WASHINGTON — The tortuous feel of an eight-game losing streak now has some Capital punishment attached to it.
With the Flyers facing the defending Stanley Cup champions for the first time this season, the Capitals proved too much Tuesday night in a 5-3 decision.
The Flyers matched an NHL record by starting their seventh different goaltender. How did Mike McKenna fare in his Flyers debut?
Here are my observations from Capital One Arena:
• This was one of the more uptempo first periods the Flyers have played recently, outshooting the Capitals 20-8 in attempts. The one breakdown was how the Flyers allowed Jakub Vrana to rip down the left side before his lead pass to Tom Wilson led to an unstoppable goal. Perhaps underestimating Vrana’s speed, defenseman Travis Sanheim simply can’t get turned around like that, and Ivan Provorov allowed Wilson to slide underneath him.
Since he was paired with Provorov, Sanheim has started strong but I feel his play, most notably his positioning, has dropped over his last six games in which he’s now a minus-7. I can’t help but wonder with the uptick in minutes, coupled with defending a top-two line, if Sanheim has allowed some bad habits to creep back into his game.
• The Capitals' second line of Vrana-Lars Eller-T.J. Oshie was the line that gave the Flyers the most trouble, scoring Washington’s first two goals. To give you an idea of how deep the Caps are within their forwards, Eller would typically center Washington’s third line, but he was forced to move up with Nicklas Backstrom, Washington’s second-leading scorer, out with an injury.
• The usually responsible Sean Couturier was caught in a very high-risk situation trying to leave the puck for Claude Giroux just inside the blue line when Vrana picked off the pass and, with his acceleration, there was no one capable of catching up to him. You would like a momentum save from McKenna, but given the speed Vrana brought on that breakaway, that was a tough stop to make. That’s been a big issue for the Flyers over the course of their losing streak is that their star players have been far from good.
• I can give McKenna a pass on the first three Capitals goals, but Vrana’s second goal, the power-play goal, is inexcusable. That’s a sharp-angled shot that McKenna can’t let slide between his pads. It’s maddening to see the Flyers allow a power-play goal to a Washington team that had gone 1 for 31 over its last 10 games on the man advantage.
Jakub Vrana has his third-career two-goal game after passing the puck into the net on the PP. It's his 14th goal of the season. 4-1 Caps. pic.twitter.com/fIMetlFcoh— Ian Oland (@ianoland) January 9, 2019
Overall, McKenna gave the Flyers an honest effort in his team debut on a night when they needed exceptional play against some of Washington’s quality scoring chances.
• It’s hard to not take offense at how the physicality of hockey has evolved. Radko Gudas levels Capitals center Nic Dowd with a perfectly-timed hip check, and then he’s immediately confronted by Washington’s Devante Smith-Pelly, who dropped the gloves with Gudas over a legal, and well-executed hip check. Frankly, players just don’t want to get hit unnecessarily without taking offense.
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