Mention the words “Philadelphia Flyers” to members of the Capitals and you almost always hear two words: “physical and emotional.”
On Thursday night at Verizon Center, you’ll see and hear those two words in loud, living color, and that means ...
“Probably staying disciplined,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I think emotions run really high even just in a regular season game against them.
“I imagine they’ll be even higher than that for the playoffs. Being smart and not taking penalties. They scored that power play goal against us last game (2-1 overtime loss) and that kind of turned things for them. That’s going to be a very big key. There are a lot of little details but making sure we stay out of the box is going to be very important.”
Justin Williams, who played his first NHL game as a Flyer and his 1,000th NHL game as a Capital, said anyone who thinks the first-round series between the top-seeded Caps and eighth-seeded Flyers will be anything less than a battle of attrition needs to think again.
He also said the Caps’ 1-2-2 record down the stretch means nothing, as does their 2-0-2 record against the Flyers this season.
“Everything is reset to zero now,” Williams said. “We firmly believe that. Philly is going to be an extremely tough opponent. They’re playing well and you always gotta be wary. We have our home ice and we’ve got to take care of it.”
Sunday night’s regular season-ending 2-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks lacked the urgency, emotion and physicality that was clearly present in the Caps’ 5-1 win over the Blues in St. Louis.
“St. Louis was a big game for us,” said Braden Holtby, who sat out Sunday’s finale. “They’re a team that was fighting for something and they had a full lineup . We did, too. Both teams are playoff ready and it was good to get that one.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he expects the players that sat out Sunday night’s loss – Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle, John Carlson and Brooks Orpik – should be healthy enough to play when the series begins on Thursday night against one of the most physical teams in the NHL.
“They play a hard team game, sort of that pack mentality,” Trotz said of the Flyers. “We played them four times this year and they were all hard games.
“I saw where we were last night (against the Blues) and I’m pretty confident that if we’re healthy we have as good a shot as the other 16 teams.
“The No. 1 thing is you’ve got to have confidence. This team has confidence. They have belief that we can maybe do something and go far. But you also have to recognize there are other teams that are very, very good. In our own conference there are teams that are hitting their stride. Some teams maybe started a little bit slow and gathered some momentum, like Philly and Pittsburgh. And I think the Rangers and Islanders are a real solid teams. There’s not much difference.”
Beginning Thursday night we’ll find out how much.