Washington Capitals

Flyers fan's guide to Stanley Cup Final

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Flyers fan's guide to Stanley Cup Final

NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall provide the Flyers fan's guide to the Stanley Cup Final, which begins tonight at 8 on NBC.

Boruk

Who Flyers fans should cheer for
The Golden Knights are clearly the sentimental favorite and if they win the Stanley Cup, they very well may be the best team story since the Miracle on Ice in 1980. However, let’s make a case for pulling for the Capitals.

Alex Ovechkin has been Sidney Crosby’s long-time nemesis since coming into the league in 2005 and for the anti-Crosby crowd, it was gratifying to see Ovechkin and the Caps finally get over that hump. If you’re looking for a sentimental angle, Barry Trotz is the father of a special needs child, son Nolan, who has Down syndrome, and Trotz enters the Final in the final few months of his contract. Both Trotz, Ovechkin and the Capitals have been repeatedly criticized as just not good enough to win a Cup. Here’s a chance to prove them all wrong. A Washington victory would keep the Stanley Cup in the Metropolitan Division for the third straight year, proving the Flyers compete in the toughest division in hockey.     

Conn Smythe
Right now, it’s all about Flower power. Marc-Andre Fleury has posted some ridiculous numbers through the first three rounds of the playoffs — a 12-3 record with a 1.68 goals against and a .947 save percentage. Even if the Capitals win the Cup, Fleury may still receive the honors in a losing effort as the award is a reflection of the entire postseason.

Prediction: Golden Knights in five
They swept the Kings, never trailed in the Sharks series and reeled off four straight wins over Winnipeg. Vegas is proving how dominant they are and that their regular season was no fluke. They enter the Stanley Cup Final well rested and I don’t think the Capitals will keep up with the Knights' relentless pressure and high-tempo.

Dougherty

Who Flyers fans should cheer for
There is not a lot to cheer about in this country right now, but the Vegas Golden Knights are as good of a story as you will find anywhere. We need it.

I don't get how anyone can actively root against Vegas. An expansion team in the Stanley Cup Final. A team filled with misfits and a castaway head coach who was forced to hail his own taxi after the Panthers fired him.

Everyone loves an underdog and if you're from Philly, you know the rest. Need more reason to root for Vegas? How about Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Luca Sbisa, who, let's not forget, helped the Flyers acquire Chris Pronger in 2009?

Conn Smythe
Win or lose, the Conn Smythe has to go to Fleury. He already has the best save percentage through the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs ever. Unless he allows five goals per game in the FInal — won't happen — I don't see how the Conn Smythe can go to anyone else. Fleury has been the best player throughout these playoffs and it's not even close.  

Prediction: Golden Knights in five
I'm not betting against Vegas anymore. I still look at the Golden Knights' roster and am befuddled at how they even made the playoffs, let alone the Stanley Cup Final. But here we are. I learned my lesson. Vegas wins easily.

Hall

Who Flyers fans should cheer for
Ovechkin is a likable player and the Philadelphia sports fan can certainly relate to the Capitals' pain of a championship drought. Heck, if you think you've had it bad, Washington has never hoisted the Stanley Cup, with a lengthy stretch recently of notoriously falling well short of expectations.

However, the Capitals are in the Metropolitan Division and hold a geographical significance to Flyers fans.

Is there anything to dislike about the Golden Knights and their story? Not really. It's pretty neat and if anyone is uneasy about a team winning in its first year of existence, well, the whole league has to deal with that, too.

Conn Smythe
It's hard to believe it won't be Ovechkin if the Capitals come out victorious. He's having an excellent postseason, he's one of the biggest faces in the NHL and if anyone deserves a Cup, it's probably this guy.

Prediction: Capitals in six
The Capitals are so close they can taste it. I simply don't see this group getting this far, exorcising some serious playoff demons, without finishing the job.

Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and the rest just seem laser focused. And not that Vegas will be happy to be there, but it might not feel the same sense of urgency of Washington.

Oskar Lindblom quiets Flyers’ chirps in weekend of firsts

Oskar Lindblom quiets Flyers’ chirps in weekend of firsts

If there was an NHL handbook on how to score goals in the most competitive hockey league in the world, you would have thought Oskar Lindblom would have read it forward and backward, on the charter to the Flyers' next road game and at night before bedtime.

From effort to playing at both ends of the ice, Lindblom had done everything to score a goal, except actually score one.

Prior to Saturday’s game against Carolina, Lindblom had played his first 12 games without registering a single point and it was starting to become a source of playful dissing and mockery in the Flyers' locker room.

“Teammates keep him loose,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think Alex Lyon was giving him the gears. I think Alex should have had an assist last night (in Carolina). I don’t know if he was credited with one or not, but I think Alex was chirping (Oskar) about having more points per game than he did, and that’s what guys do.”

