Flyers

Flyers-Capitals thoughts: Can big boys change trend vs. Washington in home opener?

Updated: 11:35 a.m.

Flyers (2-2-0) vs. Capitals (3-1-1)
7 p.m. on NBCSP, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6

The Flyers are one of two NHL teams still yet to play a game in their own digs.

But that changes Saturday night.

The 2017-18 home opener is finally here as the Flyers welcome the Washington Capitals to the Wells Fargo Center after opening with four straight road games.

Let's get you set for puck drop with some thoughts before Game 5 of the season.

• Beginning with the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals have become a major thorn in the sides of the Flyers' big boys. In four games against Washington last season, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek combined for one goal and one assist. In the first-round playoff series defeat two seasons ago, the four totaled a pair of goals and four assists in six games.

The Flyers are much deeper this season, but Giroux, Gostisbehere, Simmonds and Voracek remain the offensive focal points. They've been neutralized and outplayed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, while goalie Braden Holtby has represented a nemesis.

Can Giroux and company start to shift the unbalance? It must happen if the Flyers want to be more competitive with the Capitals this season, starting Saturday.

• Speaking of the Capitals, following more postseason failure, they're off to another hot start and look dangerous as usual, led by who else but Ovechkin. The Russian sniper scored 33 goals last season after three straight campaigns of 50 or more. Just when you thought maybe this was the start of him slowing down, the 32-year-old rips off nine goals in his first five games this season. Ovechkin, Backstrom and Kuznetsov are the NHL's early leaders with 10 points apiece.

• One positive for the Flyers is they haven't played since Tuesday. Meanwhile, Washington played the Penguins on Wednesday (lost, 3-2) and the Devils last night (won, 5-2), making Saturday the second game of a back-to-back set for the Capitals. The Flyers should have fresh legs and shouldn't be lacking for energy provided it's the home opener coming off a frustrating 6-5 loss in Nashville.

• Although it's early, we're already starting to see the benefits of the Flyers' improved depth. Through the team's first four games last season, six players had scored goals. This season, nine Flyers have already tallied a marker. Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick playing third-line roles? Those are first-round picks at 20 and 19 years old, respectively, giving the Flyers playmaking threats in the bottom six, something we didn't see much of at all in 2016-17 (see story). Just think about Tuesday's game. The Flyers nearly won a 6-5 slugfest against the defending Western Conference champs without a goal from Giroux, Gostisbehere, Simmonds, Voracek, Ivan Provorov, Jordan Weal and Sean Couturier. That's a good sign.

• The Flyers have lost four of their last five home openers. In order to win this one, they'll want to play with controlled aggression and puck discipline.

"Don't turn pucks over,” Simmonds said Friday of the Capitals (see story). "That's when they hurt you. They have a lot of offensive firepower on that team."

As the Flyers have seen, Washington is a team that doesn't need help to score. When it gets it, it tends to take advantage. The Flyers have already allowed five power-play goals for a 70.6 penalty-kill percentage, tied for 30th in the NHL.

• The Flyers' morning skate in Voorhees, New Jersey, was optional. Brian Elliott took the typical preparation of the starter and was the first off the ice, signaling he'll be between the pipes. Elliott is 6-5-0 with a 3.31 GAA and .888 save percentage in 13 lifetime matchups with Washington. Michal Neuvirth is 1-1-0 with a 3.14 goals-against average and .891 save percentage in three games against his former team. He was strong against the Capitals in the 2016 playoffs.

• Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen suffered an upper-body injury Friday and was placed on long-term injured reserve.