The Philadelphia Flyers' dominance over the Capitals carried over from the regular season into Thursday's 3-1 round robin win, as Washington was eliminated from contention for the top seed in the East.
Observations from the loss
The Flyers forced the Caps into defensive breakdowns
The first of Philadelphia's three goals was a bad turnover by Radko Gudas. The other two were defensive breakdowns forced by the Flyers' movement in the offensive zone.
In the second period, Kevin Hayes had all eyes on him as he stickhandled around in Washington's defensive zone. He battled with Jonas Siegenthaler in the corner, then retreated to the top of the circle, closely followed by Siegenthaler. Dmitry Orlov stayed on Scott Laughton. That left room for Travis Sanheim who skated in behind the right side of the defense. Hayes found him with a seam pass and he beat Holtby one-on-one for Philadelphia's second goal.
That player in the top left doing a double-take? That's Evgeny Kuznetsov. He was in front of the net, skated away and reacted to Sanheim going in on net too late. More on him later.
In the third period, Orlov went behind the net after Travis Konecny who passed it off to Hayes. Siegenthaler went after Hayes while Konecny stopped behind the net. As Hayes stickhandled on the right, Laughton charged in from the left where there was no defense to be found. Kuznetsov recognized the net was open and parked in front, but was too far up and was caught standing when Hayes made the seam pass. Laughton put the puck into the net before Kuznetsov even reacted.
"It's a breakdown in coverage and they take advantage of it," Reirden said. "It's individual responsibilities that happen from mistakes prior to that. That's how goals happen and we have to execute better with the puck to give ourselves the chance to play in the offensive zone. We need to be better, we need more from everybody right down our list."
In both situations, the defensive was drawn away from the front of the net. It was Kuznetsov's responsibility to cover the front for the defense and he did not do a good enough job. Both mistakes resulted in goals.
And we know these plays were breakdowns by Kuznetsov because....
Reirden was displeased with Kuznetsov
Kuznetsov got tangled near the end of the first period and was slow to get up and skate to the bench. He returned for the start of the second period, but played only three shifts in the third. Because of what happened in the first period, I assumed this was because of an injury and I asked Reirden for an update on Kuznetsov's status after the game.
"How we break down ice time and use certain guys, we're going with who's playing the best at that time," Reirden said. "We need a different level of play and we know we have it. It's not a secret. We have a different level of play and we need to get to it if we want to have success. We need more from everybody and we didn't have that."
What Reirden appears to be saying here while trying not to single out Kuznetsov is that Kuznetsov was benched.
Kuznetsov's last shift came with 11:23 left in the third period. That was the Laughton goal in which Kuznetsov was caught standing in front of the net.
Too many penalties
I'll keep this one short because it's fairly obvious. You can't give up six power plays in the first two periods of a game and hope to win. And those penalties were blatant.
No, it's not just because it's the round robin
Sorry, you can't explain this loss away by just saying it was the round robin and the Caps are looking past this towards the playoffs.
Yes, Washington was without Carlson who is being held out, we believe, as a precaution, but Philadelphia started Brian Elliott in net over starter Carter Hart and James van Riemsdyk was out for them. Both teams made roster decisions with an eye on the playoffs, but one of them played much better than the other. I don't think Thursday's game was a product of the Caps not taking a round robin game seriously, it was just a bad game.
When Tampa Bay went up 2-0 against the Caps on Monday, the Caps ramped up the intensity and rallied to tie the game before the end of the second period. When Philadelphia went up 2-0 on Thursday, the goal was completely deflating and I don't think anyone watching the game had any real confidence the Caps were going to be able to rally from this one. Hayes just stickhandled as much as he wanted until the seam opened up for Sanheim. That 2-0 lead felt like 5-0 at that point.
Play of the game
The game was leaning more and more in favor of the Flyers in the second period, but a 3-on-1 opportunity for Philadelphia could have made things even worse if not for the pad save by Braden Holtby.
Stat of the game
Washington's lone goal on the night came from Travis Boyd. It was his first playoff point.
sneakiest Caps playoff goal we've seen this year pic.twitter.com/xTrlH2PT14— NBCSports Washington (@NBCSWashington) August 6, 2020
Boyd played in two games during the 2018 Cup run but did not record a point in either game. While this may be the "round robin" and not a playoff series, these points do technically count as playoff points.
Quote of the game
Reirden summed this one up pretty well: "You need everybody’s top game. And we didn’t have that tonight. That’s really, to me, the story of this game, is that we need more from everybody.”
To end on a lighter note, Boyd was asked about his goal and said, "First playoff goal, I guess I will take that."
T.J. Oshie then cut in saying, "Many more to come."
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