The game of the night again features two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. The Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals will be squaring off in the first of four meetings this season today at the Verizon Center at 5:00 PM. Hopefully both teams come ready to play for this early start on a day where the clocks have been rolled back.
[caption id="attachment_187" align="alignleft" width="220" caption="Will Ovechkin score against Sergei Bobrovsky and the Flyers tonight? "][/caption]
Washington (9-4-0) is currently riding a three game winning streak into this game including one against the Boston Bruins on Friday. They are first in the Southeast Division, second in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the entire league. They are led by who else but Alexander Ovechkin who has 17 pts (8 g 9 a) in the teams first thirteen games. Alex Semin, Nick Backstrom, Brooks Laich, and Mike Green round out the top 5 in scoring for the Caps. The Caps offense is average 3.31 G/G and 2.46 GA/G. Tonight would have been the first matchup between 22-year old rivals Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov, who have battled against each other growing up as top goalie in Russia, but an injury to the groin of Varlamov will keep him out of the lineup again tonight. That means Michael Neuvrith should see his twelfth start of the season. Neuvirth has been good for the Caps this season posting an 8-3 record, a .914 and a 2.41.
Philadelphia (9-4-1) is riding a six game winning streak, despite not having Danny Briere for the last three. He served his last game of his suspension last night and will be back in the lineup tonight. That means head coach Peter Laviolette has some tough decisions to make prior to the start of this one. Eric Wellwood has played very well in his first few games in a Flyers uniform, assisting on fellow rookie Andres Nodl's game winner last night. Wellwood also played an integral part in Mike Richards first period goal. James Van Riemsdyk was a healthy scratch last night as both Wellwood and Nodl played alongside captain Mike Richards on the first line. Perhaps the easiest decision that Laviolette has is who will start in goal. I would expect no one other than rookie sensation Sergei Bobrovsky who has backstopped the Flyers in every game on the current win streak and has the opportunity to tie Pelle Lindbergh for most consecutive wins by a Flyers rookie. If you don't know, Lindberg was perhaps the last great goalie the Flyers had before being tragically killed in a drunk driving accident. The Flyers offense has been firing 0n all cylinders lately, scoring 3.07 goals/game while allowing just 2.21 against/game.
Special teams could be the key tonight, but both teams have similar numbers. The Flyers powerplay is clicking at 18.5% over the season but has been connecting for about 30% during their winning streak. The Flyers penalty kill is always among the tops in the league and it is no different this year as they have killed off 87.3% of opponents opportunities. The
[caption id="attachment_188" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Mike Richards has his Flyers 1st in the East, can they keep it up?"][/caption]
Caps powerplay is 18.4% and their penalty kill is at 86.2%. I would hope the refs let them play this game though and let the teams decide who is better. It should be a good back and forth game, like it usually is between these teams. The Caps went 3-0-1 last season against the Flyers. I would say that in a close, well-fought game, the Flyers barely eke out a 3-1 victory, with the defense being the deciding factor for Philadelphia and Sergei Bobrovsky being the first star of the game as he shuts down Ovechkin and the high powered Washington offense.