It's not impossible that the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers could play in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight year. But for that to happen, the Flyers urgently need a victory against the Capitals in the Wednesday Night Rivalry game at Wells Fargo Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).
The Capitals enter the night on top of the division and leading the Eastern Conference in their attempt to win the Presidents' Trophy in back-to-back seasons. Despite a 10-game winning streak early in the season, the Flyers have dropped to sixth in the division and are in a group of teams jockeying for the second wild card from the East.
The Flyers have won their past two home games against the Capitals, including a 3-2 shootout victory on Dec. 21.
With plenty on the line for each team, here are 5 reasons to tune in:
Holtby and friends
Braden Holtby isn't likely to match the NHL record-tying 48 victories he had last season, when he won the Vezina Trophy as the League's best goaltender, but he's actually putting up better numbers. His goals-against average is 2.01, down from 2.20 last season, and his save percentage has improved to .926 from .922. Holtby is 14-0-1 in 2017; his 14-game winning streak ended with a 3-2 shootout loss at the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. He's a big reason Washington leads the League in goals-against (121), goals-against per game (2.09) and 5-on-5 goals-against (75).
Video: DET@WSH: Holtby shuts door on Mantha's breakaway
Even in a down year (27 goals in 58 games after three straight 50-goal seasons), Ovechkin is still a threat to score every time he steps onto the ice. He scored his 27th goal against the New York Rangers on Sunday and is three away from reaching 30 for the 11th time in as many NHL seasons. He's also getting hot: Ovechkin has 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in his past 19 games and has had success against the Flyers with 49 points (31 goals, 18 assists) in 43 regular-season games. Few players in any sport are as much fun to watch.
Video: WSH@NYR: Ovechkin nets PPG from left circle
Power surge in Philadelphia
The Flyers have struggled to score at even strength but have two of the top three power-play scorers in the NHL. Forward Brayden Schenn leads the League with 14 power-play goals and has 23 of his 38 points on the man-advantage. Wayne Simmonds is tied for second (with Ovechkin) in power-play goals with 12, and Claude Giroux is tied with Schenn and Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom for third with 23 power-play points. Not surprisingly, the Flyers are tied for second in the NHL with 43 power-play goals.
The rookie defenseman is leading the Flyers in average ice time (21:37) and has averaged 22:48 in his past 29 games, including 24:17 in a 3-2 win at the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, when he was on the first power-play unit. He's also contributed offensively with 24 points (five goals, 19 assists) in 59 games. Provorov, selected with the No. 7 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, turned 20 on Jan. 13 and looks like the type of player the Flyers can build their defense around for years to come.
One thing the Flyers can't afford to do is look ahead to their next game; they play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Heinz Field on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, NHL.TV). Teams get pumped up to play outdoors, but the Flyers can't overlook this game, not with what looked like a sure playoff berth two months ago having turned into a scramble. Philadelphia is 9-14-4 since its 10-game winning streak ended on Dec. 17, and has scored 24 non-empty net goals in its past 15 games (1.6 per game).