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Flyers' discipline helps extend series with Caps


Flyers' discipline helps extend series with Caps

News, notes and quotes as the Capitals look to turn the page on Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss in Philadelphia and finish off the Flyers with a Game 5 victory at Verizon Center Friday night (6 p.m., Pregame Live, CSN):

Even strength: After seeing the Capitals convert on five of nine power plays in a 6-1 rout in Game 3, the Flyers played a far more disciplined Game 4, taking just two minor penalties and killing both of them off.

“I knew it was going to be a five-on-five game today, I really thought that way,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “They would have to stay out of the penalty box and they did.”

Clearly, the Flyers have a much better chance of climbing back into the series if they can limit their trips to the sin bin. The Caps hold a 13-4 scoring edge over the Flyers in the first four games of the series but just a 5-3 advantage at even strength.

“We can’t rely on special teams every night to win us games,” Caps right wing T.J. Oshie said.

“I think if you look at the series, 5-on-5 it’s been pretty much even,” Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds said. “They’ve been getting the majority of the power plays and they’ve been scoring.”

Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who celebrated his 23rd birthday with a power-play goal in Game 4, agreed.

“We’re a tough team to play with 5-on-5,” Gostisbehere said. “So it works in our favor.”

Why challenge: It was interesting to see Trotz use a coach’s challenge so early in Game 4 following Gostisbehere’s power play goal. Simmonds made contact with Caps goalie Braden Holtby and Trotz thought it warranted a second look.

“It was a good shot (by Gostisbehere) but the guy in front of the net (Simmonds), Holts was trying to move and he was right on top of him. He couldn’t look around and he was right against him. The coach’s challenge on goalie interference is a little more gray than the offsides. I felt that would be a good time to call it because I thought there was enough there to overrule it.”

Ellis sighting: The Caps quietly had Hershey Bears goaltender Dan Ellis summoned to Philadelphia for Game 4, just in case Holtby was unable to play or had to leave Wednesday’s game early.

“Hershey was busing up to Portland and we felt that just in case one of our goalies went down for any reason we had a third one in here,” Trotz explained. “The plan would be for Dan to just fly up – he was happy with that – rather than going 10 hours on the bus (to Portland).”

Trotz said Ellis likely will start for the Bears on Friday in Portland when they open their Calder Cup first-round series. As for Holtby …

“It wasn’t really a concern, but we didn’t know what (Wednesday) was going to (bring) -- if he got bumped into or something happened. We bought ourselves a day.”

As for Holtby he said he felt “fine” and “normal” after Game 4.

Line changes: In the third period the Caps tweaked their forward lines, with Marcus Johansson replacing Mike Richards on the third line with Jason Chimera and Tom Wilson. That dropped Richards onto a fourth line with Daniel Winnik and Jay Beagle.

The Flyers moved Brayden Schenn from from second-line center to top-line wing alongside Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds and he was one of the Flyers’ most effective players with seven hits.

Jake Voracek slid down to second-line wing and Michael Raffl moved to second-line center.

Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen said he thinks having home-ice in Game 5 should get the Capitals better matchups with the last change.

Replacing Laughton: The late word out of Philadelphia Wednesday night was that Scott Laughton would remain overnight at Jefferson Hospital for observation after colliding with the boards following a shove by Caps defenseman John Carlson. Laughton will be re-evaluated today.

“He battled with Carly there and kind of slipped and hit the boards hard,” Holtby said. “We really hope as a hockey club he’s all right. We send him our well being. You never want to see that as a hockey player and hopefully he’s fine.”

With Laughton out the Flyers could turn to veteran forward R.J. Umberger, who has not played in just one game since Feb. 20.

Ulterior motive: The Flyers are spending Thursday attending memorial services for their team chairman and foundcer Ed Snider, who passed away on April 11 at the age of 83. Several NHL dignitaries were in attendance for Wednesday night’s Game 4, including Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Bernie Parent, Bob Clarke and Chris Pronger. The public memorial is set for 1 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center and Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald said “it would have been discouraging” to attend the service after a season-ending loss.

Looking ahead:  The Capitals scheduled team meetings but no practice on Thursday at Kettler. Several Capitals  sounded confident with their chances of closing out the Flyers and the odds are certainly in their favor. In NHL history, 97.8 percent of teams that have gotten out to a 3-0 series lead have gone on to win the series.

“We knew we weren’t going to win them all,” Holtby said. “There are good trams in the playoffs and sometimes it doesn’t go your way. Tonight wasn’t a bad game by any means but there are things we can do better, creating luck for ourselves and give us a better chance to win.”

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With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?


With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?

With Andre Burakovsky out for the remainder of the first round at least, someone will have to replace him in the top six. Originally, it looked like Jakub Vrana was the man for the job. Based on Game 4, however, it now looks like Chandler Stephenson is the "next man up" for the Caps.

While Vrana may have top-six skill and a high ceiling, it was Stephenson who stepped into the second-line role on Thursday playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Stephenson finished with two shots on goal in 17:28 of ice time. Vrana, meanwhile, played for only 6:40.

On Friday, Barry Trotz praised Stephenson's hockey IQ for allowing him to adjust to the top-six in a complementary role.

"[Stephenson's] an intelligent player," Trotz said. "He played with [Backstrom] a lot [Thursday]. If you talk with the real top-end guys, he has the ability to think like a top-end guy in terms of play with them. He’s a very intelligent player. He skates extremely well. He’s got some strength to his game. He can complement people. I think his ability to play those different roles and his hockey IQ when you play with those skill guys, he plays more of a give-and-go game than an individual game. When you play with those high skill guys, you’re able to compliment them very well."

Stephenson has spent the majority of the season on the fourth line. He was drafted as a natural center, but has played primarily wing since coming to the NHL. The ability to play both positions gives Stephenson more versatility than most forwards which Trotz credits for helping him see the game so well.

"The great thing about Chandler is he’s played multiple positions over the years. I think it’s allowed him to play a fourth-line role and with high-skill guys. At center-ice, you distribute the puck a little more.  He’s turning into a well-rounded player for us."

On the surface, having Stephenson on the fourth line over Vrana makes little sense. Vrana is highly skilled and has great speed, but he is also prone to giving up turnovers and his production can be inconsistent. Trotz has clearly put a premium on responsible play this postseason which gives Stephenson the edge.

But Game 4 was only one game. If you are going to get top-six minutes, Stephenson will be expected to produce offensively as well. Despite the limited ice time he has gotten, Vrana has shown he can have a major impact on games. In Game 1, he set up the team's only 5-on-5 goal and drew a penalty. In Game 3, he drew two penalties in less than two minutes, giving Washington a two-man advantage.

Stephenson had a fantastic game in Game 4 when he was given the chance to play in the top-six. The next step will be finding a way to have a bigger impact on the game.


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Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Alex Ovechkin said the Caps would return to Washington with a tied series. The Caps captain is a man of his word as the Caps won both Game 3 and Game 4 to even up the series at two games apiece.

John Tortorella had no answers after seeing his Columbus Blue Jackets fall in Game 4, but he will have to figure things out quickly as the series shifts back to Washington for a pivotal Game 5.

The Caps return home with two straight wins and all the momentum. There's just one problem: No one seemingly can win at home.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 5

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 3:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC.

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 5 on Saturday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m. ET in Washington. The series is tied 2-2.


Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 2:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 2:30 p.m. Tune back to NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 6:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

2:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
2:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
3:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Blue Jackets on NBC
5:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
6:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 5 is available to stream live here through the NBC Sports live stream page.


Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.