Two down, 14 to go.
The Washington Capitals, due in large part to net minder Braden Holtby, limited the pesky Philadelphia Flyers to one goal in the first two games of opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to take a 2-0 series lead.
Holtby, who will likely be the Vezina Trophy winner this season as the league’s top goal tender, has been brilliant in the first two games of this series. He has stopped 60 of the 61 shots he has faced from Philadelphia, including 19 saves in the first period. In game one he provided his third career playoff shutout and with his one goal allowed in game two, it marked the 14th time in 17 career playoff victories that he allowed one or zero goals. He currently has the highest career save percentage in NHL history who have been between the pipes at least 25 times in the postseason.
If Holtby can continue this play, the Caps will be in serious business and make quick work of the Flyers.
In game one, the Capitals proved they could win a physical and defensive game as the offense was limited to two goals. Those two goals might as well have been six goals. At the 16:21 mark of the second period, after both teams went scoreless in the first, John Carlson scored a power play goal that would go on to be all Holtby and the Caps would need.
The score remained the same late into the third period when wildness ensued. With the Caps holding the 1-0 lead, it looked as if the Flyers would be given a golden opportunity to knot the game up and potentially steal the first game. Unfortunately, that opportunity never saw the light of day. Tom Wilson of the Capitals, who is known for his antics to get under the opposition’s skin was up to his usual tricks yet again. He took a two-minute boarding penalty after he smacked Andrew MacDonald into the boards. Instead of having power play, Wayne Simmonds picked and got a fight with Wilson. Simmonds would take a two-minute roughing penalty that negated the boarding call, and both he and Wilson would be given five-minute major fighting penalties.
Jay Beagle would add an insurance goal with just under four minutes to play to finalize the score. Not only did the Flyers lose the game, but also a key member of their team in Sean Couturier after he was absolutely shelled by Alex Ovechkin mid-way through the second period. The loss will hurt the Flyers greatly as they are 6-13 without Couturier this season and only mustered up six shots after he was knocked out of the game. He suffered a sprained A/C joint and will miss the rest of the series.
In game two, the Caps went 2-2 on the power play on two shots. Carlson once again provided the game’s first goal at the 14:09 mark of the opening period. Jason Chimera tickled the twine 2:26 into the second frame to put Washington up 2-0, in fluke fashion and a lapse of attention for Philadelphia goalie Steve Mason. Chimera went to send the puck into the offensive zone and the puck found a way through the legs of Mason and into the net. Jakub Varacek provided the Flyers lone goal of the postseason at the 9:37 mark. With the third period coming to a close, Ovechkin sniped in a power play goal, his 37th career playoff goal at the 17:21 mark. Nicklas Backstrom would add one final goal for the Caps with under three minutes to play.
This series has been extremely physical from the two Metropolitan Division rivals, as expected. The two teams have combined for 129 hits.
The two teams will travel to Philadelphia for game three on Monday. For the Caps, they just have to stick to the game plan and things will be just fine. For the Flyers, they really have to dig deep and find a way to take advantage of opportunities. They don’t come often, but against Washington, you must capitalize on opportunities or they will make you pay for it.