The Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals may not be bitter rivals, but this matchup is certainly going to be a good one pitting two teams who at this point in the season are at the same place. Both the Flyers and Capitals started the season on losing streaks, not looking like the playoffs teams that they were a year ago. Since, they have improved a bit playing about .500 hockey, but that has only allowed them to be subpar compared to other teams in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers are third in the Atlantic Division at 9-11-1, and the Capitals are fourth in the Southeast at 7-10-1.
The Flyers lost their most recent game at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2, adding to a win, loss, win, loss cycle that they have fallen into a few times this year. The inconsistency of the Flyers has already been mentioned, and it has only grown more as the season has gone on. While the Flyers have improved their amount of goals per game to 2.9 (tenth in the league), they continue to struggle in the goaltending department where they rank twenty-third in the league, allowing over three goals per game. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov continues to stay average this season with a 9-9-1 record with a .900 save percentage and 2.79 goals against average. It will be up to him and the Flyer defense to bring this team over the hump of the .500 mark.
Over in Washington, the Capitals have a little bit of a streak going. after losing two games to the Rangers and Devils, they beat the Devils team and most recently defeated the Hurricanes at home last night, 3-0. Alex Ovechkin is starting to find his groove after moving back to the left wing, his natural position. He is leading the team with eight goals, which is just what a team that is only averaging 2.8 goals per game (twelfth overall) needs to stay afloat, especially with shaky goaltending.
Much like the Flyers, the Capitals’ goaltending is what is keeping them from excelling past averageness. Coming into the season, many thought that Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth would be battling for the starting spot, with Neuvirth already proven he can start in the NHL and Holtby coming off an impressive Stanley Cup playoff run last year. Now both of them are battling to stay off the bench. Holtby is 6-6 on the season while Neuvirth is 1-4-1, but Neuvirth has a better GAA (3.05) than Holtby (3.37). Both have an under .900 save percentage and to put it plainly, are just not playing well. Despite having one of the best power plays in the game, the Capitals will not be able to move to the top of the Eastern Conference without improvement between the pipes.
This game has the potential to be very high scoring. The Flyers and Capitals are both excellent offensively and sub-par defensively, and it could come down to who can outscore the other. Because the Flyers do have the better goaltending and the Capitals have to travel tonight then play tomorrow, I have the Flyers winning 5-3.