For additional insight into the Eastern Conference First Round series between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Gary Agnew to break down the action. Agnew will be checking in throughout the series.
Agnew, 55, was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets. He also served as interim coach of the Blue Jackets for five games during the 2006-07 season, and he has been coach of Syracuse of the American Hockey League and London and Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League.
The Washington Capitals moved within one victory of advancing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with their 6-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Monday.
Showing off their array of offensive weapons, they scored five times on the power play, including all four of their goals in the third period when they took advantage of the Flyers' lack of discipline. Former Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets assistant Gary Agnew thought the turning point for the Flyers came when Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a power-play goal 1:58 into the third period to increase the Capitals lead to 3-1.
When Justin Williams played the puck into the right corner, it took a strange bounce off the glass and ricocheted out front, where goaltender Steve Mason failed in his attempt to catch it, and Kuznetsov put home the rebound.
"That's sort of a back-breaking goal to make it 3-1, but you've got to generate some offense too," Agnew said. "So, Mason is probably shouldering the blame, but you've got to score more than a goal to win the game anyway."
Video: WSH@PHI, Gm3: Kuznetsov cleans up carom off glass
The Flyers have scored two goals on 93 shots against Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby in the series. They are 0-for-13 on the power play; the Capitals are 8-for-17.
"You can talk more about Washington," Agnew said. "They're doing such a good job on the penalty kill. What it looks like they're doing is they're disrupting the breakout with sending one guy in and kind of meandering about, and that throws the timing of the routes for the Flyers off on the breakout and now they're entering with not a lot of support.
"Then, Washington puts a lot of pressure on them, and the puck sort of stays along the boards for a lot of the time, so they're able to put pressure on and stop Philly from getting the sets that Washington seems to get so easily."
The Capitals have had little trouble with their offensive-zone entries on the power play, and after they get set up, Nicklas Backstrom (one goal, five assists in the series) has been picking apart the Flyers' passive approach on the penalty kill from his spot off the right half-wall. That's often been by feeding defenseman John Carlson (three goals, two assists on the power play) for the point shot from the top of the diamond formation.
Video: WSH@PHI, Gm3: Ovechkin gives the Capitals the lead
Alex Ovechkin (two power-play goals), remains a threat from the left circle, and Backstrom also has set up T.J. Oshie for a few good looks from the slot that have yet to go in.
"I think most teams in the League feel he's not a shooter, he's a passer, so if you take away his shooters and force him to shoot, you're in a better position," Agnew said of Backstrom. "So, I suspect the reason Philadelphia is passive (on the penalty kill) like that is because they're saying, 'We're going to take away your options. Now, you're going to have to shoot the puck.' But he's still finding a way to get the puck to the shooters, so they have to somehow stymie that. If you're going to be passive, you've got to take away those shooters."
Although the Capitals are up 3-0 in the series, they believe they can play better, particularly at 5-on-5. Agnew doesn't think they're giving themselves enough credit though.
"Once your power play is rolling like that, you play a different way," Agnew said. "You can say their 5-on-5 play can still be better, possibly, but it doesn't have to be at this point, so it's hard to tell whether it needs to be or not. To me, it's back to what we talked about in Game 2: Their competitive composure, their composure under pressure and their composure with the puck and their composure in the face of any adversity or physical play that's been given them, it's water off the duck's back. They just keep playing and good on them. They're doing everything right."