Capitals

Quick Links

Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

Capitals' 2017-18 Metropolitan Division Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

Last season, the Metropolitan Division was the toughest in the NHL, producing the Stanley Cup champ, the regular season champ and three of the top four teams in the overall standings.

How’s the division shaping up for 2017-18 after a summer of change for a few of its eight teams? 

This week, CSN is taking a look at each club's offseason moves and predicting how they’ll do this winter.

RELATED: CSN'S 2017-18 CAPITALS PREVIEW

Team: Philadelphia Flyers

2016-17 Results: 39-33-10 (88 points). Sixth in division, 11th in conference. Missed playoffs for second time in three years.

Notable acquisitions: C Nolan Patrick, G Brian Elliott and C Jori Lehtera.

Notable departures: G Steve Mason, F Brayden Schenn, D Michael Del Zotto, F Nick Cousins, F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, D Nick Schultz and F Chris VandeVelde.

When they will play the Caps: At Philadelphia Oct. 14, at Washington Jan. 21 and Jan 23, and at Philadelphia March 18.  

MORE CAPITALS: GRUBAUER EAGER TO INCREASE LONG-TERM VALUE

2017-18 Flyers Analysis: 

The Flyers will sport a different, younger look this fall, with a new goaltender, a new second line center and a handful of prospects vying for significant roles.

What’s less clear is whether they’re any better than the 2016-17 edition, which enjoyed a ten-game winning streak but still finished seven points out of the playoffs.   

The answer to that question likely will be determined by their ability (or inability) to improve in two critical areas: stopping pucks and 5-on-5 scoring.

In an effort to improve the former, GM Ron Hextall signed goalie Brian Elliott to a two-year, $5.5 million contract on July 1. Although Elliott figures to split time with Michal Neuvirth, the hope is that the well-traveled 32-year-old will be better than Steve Mason and can help Philadelphia improve upon its 26th ranked team save percentage from a year ago (.901).

Elliott had some solid seasons in St. Louis, but he struggled with consistency last season in Calgary, finishing with a .909 save percentage (25th among goalies who appeared in at least 40 games). Neuvirth, meanwhile, posted a .891 save percentage—the worst mark for a goalie who appeared in at least 15 games.

The Flyers are in need of a big boost at the other end of the ice, as well.

They were tied for 20th in goals per game (2.59) and tied for 26th in goals scored 5-on-5.

Although there were many culprits for Philly’s offensive woes, Claude Giroux’s subpar season underscored the problem. The 29-year-old captain, who is also the team’s highest paid player with a cap hit of $8.275 million per, finished with 14 goals and 58 points in 82 games, marking a third straight year of declines for the first line center. In 2013-14, Giroux was the NHL’s third leading scorer with 86 points.

If Giroux rebounds, second overall pick Nolan Patrick produces as a rookie, wingers Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds do their thing and Shayne Gostisbehere also bounces back, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Flyers to pack a more formidable offensive punch.

That, of course, is a lot of ‘ifs’.  

2017-18 Flyers Season prediction: 

You’ve got imagine the goaltending will be better than it was last year, particularly if they get the Brian Elliott who posted a .936 save percentage in March for the Flames, not the one who scuffled so mightily early in the year. And there’s no way Neuvirth is that bad again, right?

Assuming they get what they need in net, and a few of the youngsters manage to outperform expectations the way Ivan Provorov did as a rookie last year, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Dave Hakstol and a youthful Flyers’ lineup loitering on the edge of the playoff race late in the season.

If they get in, it’ll accelerate the organization’s youth movement and keep Hakstol off the hot seat. If they don’t, Flyers fans will at least be able to take solace in the fact that the infusion of youth means brighter days are ahead.  

More Metro Division previews:

• Pittsburgh Penguins

Quick Links

4 reasons the Caps beat the Bruins

usatsi_10479325.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons the Caps beat the Bruins

The Capitals just can't seem to lose to the Boston Bruins. The Caps extended their win streak over the Bruins to 11 games on Thursday thanks to their 5-3 win in Boston.

