There are two ways the Capitals can look at their first-round series against the Flyers, which shifts to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Sunday at noon (11 a.m. Pregame Live, CSN).
One is that their once commanding 3-0 lead in the series has been reduced to 3-2 as they head into what should be a very hostile Wells Fargo Center.
The other is that they completely dominated Friday night’s Game 5 and still have two chances to win one game.
“Reality check: We’re up 3-2 in a series,” said Capitals right wing Justin Williams, who took eight minutes in penalties in game 5 and was a minus-2. “You don’t expect to have any team go away quietly. They’re doing what they can to stay alive. If you look at the big picture, we’re up 3-2, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Caps center Jay Beagle said he can understand the angst of a Capitals fan base that has seen their team blow four two-game leads in the playoffs during the Alex Ovechkin era, but said that nervousness has not filtered into the locker room.
“We’re excited,” Beagle said. “It’s the playoffs. I mean, going into it if you would have said we had the lead going into Philly (for Game 6) we’d be happy. Game 4 we weren’t happy with the way we played, but yesterday we were really happy with the way we played.”
That’s because the Capitals outshot the Flyers 44-11 and were perfect on the penalty kill, going 6-for-6 to improve to 20 for 21 in the series. It was with that in mind that the Capitals’ coaching staff presented players with a positive message before Saturday’s optional practice, which had full participation except for Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson.
“It’s always tough when you come back the next morning (after a loss),” Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov said. “It’s bad because you do not sleep well. You worry about your game, your team. We want to win something here, you know? This is a good team. This morning we came and had a positive meeting and everyone smiling and all that. Coaching staff give a good beginning and that always helps the players.”
Trotz said that aside from cleaning up the six penalties in Game 5 – four by Williams and one each by Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera – there is very little he’d like to change for Game 6 in Philadelphia.
Williams, who has won three Stanley Cups and has been on a team that rallied back from an 0-3 series deficit to win, said the Caps need to follow the instruction on their preseason baseball caps and Stick To The Script.
“If we’re frustrated we need to take a deep breath and relax and realize the task at hand is winning one game, nothing more than that,” Williams said. “The first round is tough. Nothing’s for free and we have to earn it on the road now.
“If you don’t have your confidence and don’t have your swagger you’re just someone waiting for something bad to happen. We want to make something good happen.”
While Capitals fans are crossing their fingers for Game 6, Flyers fans are suddenly feeling like destiny may be on their side. Six years ago the Flyers became just the third team in NHL history to come back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the Bruins in seven games.
“One team is going to slowly inch toward the back of the wall,” he said. “You either go down swinging or go down quietly. No team in this league is going to go down without a fight.
“They do have life. Any of the 14 or 15 teams still playing still have life. They’re still kicking; they’re still holding on, hoping they can win a championship. That’s everybody’s goal. Game 6, here we go.”