The Caps went into Philadelphia tonight to take on the Flyers and new coach Peter Laviolette, who replaced the fired John Stevens on Friday, in what appeared to be a tall order but after Flyers Daniel Carcillo sucker punched Matt Bradley, Washington scored three power play goals on a nine minute advantage and won easily 8-2. Jose Theodore made 34 saves, including 12 in the first period, en route to his second straight very good outing and is now 7-3-4 on the season. Washington is now 18-5-6 overall and first in the Eastern Conference as the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in OT at Mellon Arena tonight (Sidney Crosby did not play due a groin injury).
Here is the period by period analysis followed by the post game recap and analysis:
End of 1st period: Caps 3, Flyers 1
For the 22nd time in 29 games this season Washington scored first as the line of Brendan Morrison, Eric Fehr, and Tomas Fleischmann tallied on a nice passing play with #14 beating Emery on the ice inside the right post. The line almost scored again shortly thereafter but Morrison’s stick was tied up in front when it appeared he had alot of net to shoot at. Nicklas Backstrom, playing with Alex Semin and Brooks Laich, hit the post after the line was guilty of over passing on their first few shifts.
Theodore came up large shortly thereafter after he and Mike Green miscommunicated on a dump in and when #52 overskated the puck behind the net, #60 stopped Scott Hartnell from in close. The Flyers though would rally back to tie it as the Backstrom line was on with Tom Poti and Milan Jurcina and when #3 did not tie up Mika Pyorala in front he put in a rebound. Poti, in his first game back from injury, needs to be stronger in front and not let fourth line guys get easy goals like that.
The Caps then received a 9 minute power play when Daniel Carcillo reacted to a clean hit by Matt Bradley in the neutral zone by cross checking him twice and then sucker punching Brads in the face to knock #10 out and likely done for the game. Total cheap shot by Carcillo and he should get suspended big time for that one.
But Washington would make the Flyers pay for the thuggery as Fleischmann scored his second of the night in the slot on a wrister and 20 seconds later it was Green beating Emery top shelf. The Caps have 3:33 of power play time left heading into period two. For those who were confused as to why a Flyer did not come out of the box after the first goal, it is because a major penalty is always served first before any minors called on a player.
End of 2nd period: Caps 7, Flyers 1
Washington made it three goals on the Carcillo sucker punch/bonehead move nine minute power play as Laich scored from Green and Backstrom.
Why does Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau want Karl Alzner up full time with the big club? All you had to do was watch Alzner take the physical Hartnell off the puck easily in the right wing corner of Washington’s own zone and then make a smart pass to get the puck going the other way. Hartnell typically owns the Caps but King Karl handled him perfectly there. #27 isn’t flashy but he is so solid in his end. Right after that, King Karl took a hooking penalty to put the Flyers on the power play. Washington would kill the penalty fairly easily with Theo making some nice saves and then the Caps penalty killers did a great job of clearing the rebounds. When Alzner came out of the box and swiped the puck from a Flyer that allowed Chris Clark to go in on Emery and beat him with a wrister to make it 5-1. Super play by Alzner and Clark there. That ended Emery’s night and it brought in Brian Boucher. Did I say that Alzner should stay up in DC? Salary cap is the only reason he would be sent back down because he clearly is an NHLer.
The Caps then pushed it to 6-1 as Semin made a really good offensive zone play by hitting a wide open Jurcina at the point, #23 then slid it to Poti, who fired it on net and with Laich screening Boucher in front Backstrom tapped it in. The rout continued as Semin and Backstrom set up a late charging Green for his second of the night on a wrister to make it 7-1.
End of 3rd Period: Caps 8, Flyers 2
Philadelphia finally scored after six straight Washington tallies as Hartnell was all alone in the slot after Poti had lost his stick causing the Caps to run around out of position in their own end (Alexandre Giroux was busy trying to give his stick to #3). Hartnell then took a slash and that put the Caps back on the power play and Coach Bruce Boudreau gave Dave Steckel a chance on the man advantage to break his goal-less season. Backstrom and Green then set him up with some nice passes allowing #39 to tap it in at the left post for a much needed tally for the hard working face-off wizard. Of note is that Green did not play the last 6 plus minutes of this one while Backstrom and Semin did not play the last five as Boudreau was likely resting his guys during a stretch of five games in eight nights.
Here is the post game analysis:
Wow, this was easily one of the most enjoyable Caps regular season road games ever against the Flyers. Washington did a great job of weathering the early storm and, to be honest, I thought Philly would come out stronger but that early Flash goal seemed to take the wind out of their sails. It was good to see the power play, which went 4 for 6 on the night, take advantage of a galactically stupid play by Carcillo (Comcast’s Alan May called him a moron after the game). Washington had a nine minute power play last year in Calgary, after Tyler Sloan was jumped by Rene Bourque, and did not score. Personally, I think the league should suspend #13 at least 3 games for that total sucker punch, especially if Bradley has a concussion. There is no place in the league for that stuff.
Again, as mentioned above, Alzner belongs in the NHL and I would hate to see him sent back down to the Hershey Bears because he clearly belongs with Washington. The Caps currently have a five game winning streak and it corresponds to when #27 was called up. King Karl is a stabilizing force on the back line and his break out passes are outstanding. Hopefully GM George McPhee can find salary cap room to keep him up (if only Nylander would take the KHL deal that is reportedly on the table right now).
If this version of Semin (2 assists) shows up game in and game out the Caps are going to be hard to beat once Alexander Ovechkin comes back on Monday. After a few bad decisions early in this contest he was superb again playing with Backstrom (1 goal, 4 assists), who was also outstanding for the fifth straight game.
Theodore was very good at making the big save when needed, especially at the start of the nine minute power play when he denied Jeff Carter on a two on one rush. I expect Boudreau to just alternate goalies for the foreseeable future, especially during this five game in eight night stretch. I sure hope #60 can stay focused because Varlamov has clearly elevated his game giving the Caps a great duo right now.
Next up for Washington is Tampa Bay on Monday night in the Sunshine State.