Flyers vs. Capitals – Game 4
7 p.m. on CSN
Capitals lead series, 3-0
The Flyers will look to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Washington Capitals when the two teams meet for Game 4 for their first-round playoff series tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.
Here are five things to look at as you prepare for the game:
1. Do or die
We've reached this point fairly quickly, haven't we?
The Flyers are hanging on by a thread as the Caps have a commanding 3-0 series lead after Monday night's Game 3 that was ugly in more ways than one. But this series is not over yet and the Flyers have another chance to right the ship Thursday night.
Just because the series may feel like it's over with the way the high-powered Capitals have run over the Flyers, it doesn't mean it is.
"In a series, you need four wins," Flyers defenseman Mark Streit said after Monday's loss. And he's not wrong. But that doesn't mean the deck isn't stacked to the sky against the Flyers.
The Capitals have outscored the Flyers 12-2 in the first three games of this series. Washington netminder Braden Holtby has stopped 91 of 93 shots faced, has a.989 save percentage in the series and has an NHL-record .938 save percentage in his postseason career. And we haven't even talked about the Flyers' special teams issues yet (more on those in a bit).
"The first thing we need to do is actually believe we can come back," captain Claude Giroux said Tuesday (see story). "We've just got to win Game 4. After we win Game 4, we'll be able to get momentum and go from there."
The last time the Flyers were down 3-0 in a series, the Bruins handled them, 5-1, in Game 4 of the second round in 2011 to complete the easy sweep. Everyone remembers what happened in 2010, but, through three games, this series has been much, much different. Those games were tight. These haven't really been.
This is the ninth time the Flyers have trailed 3-0 in a playoff series. In such instances, they are 2-6 in Game 4.
2. Lineup changes coming?
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol is not dumb. He knows he has to do something to try and spark his lethargic team before it's too late. That's where the idea of making a few lineup changes comes into play.
Whether it's inserting a forward or two or throwing a different defenseman out there, the Flyers could use some fresh legs in the lineup. They just looked gassed as Game 3 wore on.
The biggest change could be Michal Neuvirth starting in place of Steve Mason between the pipes.
Yes, Mason has let in a couple of terrible goals in this series. But the failure of the first three games should not be fully on his shoulders. His teammates have scored just two goals for him. And then there's the special teams stuff (again, more on that in a bit).
But when a team needs a spark as badly as the Flyers do, the starting goalie is usually the first casualty.
Hakstol refused to name a starting netminder on Tuesday, but when desperation sets in, anything is on the table.
In 10 career playoff appearances (nine with Washington and one with the Islanders), Neuvirth is 4-5 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
3. Poisonous special teams
Where to even begin with the Flyers' awful special teams in this series?
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How about the penalty kill, which has been steamrolled by a Capitals power play that has gone 8 for 17 in the series to hit at a 47.1 percent clip? The Caps scored five power-play goals on Monday, three more than the number of goals the Flyers have scored in the entire series.
If the Flyers want to survive to see another day, they have to cut down on the number of penalties they take. This Caps power play, which finished fifth in the NHL in the regular season, has way too much firepower to keep handing it chances the way the Flyers have. It won't get any easier on Wednesday as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, one of Flyers' best penalty killers, is suspended for his hit on Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov late in Game 3 (see story).
The Flyers have to get their own power play out of the quicksand it's been in as it's gone 0 for 13 through the first three games of the series. They are the only team to not score a power play goal so far in the postseason. It's not just that the power play has been bad. The Flyers can barely set up in the zone and test Holtby. It's been so brutal that it's drastically swung momentum in the other direction during this series.
"If I knew the answer, I don't think I'd be standing here 0-3 in the series," Jake Voracek said of his team's power-play issues (see story). "We've got to find a way to produce. That's the bottom line."
That's true, but time is running out to find that answer.
4. Keep an eye on
Flyers: If the Flyers are going to get some offense going, it's going to have to be Giroux who ignites it. For the first time in his 60-game playoff career, the captain has gone pointless in three consecutive games. Washington has totally shut down the Flyers' superstar and has forced him into uncharacteristic mistakes. Remember Giroux's brutal turnover at center ice before Alex Ovechkin's goal that gave the Caps a 2-1 lead on Monday? Giroux, who had 61 career postseason points, is too good of a player to be this silent.
Capitals: Defenseman John Carlson has gotten the Capitals' offensive attack rolling in each of the first three games of the series. He scored the opening goals in both Game 1 and Game 2 (both on the power play, as you may have guessed). He fired the original shot that Marcus Johansson deflected in (yes, on the power play) to tie up Game 3 early in the first and take some life out of the Wells Fargo Center. He added two more points later in that debacle. There's no reason to think Carlson won't make an impact again come Wednesday night.
5. This and that
· Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik will not play Wednesday. He left Monday's game after a clean hit by Ryan White that left him clearly woozy. Orpik couldn't get off the ice on his own power after the collision.
· The five power-play goals the Flyers allowed on Monday tied a team record for most allowed in a postseason game. It was done in the 1980 Stanley Cup Final vs. the Islanders and in the 1976 semifinal vs. Toronto.
· Wednesday marks Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere's 23rd birthday.
· Wednesday's playoff giveaway t-shirt can be seen here.