Flyers vs. Capitals, Game 6
12 p.m. on NBC10
Capitals lead series, 3-2
The Flyers will look to keep their season alive yet again and force a decisive Game 7 when they take on the Washington Capitals in Game 6 of the teams' first-round playoff series Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
Here are five things to keep an eye on as you get ready for the action:
1. All eyes on Neuvy
What more can really be said about what Michal Neuvirth did Friday at the Verizon Center?
The netminder turned in an otherworldly performance with a 44-save shutout to keep the Flyers alive and force Game 6. But it wasn't just any 44-save shutout. Many of those saves were of the difficult variety. And the fact of the matter is the Flyers needed every single one of Neuvirth's 44 stops because they only managed 11 measly shots of their own (more on the offense in a bit).
"That was pretty impressive," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said of Neuvirth's performance after the game (see story). "The way he worked, that was pretty amazing. We did the best we could in front of him to eliminate the high-quality chances. They were shooting pucks from everywhere. He did a good job controlling rebounds. It was pretty impressive."
You know what else is pretty impressive? Neuvirth has stopped 75 of 76 shots the Capitals have thrown at him the past two games. The only goal he let in was a nifty backhander by T.J. Oshie in the third period of Game 4.
In the series, Neuvirth now 2-0 with a 0.50 goals-against average and a .987 save percentage.
More importantly, he's breathed new life into the Flyers and injected a legitimate sense of hope. He's frustrated his former Capitals team and that showed toward the end of Game 5, as many looked skyward wondering what they had to do to score.
The Flyers will need Neuvirth to be good again Sunday afternoon. But they hope he doesn't have to be as remarkable as he was in Game 5. Which leads us to …
2. Offense, anyone?
The bottom line is all that matters and the bottom line from Game 5 says the Flyers won 2-0 and cut the Capitals' series lead to 3-2.
That covered up a dismal offensive showing that saw the Flyers record a franchise-low 11 shots on goal in 60 minutes of play. Their two goals were a deflection off a Capital's skate and Chris VandeVelde's empty-net tally that sealed the victory in the final minute.
The 44-11 shot discrepancy the Flyers faced was largest margin for a playoff game in franchise history. The total shot attempts for the game were 82-27 in favor of Washington.
Think about this - the Flyers had six power plays in Game 5 and still finished with just 11 shots on goal. The amount of power plays they had was more than half the number of shots on goal they had. That's unfathomable. But it happened. And they still won.
Let's be clear - that's not going to work again. Game 5 was an anomaly. The Flyers' offense has to get more pucks to the net and find some sort of sustained rhythm.
It all starts with the top line and the power play. Those units have to sustain some type of momentum and make life difficult for Caps goalie Braden Holtby.
The odds of Neuvirth stealing a game in the manner he did in Game 5 are slim. That means the offense has to get rolling.
3. Capital frustration
Coming back to Philadelphia for Game 6 is as close to a worst-case scenario as there is for the Capitals.
They're a frustrated bunch that has to come back into a hostile environment to face a hot goaltender who has had their number over the last two games.
All this group of Capitals has had to hear about since Game 5 ended is their penchant for blowing series leads. Since the Alexander Ovechkin era started in D.C. in 2005-06, the Capitals have held a two-game lead in a series five times (excluding this year). They've won just one of one those five series.
You know they'll have to deal with all the questions about their history up until the puck drops Sunday. They can say they're not thinking about it, but they know the thoughts are there. After all, check out this headline from the Washington Post the morning after Game 5.
All of the pressure is on Washington Sunday afternoon (see story). The Flyers are now officially under their skin. How the Capitals respond, especially early in the game, will be something to watch closely.
4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Has any Flyer gotten under the skin of the Caps more than Brayden Schenn? Since his move up to the top-line wing spot after Game 3, Schenn has recorded just one point. But his impact has come in other ways. His "cross-check," or whatever you want to call it, on Evgeny Kuznetsov in Game 4 got the Capitals in such a tizzy that poor Oshie felt obligated to get beaten soundly by Schenn in a fight off the opening draw in Game 5 (see story). Schenn's brought a physical spark to the Flyers as he was credited with team highs in hits in Game 4 (seven) and Game 5 (three). He's been a human torpedo the past two contests. Look for him to keep that physical edge going Sunday afternoon.
Capitals: If the Capitals want to shut down the talk of their playoff collapses over the past decade or so, it all begins and ends with their team captain, Ovechkin. After scoring three goals in the first three games of the series, the "Great 8" has been shut down in the last two contests. In Game 4, he had just two shots on goal. In Game 5, he put eight shots on net (nearly the total amount the Flyers had as a team), but Neuvirth had every answer. Ovechkin will be motivated come Sunday afternoon, there's no doubt about that.
5. This and that
• In his career, Holtby has a 2-10 record in potential series-clinching games. That .200 winning percentage in such situations is the worst in NHL history.
• Game 5 marked the first time all season the Capitals lost back-to-back games.
• The only team to win a game in regulation with less than 11 shots on goal was the 1990 New Jersey Devils, who fired 10 shots on net in a 2-1 win over Washington in the 1990 playoffs.
• The minus-33 shot differential in Game 5 was a largest for a team that won in regulation since April 26, 1996, when the original Winnipeg Jets beat Detroit by a 3-1 score despite being outshot, 52-19.
• This is the second time in franchise history the Flyers have forced a Game 6 in a playoff series after being down 3-0. The other time came in 2010 against Boston.
• After giving up eight power-play goals on 17 shorthanded chances throughout the first three games, the Flyers' penalty kill is 5 for 5 in the last two games.