Due a scheduling change with the NFL playoffs there is going to be a bonus NHL on NBC game on Sunday afternoon when the Washington Capitals play host to the Philadelphia Flyers at 1 p.m. ET
Right now the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers are two teams going in very different directions.
The Flyers, winners of 10 games in a row just a little over one month ago, are now suddenly a team that can not seem to get out of their own way. They have lost 10 of their past 13 and now find themselves just one point ahead of a Carolina Hurricanes team that, after Sunday, will have three games in hand on them for a wild card spot, and only two points ahead of an Ottawa Senators team that still has four games in hand.
In other words, it is a complete 180 from what we saw from the Flyers just one month ago.
The Capitals meanwhile are starting to hit their stride and once again resemble the team that cruised to the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s best record a year ago.
Washington comes into Sunday afternoon’s game riding an eight-game winning streak that has probably been as dominant as any of the NHL’s many lengthy winning streaks this season. The Capitals are not just winning games at the moment, they are completely blowing teams out. During this current eight-game streak they have outscored teams by a 35-11 margin, and have had wins over Columbus, Toronto, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Chicago, all teams currently occupying playoff spots. Their past three wins against the Canadiens, Penguins and Blackhawks have been especially convincing, outscoring three of the NHL’s top teams by a combined score of 15-3.
Right now pretty much everybody is playing well for the Capitals but there is perhaps no bigger individual story than the play of goaltender Braden Holtby who is somehow playing at a level higher than he was a year ago when he won the Vezina Trophy.
Entering play on Sunday Holtby is carrying a .933 save percentage (he was “only” at .922 a year ago when he won the award) and has been at his best during the current winning streak.
Dating back to Dec. 31 when this streak started for the Capitals, Holtby is 6-0 and has stopped 163 out of 170 shots (.958). That stretch includes a pair of shutouts and only two games where he has allowed more than one goal.
In front of him, the Capitals have five players that are averaging more than a point per game over the past eight games, including Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams.
That is what the Flyers are going to have to slow down on Sunday.