After seeing their penalty killers torched by the Washington Capitals in the first three games of their best-of-seven series, the Philadelphia Flyers responded in Game 4 by giving the Caps only two extra man opportunities with no power play goals on the night. Clearly, Philadelphia adjusted with a more disciplined effort on Wednesday, right?
That's not how the Flyers saw it.
"The refs didn't call as much, pretty much," Wayne Simmonds said after morning skate Friday. "To be honest with you, I think they let a lot of things go on both teams and that's the way I think playoff hockey should be so I thought last game was actually a well refereed game."
In truth, despite giving the Caps 17 power play opportunities in the first three games of the series, the Flyers don't really see all that much they need to change in terms of their physical play.
"I thought the previous games our problem mostly came from some of the stick penalties that we were taking," head coach Dave Hakstol said. "There's no impact to those except the negative impact of giving them the opportunity on the power play plus the momentum that they build from that power play."
Excluding misconduct penalties, of which the Flyers have been assessed four, Philadelphia has taken 27 penalties over the course of the series. If we take "stick penalties" to mean high sticking, holding the stick, cross checking and slashing, then only seven of those 27 penalties would qualify.
Obviously the Caps, who have submitted two different hits from the Flyers to the NHL for review, would disagree with that assessment.
When asked about Barry Trotz's complaints, Hakstol said, "I''m not too worried. I mean, we'll always listen if the league brings something to us. We take a lot of pride in playing the game the right way and playing hard."
So if you're assuming you're going to see a less physical effort from the Flyers in Game 5, you're in for a surprise.
In fact, the physical Colin McDonald will remain in the lineup for Philadelphia due to the injury to Scott Laughton. McDonald made his series debut on Wednesday in place of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare who was serving a one-game suspension for hitting Dmitry Orlov from behind in Game 3.
According to his teammates, the 6-foot-2, 219-pound forward added an extra physical element in Game 4.
"He's a big guy, physical guy," Simmonds said. "He gets up and down the ice really quickly, he's got a great shot and he uses his body to his advantage."
If Philadelphia intends to play another physical game, then their playoff fate may rest in just how closely the refs will call Game 5. If the Flyers cannot stay out of the penalty box, chances are they will be heading home for good Friday night.
Neuvirth back in net: Michal Neuvirth will get the start in Game 5 for Philadelphia after leading the team to its only win in the series thus far. When teams switch goalies in the postseason it can often be seen as a desperation move, but the Flyers did not view the switch from Steve Mason to Neuvirth in that light.
"We had two No. 1 goalies," Simmonds said. "Anytime either one of them was in net, we were confident no matter who was there."
"He's been one of two very important players for us in net," Hakstol said. "He and Mas have done a good job as a tandem all year long. Neuvy did for us the other night exactly what he's done each night during the regular season. He goes in and provides that calm presence and gives us an opportunity to win each and every night."
Bellemare returns: Bellemare will return to the Flyers' lineup Friday after serving his one-game suspension. He was contrite on Friday when speaking about the hit to Orlov saying, "What happened was unfortunate and I got the consequences of it. ... This is like in the past now and just really happy that I get a chance to show that was not my last impact on the playoffs."
MORE CAPITALS: Trotz addresses Orpik's upper body injury