There's no secret to what went wrong for the Caps in Game 5. Michal Neuvirth went wrong. The Flyers netminder stoned his former team, turning aside an incredible 44 shots in a shutout effort.
No one can dispute it. The Caps out-shot Philadelphia 44 to 11. After taking too many penalties in the first half of the game, the Capitals took complete control. The Flyers had only five shots in the last two period combined and yet they still walked away with the 2-0 victory.
Only one thing stood between the Caps and the second round on Friday and Neuvirth was it.
"That's a great game by him from start to finish," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "He did his job and he made some huge saves for us."
When asked if this game could be boiled down to just goaltending, Caps head coach Barry Trotz said, "That's pretty well it. We had a couple good looks we didn't finish, he had a couple good saves."
In Wednesday's Game 4, the Caps were not able to generate enough shots early, allowing Neuvirth to settle in. He faced only two shots in the first ten minutes of the game. That was not an issue in Game 5 where the Caps' attack was relentless. Even when shorthanded Washington was able to generate opportunities.
But there was no shaking Neuvirth.
"He was a lot busier for sure," Matt Niskanen said.
Neuvirth's performance Friday was reminiscent of another goalie performance that most Caps fans would like to forget.
In 2010, the Caps ran into a brick wall in the form of Jaroslav Halak who backstopped the Montreal Canadiens to a stunning first-round upset over the Presidents' Trophy wining Caps. In Game 6 of that series, Halak turned aside 53 shots to earn the victory.
The comparison will be inescapable for the Caps until the Caps find a way to solve the Flyers' netminder.
Unlike in 2010 when the Caps just seemed at a complete loss for how to beat Halak, however, there was a clear sense in the locker room of what the team will need to do better to ensure that history does not repeat itself.
"I think we can have a little bit more traffic and create a little bit more chaos in their crease," Niskanen said.
"We've got to have more traffic," Nicklas Backstrom said. "If you look at our opportunities, a lot of the guys are standing beside the net instead of in front of him so we've got to get in front of him, make it harder for him."
"We have lots of perimeter shots but we don't have traffic in front of the net and he can see all the shots that we make so he sees everything," Alex Ovechkin said. "We just have to put one guy in front of the net."
Are you sensing a pattern?
While the Caps were able to generate more shots, many were kept to the outside without much traffic in front. Neuvirth was able to see most of the shots he faced and stopped them with no rebounds. When there were rebounds, the defense was there to clear them quickly or Neuvirth was able to come up with the spectacular save.
A team as skilled as Washington has rarely been forced to muck things up in front of the crease this season. This team prefers cycling down low, confusing the goaltender with passes from below the red line. Even the power play is set up for a man to play beside the cage for the pass, rather than in the face of the netminder.
That formula may not work against Neuvirth. It's going to take grit, not skill.
Ovechkin summed it up pretty well: "It's not going to be pretty one."