However, the official scoresheet from the 4-2 win in Carolina had Lindblom credited with his first NHL assist and Lyon still looking for one. Prior to that, the zeroes next to Lindblom’s game were starting to add up and Hakstol sensed the 21-year-old rookie was taking notice.  

“I don’t remember the game last week, but he had a great opportunity off a rebound at net front,” Hakstol said. “That was the first time I saw a little bit of frustration creep in where he let it show. Oskar is a good offensive player. He wants to help by doing his part offensively, but I think what he just continued to concentrate on is just playing good hockey.”

Sunday that first goal finally arrived in the form of a snapshot that beat Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer up high. It gave the Flyers a lead they never relinquished in a 6-3 win over Washington.

“I don’t want to think about it anymore,” Lindblom said. “Got the first one today and it was a huge one in the game so it was good.”

And with that, the Swede slipped on the Ric Flair victory robe for the first time, handed down from the Finnish Valtteri Filppula, who was presented the feather-laced garment the night before in Carolina. 

Prior to that, the only thing Lindblom had received was encouragement and support from his teammates who knew his time would eventually come. With an easy-going smile and a personality to match, Lindblom’s fellow Flyers couldn’t help but root for him. 

“We’re all happy for him," Travis Konecny said. “It’s been paying off for him. He deserves it. He works hard at both ends of the ice. I’m personally happy for him.

“He’s got that offensive skill that’s far and few between that a lot of guys don’t have. He just has a knack around the net, he’s always around the puck. We all knew it was coming sooner or later.”

Apparently, everyone seemed to know and especially Jake Voracek, who’s been assisting in every way possible.

“He talks to me a lot,” Lindblom said. “He tried to calm me down a little bit. It’s good for me.”

Flyers cap off crucial weekend with win over Washington

Flyers cap off crucial weekend with win over Washington

BOX SCORE

A three-goal second period highlighted by Oskar Lindblom's first career NHL goal propelled the Flyers past the Capitals, 6-3, Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Lindblom's first career goal came one night after picking up his first NHL point, an assist in Carolina.

The Flyers have regained their scoring touch with 13 goals over their last three games after managing just 11 in the five previous games.

Claude Giroux picked up an assist, tying him with Eric Lindros for fifth place on the franchise’s all-time scoring list.

Petr Mrazek stopped 25 shots, winning his fifth game since joining the Flyers. If the Flyers reach the postseason, then the conditional pick to Detroit would become a third-round selection.

In a potential first-round playoff preview, the Flyers won their season series against the Capitals, improving to 3-1-0.

• The Flyers struck first after winning a key offensive-zone faceoff. Giroux pushed the puck behind him to Shayne Gostisbehere, who ripped a perfectly placed slapper about two feet off the ice, forcing Philipp Grubauer to change the angle of his glove.

• Alex Ovechkin can sneak up on you at a moment’s notice and he doesn’t always need to uncork that 100-mph slap shot as evidenced by his 43rd goal of the season. Ovechkin snuck behind the Flyers' defense and redirected a puck past Mrazek. It was just his second goal in his last eight games against the Flyers, and he was unnoticeable until that moment.

• The Flyers quickly responded just 3 minutes, 11 seconds after Ovechkin's goal. In his 14th game, Lindblom ripped a shot high blocker side from the right circle. Credit Lindblom for applying a good forecheck that led to Michal Kempny’s errant pass that led to a 2-1 Flyers lead.

“The kid is getting some confidence right now and you can really tell,” Gostisbehere said. “He’s really going and Jake’s (Voracek) been really building him up there.”

• Interesting to see rookie Robert Hagg paired with Radko Gudas in his first game back from injury. I expected Hagg to be back with Andrew MacDonald, who he’s been with for much of the season. For the most part, Hagg looked good with Gudas, although he pinched and no forward picked him up on the back side leading to another Capitals odd-man rush. 

• Sean Couturier can’t buy a goal right now. He’s been stuck on 29 goals for over a month and he had a pair of prime chances in the same sequence Sunday. His first attempt came on a backhand pass from MacDonald that he tried to slide under Grubauer’s five hole. However, over the past three games he’s been contributing offensively with an assist in all three games. I feel it’s only a matter of time before Couturier gets No. 30.   

• The Flyers' three-goal second period was one of the best all around 20 minutes in a while. Constant pressure offensively with a flurry of prime scoring chances. They were also able to eliminate some of the defensive breakdowns from the first period as Mrazek didn’t have to produce any top-notch saves.

• Coming off a disappointing game in Carolina, Gostisbehere was bumped off the puck at the Caps' blue line and as he stumbled to the ice, it led to a 3-on-2 and a nice sprawling save from Mrazek to keep the game scoreless. If you’ve watched him closely, Ghost’s performance has dipped a little over the past several games.