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PHILADELPHIA — Through the first three games of this first-round series, the Capitals have looked like the team that breezed through the regular season to 56 victories and the Presidents’ Trophy.
After the Flyers fed off the home crowd and an emotional pregame tribute to late owner Ed Snider to score 57 seconds into the game, Washington took control on a power play goal from forward Marcus Johansson.
Midway through the second, Alex Ovechkin scored on a wrister around Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas from the right circle, and that was all Washington needed in its eventual 6–1 rout in Game 3. The win gives the Capitals a 3–0 series lead with Game 4 on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
Here are three thoughts on Monday’s game:
Capitals have series firmly in control
For the first time in franchise history, the Caps have gone up 3-0 in a series. Before the game, head coach Barry Trotz and several Washington players noted how difficult it is to beat a team that is in an 0-2 hole and in “desperation mode” on its home ice.
The Flyers played like they were under pressure and the Capitals were a constant threat throughout the game, easily putting Philly away in the third.
Despite Washington's franchise history of coming up short in the postseason, this is a different team than those of the past: Additions at forward—T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Mike Richards and Daniel Winnik—make this team deeper and fill many of the holes that plagued the roster in recent collapses. They're a big reason why this team is one win away from the second round.
Brooks Orpik’s injury a huge hit to Capitals
Despite the victory and 3-0 series lead, the Capitals may have lost a valuable member of their defensive core.
Near the end of the second period, Philly forward Ryan White knocked Brooks Orpik against the boards. While not an especially vicious check, it was enough to make Orpik fall to the ice and he struggled to get up, eventually skating off the ice with help from teammate John Carlson and a Capitals trainer.
Orpik is one of the Caps’ top four blueliners, playing a significant number of minutes in the series so far.
Similar to the way the Chicago Blackhawks leaned on their top four defensemen to win the Stanley Cup last season, Trotz has ridden Orpik, Carlson, Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen hard through the first three games.
The team announced that Orpik was questionable to return to the game after suffering an upper body injury. That doesn’t bode well for the Capitals, who may have to give more minutes to Dmitry Orlov, who sustained a dangerous hit himself, or Nate Schmidt in Game 4 on Wednesday.
A tale of two special teams
Before the game, Caps forward Mike Richards said one area he thought his team could improve in was taking fewer penalties. That didn’t happen. The Caps had five in the game, but the Flyers could not take advantage. Among their chances was a 4-on-3 for 1:11 in the second period but they couldn’t muster a shot on net, a continuation of Philly's special teams problems, as the Flyers are now 0 for 13 with the man advantage through three games.
Just one bench over, however, it’s a very different story. Five of the Capitals’ goals on Monday night came on the power play, and the team has posted eight in the series.
The difference in the two units was most evident in the middle of the first period when the teams had back-to-back power play chances.
With Philadelphia’s Michael Raffl booked for interference at 11:17 of the opening frame, the Capitals failed to score but still controlled the play, pestering goalie Steve Mason, who couldn’t get a handle on the puck. Less than 30 seconds after Raffl’s penalty ended, Washington forward Jason Chimera was called for roughing. In the two minutes of their man-advantage, the Flyers lack of organization showed as they managed just two shots, both stopped by goalie Braden Holtby.
While it will be a long road back into the series for Philadelphia, the franchise has climbed out of such a hole before, most notably coming back from 0-3 down against Boston in the first round in 2010. The odds of giving these Capitals a run at this point are long, but a good start would be finding a way to be more effective against the Holtby and the Caps’ penalty kill.