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Five reasons Capitals advanced

Holtby, special teams too much for Flyers

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

The Washington Capitals were the victors in a hard-fought six-game Eastern Conference First Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Washington shut out Philadelphia in Games 1 and 6, scored five power-play goals in Game 3 and dominated practically every area on the ice during the series, despite being shut out in Game 5. Special teams were a deciding factor; eight of Washington's 14 goals in the series were scored on the power play and its penalty kill shut down the Flyers.

Here are five reasons the Capitals advanced to the second round:

Power play - Washington went 8-for-25 during the series on the power play; a significant improvement from the 3-for-28 during the entire 2014-15 postseason. The Capitals had a 0-for-12 stretch at the end of the regular season, but made some adjustments before the playoffs. It paid off. John Carlson scored three power-play goals in three games and Alex Ovechkin had two in three games.

Video: PHI@WSH, GM2: Carlson beats Mason from the point

"Our power play has confidence and they keep giving us lots of practice," coach Barry Trotz said after Game 3. "We just did what we did. We stayed to our game plan and script and we took their best punch."

Penalty kill -- Possibly the only thing more efficient than Washington's power play was its penalty kill, which went 23-for-24 in the series. Goalie Braden Holtby was a key cog in the penalty-kill machine for the Capitals. Defensemen were able to find a balance between letting Holtby see pucks and being able to shut down shooting lanes effectively.

"In a couple of the games our penalty kill has been outstanding in terms of commitment," coach Barry Trotz said. "It was a big difference-maker for us in the series. Earlier our power play was, as well as our penalty kill, and then as the series went on, our penalty kill ended up being a difference maker for sure."

Maintaining composure -- It was a physical series but he Capitals kept their emotions in check, even after losing defenseman Brooks Orpik to an upper-body injury due to a hit by Philadelphia's Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's hit from behind on defenseman Dmitry Orlov in Game 3. And when it appeared the Capitals were letting another series slip away, they stepped up in Game 6 and finished the series.

"We have come a long way from last year," Trotz said. "When I first stepped behind the bench I felt a little bit of nervousness and tight games. I think we've come full circle where we are comfortable feeling uncomfortable, if you will, when the games are tight. I think we have some quality people. We have gone through a lot of that."

Video: PHI@WSH, Gm1: Holtby makes pad stop, denies rebound

Braden Holtby - Holtby was in a league of his own, with two shutouts, a 0.84 goals-against average and a .968 save percentage against the Flyers. He was nearly impenetrable at even strength and on the penalty kill. Holtby ranks first in Stanley Cup Playoff history (min. 25 games played) in career save percentage (.940).

"He's unbelievable," Capitals forward Marcus Johansson said after Game 2. "He's making saves all over the place and sometimes you're just shocked when he gets to stop the puck. He's so good. He's such an unbelievable goalie for us, and he wins games every week and he's done it all year."

Shutting down Flyers offense - Philadelphia didn't put up much of a fight offensively during this series. The Flyers were stifled at even strength and on the penalty kill. The Flyers were held to six goals through six games. Top scorers Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds combined for four points.

"We were okay with the Backstrom/Giroux head-to-head," Trotz said. "Our top guys go head-to-head and we were hoping our depth and special teams would be the difference maker for us. Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds and Voracek and [Brayden] Schenn, they're not an easy group to shut down. So it was good on us for getting them shut down, but at the same time it was not an easy task."

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