Dropping the Gloves: Getting back at the Caps
Wayne Simmonds and Steve Oleksy mix it up during the Flyers' 5-4 shootout loss on Sunday. (USA Today Images)
There’s something about the Washington Capitals that gets under the Flyers’ collective skin.
There was Sunday’s shootout loss, in which the Flyers watched a three-goal third-period lead disappear. There was, of course, November’s 7-0 thrashing and accompanying melee, one of the lowest points of this Flyers season.
But the legacy of Flyers frustrations with the Capitals goes further back than just this year.
“They’ve beaten us bad a couple times,” Scott Hartnell said. “I remember, was it Lavy’s [Peter Laviolette] first game here a couple years ago? When he got hired, we lost 9-0 or whatever it was (Sarah’s note: Actually, it was 8-2). They seem to bring out the best or the worst in us, and I’m sure we frustrate them as well.”
And tonight, the first time these two teams meet at the Wells Fargo Center since the notorious Ray Emery-Braden Holtby fight and game that disgusted team chairman Ed Snider, there's no reason to suggest a quiet evening. Emotions, Hartnell said, will be high. Very high. Perhaps even higher than they were Sunday in Washington, D.C., -- an assessment coach Craig Berube isn’t convinced of.
“I don’t think extra, I think [emotions are] going to be high anyhow,” Berube said. “They’re in our division, they’re ahead of us. We need two points, they need two points. It’s going to be an emotional game for sure, but it’s got to be controlled.”
Three points out
Speaking of points ... somehow, even after all their struggles, the Flyers are only three points out of playoff position. They’re currently in fifth place in a Metropolitan Division in which every team except the Pittsburgh Penguins has lingered around mediocrity.
What’s Berube’s takeaway from the close standings?
“Win hockey games,” he said. “It’s tight. I think I look back at some of our losses, we’ve had leads in the third period and we’ve let it slip away. We could be in the playoffs right now. We’ve got an opportunity to get two more points tonight and move up –- and that’s how you’ve got to look at it. That’s all that matters is two points. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, or what’s going on. Just two points.
“We’re playing somebody in our division tonight, which is good –- we can jump two points on them.”
The Capitals, with 39 points, currently occupy second place in the division.
What, Schenns worry?
Brayden Schenn started off the season rather strong. At one point early on, the young forward even led the Flyers in goal-scoring. Since then, though, things have cooled off for him.
Schenn has gone 11 games without scoring a goal (his last marker came Nov. 23 against the New York Islanders), and has just four points during that stretch.
Don’t think he’s panicking about the slump, however.
“I think you start worrying and getting frustrated when the chances don’t come,” he said. “But eventually, the goals are going to come. I’m going to keep on working and getting to the net and getting to the hard areas, and one will go in there.”
While Berube says he’s chatted with him, Schenn has the benefit of having someone else to turn to at times like these: his older brother, Luke.
And Luke Schenn, too, isn’t worried about Brayden.
“You see most young guys go through stints like that,” Luke said. “They try to figure out how to do it. They show signs of brilliance at times, and other times the confidence goes away a little bit. [Brayden] will find a way. He’s working hard to get chances.”
Steve Mason gets the start tonight, despite how things played out Sunday in Washington. Mason, after going 27 games as a Flyer without allowing more than three goals, has suddenly given up four in three of his last four starts.
According to Berube, however, it was the coach’s plan all along for Mason to start this game.
“I go with the plan,” Berube said. “I didn’t waver from it at all.”
Mason has a .924 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average in 25 games this season. He’ll face Holtby, who has a 9.20 save percentage and 2.82 goals-against average in 25 games.
As he suggested he would, Vinny Lecavalier joined the Flyers on the ice for their morning skate. He will not play tonight, however. There is no change in his timetable for return.
Lecavalier participated in the full skate, and finally wasn’t wearing the jaw protector he had been wearing on his helmet since that aforementioned game at the Wells Fargo Center against the Caps.