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.
After winning the first three games, the Washington Capitals were in complete control of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Now they find themselves headed back to Wells Fargo Center for a Game 6 on Sunday (noon ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) wondering what else they have to do to score on goaltender Michal Neuvirth and finish off the Flyers.
Former NHL assistant coach Gary Agnew doesn't believe the Capitals have to change much from what they did in their 2-0 loss in Game 5 of the best-of-7 series Friday. The Capitals outshot the Flyers 44-11 and had an 82-27 advantage in shot attempts, but could not score against Neuvirth.
"Washington, for me, they did everything right," Agnew said. "They may have not gotten enough traffic and maybe they were not as determined around the net as they're going to have to be to get through that defense and the goaltending. So, they're just going to have to outwork them, be more determined and take away his eyes."
Neuvirth, who began his NHL career with the Capitals, has stopped 75 of the 76 shots he has faced the past two games after replacing Steve Mason as the Flyers starting goaltender. The Capitals, who have lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season, thought they took too many of their shots from the perimeter, however, and didn't get enough traffic in front to make Neuvirth work harder to see the puck and make saves.
Video: PHI@WSH, Gm5: Neuvirth stops Carlson and Chimera
"I thought he smothered a lot, he caught a lot with his glove and created a lot of whistles," Agnew said. "They had a couple of second-shot opportunities that he made big saves on, but probably not enough when you've got a goalie that's hot and only getting hotter as the game goes along."
The other area where the Capitals need to be better is discipline. It started with a high-sticking double minor on Justin Williams 1:08 into the game. The Capitals were shorthanded five times in the opening 28 minutes, and six times in the game.
Although the Flyers didn't score during any of their power plays, Ryan White's goal that gave them a 1-0 lead 7:52 into the second period came three seconds after one expired.
"You could see Washington wanted to set the tempo of physical play early," Agnew said, "and unfortunately for them, they got into penalty trouble and that kind of took the momentum that they were trying to generate by being back at home. Williams tries to avoid the check and his stick gets up and now he's got a double minor and they couldn't seem to get any flow going."
After White's goal, which banked in off the skate of Capitals defenseman Taylor Chorney, the Capitals had to play from behind. With Neuvirth stopping everything they threw at him, they began to press.
"We've all seen it where a goal kind of ricochets around and goes in and they're going, 'Man, that might be the only goal of the game,'" Agnew said. "Philly is not generating very much, so that might be their only goal and Washington is struggling to get their goal because the goaltender is playing great. So, as the game sort of wears long, it just gets harder to score because the other team's getting more determined and understanding that they can win this."
Aside from Neuvirth's play, the Flyers didn't do a lot in Game 5 they'd want to repeat, but Agnew liked their resilience.
"They stayed with it," Agnew said. "You get confidence and you get resilience when you see what your goalie is doing. That breeds confidence. So, Washington's job now is to get more traffic, outwork them on the rebounds that you can generate and take advantage of your chances."