This is going to be a long series and Game 1 did nothing to change my opinion of this prediction. These two teams are physical and have both proven capable of winning close games. This game was way closer than the 2-0 final. The late goal as Philadelphia was pressing to tie the game was not an indication of how the rest of game was played. Overall my perception watching the game watching the game was that Washington came out tight and did not play to their level in the first period, this is an issue that the Capitals had all season long and Philadelphia needs to jump on them with a goal or two early to take full advantage in this series. Orpik tried to motivate his team early and took some bad penalties, but the Capitals penalty kill bailed him out twice. The Flyers got the start they wanted but did not finish on any of their 3 powerplays in the first period although they had a few quality chances – especially Schenn from the center of the box.
In the second period a few penalties, how can I say this without sounding like a fan, were not the most flagrant acts all night long were called against Philadelphia. The call against Streit along the wall for hooking was a horrible call and there is no other way to see it – even the announcers were at a lost to spot a penalty. The call against Manning was extremely questionable – I know the letter of the rule says a player plays the puck over the glass from the defensive zone – but I have always hated this rule. It is way different to have a puck on the ice and shooting it out of play than it is to knock a puck out of air and say that the player intended to put the puck out of play. Of course on this penalty Washington managed to bounce a puck off a shin pad or pants that literally skipped into the net.
The special teams battle was definitely won by Washington in this game. Their penalty kill was aggressive and effective at disrupting the Flyers number one powerplay unit. The Flyers have become focused on the one side of the rink and must use more width to the powerplay. The Washington powerplay was very good, but personally I think in trying to take away the one-time shot they gave Backstrom way too much time and space. Philadelphia must try to disrupt the setup in the zone and pressure Backstrom more while still protecting the Ovechkin one-time play. Losing Couturier could be some of the cause as other players had to jump into the penalty kill for this type of defense and I am sure that adjustments will be made.
Schultz and Gudas played fantastic on the penalty kill. I also liked how Gagne attacked the Washington zone with the puck. He was one of the few Flyers that looked dangerous in game 1. Schenn was a physical force and had some good movement on the powerplay to get open. Mason was, well Mason. He played good enough to win and clearly gave the team a chance to win this game.
Simmonds is one of the emotional leaders of this team, there is no doubt, but he cannot jump on Wilson at that point in the game. I am sure that Hakstol has already told him this, but getting a powerplay with 6 minutes left in a 1-0 game is way more important than going after a 4th line guy like Wilson there. While watching the game at that moment I thought “well that’s the game”. I would have loved to see Philadelphia get a powerplay in the second half of the game and see what happens. I also did not like the play by Vorachek on the second goal. Every player is taught not to deke as the last guy. This is the NHL and that play almost never works. I will chalk it up to a guy trying to do too much, but draw the attention and move the puck in that situation next time.
The Flyers played well in Game 1, but got out worked in the 2nd half of the game. The Capitals were the better team overall. The loss of Couturier will be large, but if he is out I would rather see Raffl slide to the middle and leave Schenn on the wing. Schenn has developed into a top winger and Raffl has the speed and size to play a similar game to Couturier. If Couturier cannot play everyone assumes that Laughton will be the replacement but don’t kill me here on this, Umberger has better size and might be a motivated guy to give a shot to here. Drop him on the 4th line and move White up to the 2nd line with Raffl and Schenn.
A loss in the playoffs is not that bad when you are the road team. It is more about how you play in the loss. I thought Philly had a chance in this game even while watching it. So this is not the time to panic, just give the same effort in game 2 with a little more execution in the offensive zone. I thought that Philly made the game too easy for Holtby.