Flyers host Caps in must-win for both squads
The season is only a few weeks away from being done and the tightness of the division races have heated up immensely.
The Philadelphia Flyers (42-23-8; 92 points) and Washington Capitals (37-30-6; 80 points) are both in the middle of two very important division races. Both teams trail their respective division-leading New York Rangers and Florida Panthers by five points.
But the difference between the two teams’ situations is that Washington may have to win their own division if they want a chance at making the playoffs.
Washington is currently sitting in the eighth spot of the Eastern Conference race with the Northeast’s Buffalo Sabres sitting only two points and division foe Winnipeg Jets four points behind them.
The Flyers could finish anywhere between fourth and sixth place with an outside chance of earning the top seed if they catch the Rangers. If they finish sixth, they will play the winner of the lowly Southeast.
That being said, tonight’s game could come down to who wants the two points more.
Looking at the Flyers’ 2-1 loss on Tuesday to Florida, the Panthers were in need of two very important points as they are battling the Capitals for the Southeast crown. Though the Cats mustered only 13 shots in their win, it was goalie Scott Clemmensen who stole the show for Florida, stopping 35 of the 36 shots he faced in the win.
The Flyers failed to convert on any of their four power plays in the first period as well as played loose hockey coming off a man-advantage to drop an early 1-0 lead to Florida. A bad bounce also lead to Ilya Bryzgalov being beat in the second period and they fell in an insurmountable 2-0 hole thanks to Clemmensen’s stellar play.
Washington last played on Monday, pulling out a huge win against one of the best teams of the Western Conference in the Detroit Red Wings. They jumped out to a huge 3-0 lead in the first period, sparked by captain Alex Ovechkin’s two goals.
Washington was able to hold on, beating the Wings 5-3 on the road, where they are 14-20-3 on the season.
Washington will travel to the Wells Fargo Center, which has hosted a handful of playoff-type atmosphere’s the past week. It will get loud for the Caps as Flyers fans are hoping their team can steal an Atlantic Division crown from the plateauing Rangers.
Fortunately for Washington, the Flyers aren’t the greatest of teams in their home barn, posting a 19-11-5 in front of their crowd, which is still a respectable record at home. Without establishing that type of dominance at home, a top-four seed for the Flyers won’t necessarily make a difference, which is a blessing and a curse.
The Flyers lead the season series, 2-1, and this is the last meeting between the two teams barring a playoff match-up.
After an early 5-2 win by Washington in Philadelphia back in October, they dropped their two home games against the Flyers by a combined score of 6-1, including a 1-0 loss earlier this month.
Back in Philly, Washington is hoping to get two much needed points against the Flyers and the boys in orange and black are hoping to manage a top seed bid in the conference.
Getting the start for the Flyers will be Bryzgalov, who is 30-14-7 with a .910 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average.