November 27, 2014

Caps Quick Take: Game 13 vs. Flyers

In the last of their five-game road trip, the Washington Capitals survived another slow start, then jumped all over the Philadelphia Flyers, with five goals in the second period, to beat Philly 7-0. Things were going swimmingly until early in the third period, when Philly did what Philly does, running at players and starting a line brawl, as Ray Emery lost his head, stormed all the way down the ice and pummeled Braden Holtby as the linesmen kept any Caps player from stepping in.

1) First things first. The Caps played their best 20 minutes of the season in that middle stanza. Playing the woeful Flyers helped, but Washington dominated play like they haven’t all season. Extended offensive zone possessions. Cutting off the opponent at the blue line. Goals galore. Just fun to watch, especially against the competition.

2) How ’bout that Joel Ward? In the right place at the right time all night. The nominal third line was a force every time out on the ice. Chimera with the legs and roof shot. Grabbo with three apples. Just a huge night from a very effective unit.

3) Braden Holtby made some big saves early and late to earn his eighth shutout of his career and made 30 saves. He looked a little rattled on a couple of shots that rang the iron in the second, but held his ground and walks out a shutout winner.

4) Wither Ovechkin?

5) Now, about the “fight”. First, you have to expect this sort of thing from Philadelphia. This is the team, after all, that wastes a roster spot on Zac Rinaldo. I’m surprised it took until the third period for things to really escalate. Rinaldo tried, but just got a couple of boarding penalties. It took Wayne Simmonds running Erat Oleksy, then Tom Wilson, to really get things going.

As soon as Simmonds and Wilson dropped the gloves, Flyers goalie Ray Emery went the length of the ice to attack –yes, attack — Braden Holtby for no good reason. Hey tough guy, want to make a point? Start a fight with Volpatti or Oleksy, who were both on the ice at the time.

This is exactly part of the problem with the NHL and why it’s marginalized. The Philly organization not only condones but encourages this type of crap. CSN Philly (and NHL network) commentator Keith Jones actually lauded Emery for his actions, trying to light a fire under his team. Hey, how about this idea? Not allow four goals on 15 shots, which is what Emery did between the pipes.

Another point: Emery was voted — by the Philly media — third star of the game. Holtby, with a shut out, wasn’t among the three stars, but Emery, who again GAVE UP FOUR GOALS ON 15 SHOTS, was third star for his attack on Holtby, which was as senseless as it was dangerous.

If there’s any sense of justice, Emery should get at least 20 games in suspension. What he did escalated things from one fight between Wilson and Simmonds into fights all over the ice, a situation that the referees and linesmen just couldn’t control. Except, you know, for the part where the linesman kept Volpatti from coming to Holtby’s aid while allowing Emery to continue to flail away on a player that absolutely wanted no part of the violence.

This sort of condoning of fighting is why the league is just a bunch of hypocrites when it comes to violence in the NHL. They can talk about the head shots and pay lip service about concussions all they want, but they allow franchises like the Flyers to determine league-wide policy about fighting. Because Philadelphia ownership knows that this majority of their fan base would revolt if it’s ever banned. It’s an embarrassment and a blight against the league.

P.S. Both Steve Downie (concussion), who fought Volpatti earlier in the game, and Vincent Lecavalier (facial injury), who was involved in the line brawl, were injured and will miss time for the Flyers. There were no reports of injuries to the Capitals following the fights.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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