Sometimes, the most telling way to learn what you did right is through the eyes of your opponent.
After his team lost 3-2 to the Capitals at the Verizon Center Friday, Philadelphia Flyers forward Brayden Schenn complimented the Caps’ play in the third period, while his teammate Mike Knuble paid deference to the Capitals setting the tone of the game.
“They played last night, so we were trying to see what kind of game it was, if they were going to roll over or if [the Caps] had a chance to play,” Flyers forward Mike Knuble (it still seems weird to type that) said. “I think it’s up to us to have a better start to assert our game and let them know that we’re going to be rolling.”
Bottom line, it didn’t really matter that the fans at Verizon Center were watching two teams with five regulation losses apiece in seven regular season games. Within moments of the puck dropping, Flyers fans were loudly chanting in the Caps’ home building, causing Caps fans to retaliate at various points throughout the remainder of the game.
Before the first period ended, there was blood—after what appeared to be an illegal hit by John Erskine on the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds. Despite the red on the ice, there was no call, but soon afterwards Matt Hendricks and Zac Rinaldo dropped the gloves and got game misconducts for doing so before the puck dropped.
In the Capitals’ net, meanwhile, Braden Holtby was even more active with his puckhandling than usual, adapting his game to take advantage of the Flyers’ system—and how the Capitals were forcing them to play.
“I think the credit to that [playing the puck more] too is, obviously that was their system to try and rim, but we forced them to get rims that I could at least get to,” Holtby said. “How much I play the puck—that all depends on the other team. That really has nothing to do with our system, or anything. It’s just some teams cross-corner dump, and some like to rim, so I like it when they rim, ‘cause then I get to be a little more active.”
It took over a period for the home team to find the back of the net at the other end of the ice, but the Capitals scored three goals over the second and third—one by Nicklas Backstrom on a lovely feed from John Carlson back in the defensive zone, another from Troy Brouwer, and a third from Wojtek Wolski. The Flyers, meanwhile, scored the first and last goals of the game.
It was hardly the offensive fiesta that superstars on both benches have produced in the past, but at this point, winning in Washington may be welcome enough.