PHILADELPHIA – Roughly 2½ hours before puck drop, as the Capitals’ team bus rolled into the parking lot of Wells Fargo Center, the boos and catcalls began.
“Good rivalry, obviously, Philly-Washington,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said before guiding his players into Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Flyers.
“It’s no different than getting off the bus at the hotel yesterday. It is fun. But when you’re just walking around and people are saying nasty things to you I don’t think you really enjoy that. But when you get to the arena it’s Game On and I think guys feed off that.”
After two months of dealing with virtually no adversity the Capitals skate into Game 6 having lost back-to-back games in regulation for the first time all season.
“Any time you’re in the playoffs you learn something,” Trotz said. “Every experience, good or bad, you build character off that. The playoffs really test you physically and mentally, especially the first round.”
While the Penguins finished off the Rangers in five games of their first-round series, the Capitals have allowed the Flyers to crawl back from a 3-0 deficit.
“If you would have asked me going into it would we be in Philadelphia for Game 6 I’d say, ‘probably,’” Trotz said. “They’re a good hockey team. They’re well built, they’ve gotten better and better as the season’s gone on. I think since January there are only three points difference between us and them. Were we surprised we were up three? Probably.”
Weber for Chorney: Judging from line rushes during pregame warmups, Mike Weber will make his playoff debut for the Capitals today, replacing Taylor Chorney on a trhird defense pairing with Dmitry Orlov.
Weber, a hard-hitting veteran has not played in a playoff game since the Flyers eliminated the Buffalo Sabres in seven games in 2011.
Chorney replaced Brooks Orpik in Game 4 and was involved in two game-changing plays. He took a penalty that led to a Flyers goal in Game 4 and had a puck go off his skate for the game-winning goal in Game 5.
Mark these words: Trotz said after Game 5 that he’d like to see more even-strength offensive production from his centers, namely Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. But third-line center Mike Richards has had a quiet start to the series with no goals and just three shots in his first three games.
“He’s come in and has been exactly what we hoped he would,” Trotz said. “He pulls you into the fight. He’s fabulous on the penalty kill. He’s a late-game player. He’s a guy that’s in the battle all the time. He’s not the biggest guy, but he puts it all on the line.”
Orpik update: Brooks Orpik, sidelined since Game 3 with an upper body injury, made the trip to Philadelphia and worked out with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.
“He’s continuing to feel better,” Trotz said. “He’s getting treatment and working out with our strength coach. All those signs are real positives for us. He’s won a Cup, he’s a winner, he’s a total pro. He’s a good voice. He has a calming effect on everybody in the whole group, and for young guys he’s like a father figure in our room and they sort of congregate around him.”