Ugh. That's about all I can say about tonight's game with the Philadelphia Flyers. Just a frustrating game all around. The Caps had plenty of chances but did themselves in with penalties and missed opportunities.
Oh, the missed opportunities in this game. Nicklas Backstrom hit the post on a breakaway. Sergei Fedorov was foiled by a nice defensive play by Flyers D-man Randy Jones on a 2 on 1. Dave Steckel missed the net on a breakaway. Brooks Laich was stopped by Flyers goalie Antero Nittymaki on another breakaway. Mike Green had one of his textbook backdoor plays and he was gunning for the top shelf, as he always does. Only this time he missed the net.
With all the missed chances, combined with another rash of minor penalties and you just knew the Caps were not going to get away with this one. A good team like Philadelphia will not let you get away with it. Sure enough, down 2-0, the Flyers started the comeback during a 5 on 3, a perfect tic-tac-toe passing play. By the time the 3rd period rolled around, Jose Theodore had played well but you could just sense things weren't right. Sure enough, Scott Hartnell ripped a shot over Theo's glove and the dam broke. The Flyers scored two more in rapid succession and the, until that point, mostly quiet Philly fans could be heard quite loudly at the Phone Booth.
I must say that I worry about a Philly matchup in the playoffs. This is the one team in the Eastern Conference that has had the Caps number. The Flyers have a style that works against the Caps: force the Caps to attack down the middle and then counter attack. Tonight was even more disturbing because Philly didn't have Kimmo Timonen, who for my money plays the best defense against Alex Ovechkin out of anybody in the league.
Much like the Pittsburgh game on Sunday, the Caps held a parade of guys heading to the penalty box. And while the penalty kill played very well under the circumstances, they were out there entirely too long, especially in the 2nd period. Some of the penalties were very fishy, such as the "roughing" call on Theo towards the end of the 2nd. It was a wishy-washy, ticky-tack kind of foul, although the real disgraceful part was watching big, tough (sarcasm alert)Scott Hartnell, who was challenging Donald Brashear earlier in the game, lay there on the ice like somebody stabbed him in the chest. Other penalties were flat out stupid, like John Erskine spearing Scottie Upshall in the groin. It was not only dumb because it occured after the whistle, in full view of the ref, but also because it was Upshall, who has a reputation for theatrics, shall we say. When the Caps last saw Upshall, he was flopping all over the ice like a fish during the Caps-Flyers playoff series last year.
Probably the best thing that can happen for the Caps though is that they get to come right back out on Thursday night against Atlanta. Any athlete will tell you after a heart-breaking loss like that, you just want to get back out there again. The only question is, will the team be able to summon up the intensity one more time after two playoff-style games against their two biggest rivals. My hunch is Michal Neuvirth will give Theo a rest on Thursday to have him ready for Saturday afternoon in Boston. The Caps have a good habit of bouncing back after tough losses and facing a Southeast Division opponent like Atlanta, should give them enough to come out with a better effort.
So until the Thrash come to town, let's say good night to da bad guys...