The lasting image from the last game between the Capitals and Flyers is that Sean Couturier bowling over Braden Holtby in overtime. That's not something the Caps want to see happen multiple times in a playoff series.
Holtby's importance to the Caps' success is well known and given the Flyers' physical style of play, Washington can expect plenty of traffic in front of their net and plenty of pressure on Holtby.
"They're a team that plays hard in front of the net and I don't see why they would change their game now," Karl Alzner said. "You'd expect them to go to the net hard and battle in front."
The always stoic Holtby said he was more focused on their skill the their physical presence and does not expect to see anymore intensity from the Flyers than he has seen from other teams around the league.
"For myself, it's not a big deal," Holtby said. "I just battle to see the puck as much as I can and that's really what it comes down to."
The task for the defense will be to make that as easy as possible for Holtby.
As the Caps prepare for slugfest of a series with the Flyers, protecting their star netminder will be a key to the series. As physcial as Philadelphia is, the Caps have plenty of size to go with their skill and are prepared to match Philadelphia's physicality in the defensive zone.
"We recognize that they're going low to high and trying to get to the net," Mike Weber said. "Not that you get away with more in the playoffs, but you're allowed to play a little more physical and a little more aggressive and maybe that's putting them in the boards for an extra half second so that he can't get to the net and allows Holts to see pucks easier and to maybe stop them and get the whistle."
It's a fine line to take.
In very physical playoff series, teams can often get baited into taking foolish penalties by reacting to the other team's aggressiveness. The tricky part for the Caps will be matching the Flyers' physical play without going over the line and taking penalties.
"I think that everyone realizes how much is on the line," Alzner said. "You can't afford to do things that cross the line."
For his part, head coach Barry Trotz is not overly concerned with anyone taking liberties with his star netminder citing the coach's challenge as evidence of the NHL's emphasis on protecting goalies.
"Everbody wants traffic in the playoffs," Trotz said. "Everybody wants to get to the net hard. ... With the coach's challenge now you've got that tool, you also have the referees that watch that a lot more than they ever have. We'll do a good job for [Holtby]."
Even if, however, Trotz is reasonably sure the Flyers won't be able to take Holtby's body, however, the defense will still need to protect his eyes. Making sure the defense keeps Philadelphia out of the front of the net will remain important throughout the series as the Flyers are a team that loves to create traffic, screen goalies and score deflections.
"Wayne simmonds leads the league in goals from 10 feet or closer," Trotz said. "It's going to put a lot of emphasis on our defense to maintain the blue area."
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