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Agnew: Capitals' size, skill wore down Flyers

Washington limited production from Philadelphia's top offensive players

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Eastern Conference First Round series between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers, NHL.com enlisted the help of Gary Agnew to break down the action. This is Agnew's final analysis of the series.

Agnew, 55, was an assistant coach 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 did what many expected them to do in eliminating the Philadelphia Flyers in six games in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Capitals, who wrapped up the best-of-7 series with a 1-0 victory in Game 6 at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, were the runaway Presidents' Trophy winners with 120 points in the regular season and demonstrated why in defeating the Flyers, who needed to go 15-5-3 in their final 23 games to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the conference's second wild card.

"I think they were the bigger, stronger team series-wise and in Game 6," former Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets assistant coach Gary Agnew said of the Capitals. "I thought Philly did the right things. They tried to play physical. But Washington was just a bigger, stronger team."

With the Flyers at a disadvantage in size, strength and scoring depth, Agnew thought they "needed their best guys to be their best guys." That didn't happen as Claude Giroux (one assist), Wayne Simmonds (two assists) and Jakub Voracek (one goal) had quiet series. Voracek played in all six postseason games, but missed nearly a month late in the regular season because of a lower-body injury sustained Feb. 25.

Video: WSH@PHI, Gm6: Capitals move on with Game 6 victory

"I don't know whether Voracek was hurt or whatever, but they just didn't get it from their guys," Agnew said. "Whereas, I think Washington was led by their captain."

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin had three goals and two assists in the series, including an assist on Nicklas Backstrom's winning goal Sunday. Backstrom led the Capitals with seven points (two goals, five assists), but Agnew thought Ovechkin led the way with his overall play, including a team-high 28 hits.

"Ovechkin, he banged people around," Agnew said. "He set up the goal [in Game 6]. He takes on two guys at the blue line and makes a great play. A lot of times, as your captain goes, you go. You look at John Tavares last night [with the New York Islanders], the same thing. He led. For me, Ovechkin was the best player in the series other than certainly the way [Flyers goaltender] Michal Neuvirth played."

Neuvirth stopped 103 of the 105 shots he faced in the final three games of the series, but with Backstrom scoring and Capitals goalie Braden Holtby with a 26-save shutout, the Capitals found a way to get past the Flyers on Sunday and advance to face the Penguins in the second round.

Video: WSH@PHI, Gm6: Backstrom buries home Johansson's feed

"What was impressive to me about the series for them was they played a 200-foot game," Agnew said of the Capitals. "They tracked back hard or backchecked hard. They got up the ice, they took the physicality that Philadelphia was dishing out and they gave it back to them. It will be a different series with Pittsburgh, but they've got skilled guys, they've got speed guys and they're a big team. Physically they're a big team. I don't know what their average height and weight is (6-foot-1, 205 pounds), but they seem like they can play a skilled, speed game and they can play a physical game and they've got a great goaltender. So that's a pretty good recipe for success."

Washington's special teams were a pivotal part of that recipe too. Although their power play did not produce a goal during the final three games, it went 8-for-17 in the first three. 

The Capitals' penalty kill was strong throughout, limiting the Flyers to one power-play goal on 24 chances. That included killing off a 5-on-3 power play for two minutes in the second period Sunday with Backstrom in the box for a high-sticking double-minor and Matt Niskanen off for hooking.

Video: WSH@PHI, Gm3: Beagle slams home Caps' fifth PPG

"Washington showed no frustration," Agnew said. "Even when they went down two men, and those two penalty calls could have sent anybody off the deep end, they didn't panic, weren't screaming. You can't turn back time. You've got to go out and kill it. You're not going to change anyone's opinion regardless. So they did what they had to do and that was maintain their composure, like we said at the start of a series, and with no frustration did what they did."

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