Here's how the Caps extended the streak.

Braden Holtby, especially in the first and second period

Here is one where the box score won't tell the whole story. Braden Holtby gave up three goals on 37 shots. Looking at that, you may think to yourself that he was good, but not great. Let's be clear, Holtby was great in this game, especially early. The Bruins were buzzing in the first and second period—Washington was outshot 13-3 in the second—yet after 40 minutes Washington held a 2-1 lead. Holtby was brilliant allowing the Caps to take control of the game.

RELATED: CHECK OUT TARIK'S 3 STARS OF THE GAME

Finally solving Boston's penalty kill

The Bruins entered Thursday's game with the 3rd best penalty kill in the NHL. Washington failed to score on any of its first three power play opportunities in the first period so they changed things up. In the Caps' normal power play, there is some movement, but the setup is largely based on positioning. Players have spots they are supposed to be in and their movement is largely restricted to their specific areas. That changed in the second period. The players cycled frequently and managed to catch Boston's penalty killers off guard. Instead of playing the wall like he usually does, Backstrom was in front of the net for the easy tip-in off a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Rookies

Jakub Vrana scored one of the prettiest goals you will see this season as he split the defense and turned what looked like a normal play into a breakaway. In the third period, the ice began tilting in Boston's favor, but Christian Djoos slammed the door shut. Djoos took a pass at the blue line and had room to skate. He drove in, deked around Anders Bjork and set up Alex Chiasson beautifully right on the tape for the goal to make it 3-1.

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE LATEST CAPITALS FACEOFF PODCAST

Alex Chiasson

Chiasson not only scored off of the great setup by Djoos, but he also was able to turn a blocked shot into a breakaway shorthanded goal. The Caps entered the third period up 2-1. Chiasson scored the next two to make it 4-1 and really iced the game away.

Quick Links

Tarik's 3 stars: Caps make it 11 straight against Boston

usatsi_10479024.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Tarik's 3 stars: Caps make it 11 straight against Boston

The Caps simply don’t lose against the Bruins. Not with Barry Trotz as head coach, anyway.

On Thursday night, Nicklas Backstrom and Co. extended their dominance vs. the B’s to 11 straight victories thanks to a 5-3 decision at TD Garden. The winning streak dates back to 2014, Trotz’s first behind the Washington bench.

Overall, the Caps have now won nine of their last 11 games. Brad Marchand and the Bruins, meantime, lost for the first time in four games.

RELATED: LISTEN TO THE LATEST CAPITALS FACEOFF PODCAST

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Alex Chiasson, Capitals

The winger struck twice in the third period, including a shorty, to put the game on ice. Chiasson gave the Caps a 3-1 lead when he whacked in his own rebound following a setup slick pass from Christian Djoos.

No. 39 then sealed the victory on the penalty kill, blocking a shot and taking off on a breakaway. At the net, he flipped a backhander over Anton Khudobin for his first two-goal game of the season and second multi-point performance.

Chiasson now has six goals on the season, including five in the last 15 games.  

2- Jakub Vrana, Capitals

Late in a scoreless opening frame, No. 13 controlled the puck in the neutral zone, turned on the afterburners, split the Boston defense and sniped a shot over Khudobin to put the Caps up 1-0.

The goal was Vrana’s 10th of the year and 6thin the past 11 games. It also marked the fifth time Vrana this season scored Washington’s first goal of the game. (We won’t mention that he was in the penalty box for the Bruins’ goal).

MORE CAPITALS: THE CAPS HAVE COME A LONG WAY IN THE LAST MONTH

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

As I’ve said on many occasions, Holtby (34 saves) could be one of the Caps’ stars every night, especially after victories. Against the Bruins, though, he might have been the best player on the ice when the outcome was still in doubt. His best sequence came late in the opening period. First he made a point-blank stop on David Krejci and, moments later, he used a perfectly-timed poke check on Patrice Bergeron. Vrana put the Caps up 1-0 a short while later.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.