The Flyers remarkably completed a thrilling dash to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs with Saturday’s clinching 3-1 victory over the Penguins. Now, it’s time for them to turn their attention to the top-seeded Capitals, who are their opponent in the first round.
Although the Capitals won the President’s Trophy by ending the season with the most points in the NHL, the two teams split the regular-season series, 2-2, with each team sweeping on their home ice. Plus, three of the four games were decided by one goal, including two that went past regulation.
It should what should be an entertaining matchup, here are five keys to the series for the Flyers.
Win Game 1
The Capitals recent playoff history is littered with disappointing early exits, which will no doubt be on their minds this week. The Flyers can compound their anxiety with a win in D.C. in the opener and immediately steal home ice advantage and momentum.
Stay Out of the Penalty Box
Led by superstar Alex Ovechkin’s league-leading 19 power-play goals, the Captials are deadly on the man-advantage. They finished the season ranked fourth in the league and first in the Eastern Conference.
Find their Power Play Mojo
Meanwhile, the Flyers have had a love-hate relationship with the power play all season. They ended the year ranked 18th in the league and went 0-for-13 on the power play to finish the year. Of all the teams that qualified for the playoffs, only the Lightning and Panthers had a worse ranking.
The Goalie Matchup
The Capitals are set with Brayden Holtby in net, whereas the Flyers are going to ride Steve Mason. A sure-bet Vezina Trophy candidate, Holtby tied Martin Broduer’s single-season NHL wins record with 48 this year to go along with a 2.20 goals against average and .922 save percentage.
Mason, who started 17 of the final 18 games of the year and was often the team’s best player on the ice, went 23-19-10 with a 2.51 GAA and .918 save percentage. The team is banking on Mason to carry the momentum from the end of the season into the playoffs and resemble the netminder who nearly out-played Henrik Lundqvist in the first round of the playoffs in 2014.
Avoid the Emotional Let Down
The Senators went an astounding 23-4-4 over their final 31 games to qualify for the playoffs in the second-to-last game of the regular season last year. However, they ran out of gas during a first-round exit.
The Flyers went 13-5-3 during a grueling stretch where every game felt like a playoff game to reach the playoffs in their second-to-last game of the season. They hope to have more than enough left in the tank mentally and physically against the Capitals.