals would outshoot the Rangers throughout the remaining 40 minutes, and impressively, Washington actually won the face-off dot battle, having won 54.4% of all face-offs taken. The Caps killed off New York’s three power-plays. Vanecek allowed three goals on 30 shots, but would ultimately drop only his 2nd start of the season. The Rangers could have easily put up six or more goals had it not been for Vanecek carrying the weight of the Caps’ shoddy play once again.

On Friday, the Philadelphia Flyers hoped to defeat the Boston Bruins after blowing a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 in OT just two nights earlier. Unfortunately, despite taking a lead late in the match, the Flyers would fail to hold that lead, and fell in regulation, 2-1. Brian Elliott got the start as Carter Hart was out due to back spasms.

The first period was eventful, but goal-less. The Flyers had three power plays in the first period, including a stint of 4-on-3 play, and Connor Clifton of the Bruins and Nic Aube-Kubel dropped the mitts for a tussle. Although the Flyers did not convert with the man-advantage, they did manage to keep Boston off the board even on the power play.

Through 32 minutes, neither team had registered double-digit shots on goal. Philadelphia has the 2nd best shot percentage in the league (14.6%) but still couldn’t seem to solve Tuukka Rask. Both teams had great opportunities that left fans astounded when the shots didn’t end up in the back of the net. At the 16:25 mark of the second, Joel Farabee was interfered against, and thus got the chance to score on a penalty shot, but the Bruins goaltenders stonewalled the youngster.

The Flyers would start the 3rd period on the power play (Wagner, roughing) and it took just 27 seconds for James van Riemsdyk to finally break the stalemate, making it 1-0. JVR’s goal would be his 6th of the season. With 7:59 remaining, the Bruins persistent battling and poking at Elliott finally paid off, and Brad Marchand tied it up with his 7th of the season (extended point streak to eight games). Then, not even 30 seconds later, Sean Kuraly scored to make it 2-1, Boston. With the clock ticking down, Philadelphia received a power play as Craig Smith went off for tripping. Flyers head-coach Alain Vigneault elected to pull Elliott in favor of the extra-attacker, but to no avail, would fall for a 2nd straight loss. Brian Elliott stopped 17 of 19 shots for a .913 save percentage.

Because of how bad Carter Hart is on the road, Brian Elliott will likely get the start for the Flyers versus the Capitals. In 19 career starts versus the Caps, Elliott is 10-7-0, and got the win in both matches last season (2-0-0, .926 save percentage, 2.00 GAA).

Notable Numbers

  1. Lucky for the Capitals, Carter Hart is not good on the road; he put up a 4-10-1 record and allowed an average 3.81 goal against in 18 road games last season.
  2. Philadelphia puts up a league-worst 23.7 shots on goal per game (versus 27.6 for WSH).
  3. James van Riemsdyk (yes, Trevor’s brother), leads the Flyers with 16 points (6G, 10A). Four of his goals have come on the power-play.
  4. Second-year rookie Joel Farabee scored his first career hat-trick against the Islanders on 01/31. He has 6 goals in 12 games.
  5. The Capitals have lost four straight against Philadelphia, including a 7-2 a**-beating, but won five straight prior to the losing streak.

*UPDATED* – Lars Eller may dress for the Capitals on Sunday after alluding to the media on Saturday that he did not enjoy missing games, and is looking forward to getting back at it. Jakub Vrana was added to the COVID Protocols list, where he joins Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov.

NBC will have exclusive coverage of Capitals vs Flyers, from Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, with puck drop coming shortly after 12:00pm.

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