Capitals vs. Flyers: Washington Prepares To Battle Other Keystone State Rival

Alan ZlotorzynskiCorrespondent IIIJanuary 18, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 23:  Alexander Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals controls the puck against R.J. Umberger #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers during their game on November 23, 2007 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Capitals defeated the Flyers 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals have enjoyed a lot of home-cooked meals this season.

The Capitals have played 26 of their first 46 games at home. Tonight's game against the leaders of the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Flyers, is the first of a three-game road trip for Washington.

The Capitals are 9-9-2 away from the big phone booth and play 10 of their next 15 on the road. It's important to note that Washington lost just 10 games away from the Verizon Center last season.

The Flyers return home having just completed a very successful road trip. They were 3-1 on their last road swing and are 10-3 on the road dating back to Dec. 5.

The Capitals last visited Philadelphia in Dec. 2009 and came away with an 8-2 victory. That game marked the debut of current Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette.

Laviolette took over behind the bench on Dec. 5, 2009. Laviolette's squad would go just 28-24 the rest of the way but managed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They qualified by beating the New York Rangers in dramatic fashion, winning a shootout on the final day of the regular season. The Flyers trailed the Rangers by one point heading into the final game.

The win eliminated the Rangers and propelled the Flyers all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. They lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Flyers have 63 points and are currently sitting atop the NHL’s Eastern Conference, three points better than their cross-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Capitals were 3-1 against the Flyers last season and are 1-1 this season. Both contests in Washington this year have required overtime to determine a winner.

The Caps beat Philly 3-2 in overtime back on Nov. 7, and the Flyers returned the favor on Nov. 20, winning 5-4 in a shootout.

The Flyers have not gone more than two games without picking up a point in the standings since the middle of October. The Flyers boast six players with 30 or more points, compared to the Capitals' three.

They are led by a pair of centers Danny Breire and Mike Richards. Breire leads the team in goals with 24, while Richards leads the team in assists with 25.

They are, however, without their best defenseman, Chris Pronger. Pronger has been out since breaking his foot back on Dec. 15. The Flyers have still managed to go 8-4 without him.

The Flyers rank second in the NHL with 3.42 goals per game and are 11th defensively, only giving up 2.62 G.P.G.

The Flyers special teams haven't really been all that special for them this season. They are struggling on the power play and convert just 16.4 percent of the time with the extra man, which is 21st in the NHL.

The Flyers are just 2-23 (8.7 percent) in their last eight games. They are a tad better on the penalty kill ranking 14th, killing off the man advantage 82.3 percent of the time.

The Capitals' offensive woes are well documented but are worse on the road. While Washington averages 3.20 goals at home, they manage just 2.3 on the road. 

The numbers continue to shock compared to last season. Through 20 road games last year, the Capitals had lit the lamp 67 times. But, now they only have 46 goals through 20 road games.

Head coach Bruce Boudreau knows they must score more and had this to offer following the morning skate, “Our team last year scored in the first period and we scored in bunches."

Boudreau continued, “When we’d get one, we’d get two or we’d get three. And now we’ve got 40 minutes to score more goals and now you’re looking at scoring five goals in a game. This year we haven’t been scoring in the first 40 minutes and that’s why we’re only getting two or three a night.”

The Capitals expect to start Semyon Varlamov tonight in Philadelphia. While Varlamov is just 4-3 in his last seven, he has played well in keeping Washington in many contests.

His goals against for those seven games are a stingy 1.71 with a save percentage of .949.

The following stat comes right from Caps P.R. man Nate Ewell taken from and may explain some of the drop-off Washington has experienced.

The Caps will face a team equal to or above it in the standings for the fifth time in eight games. Last season, the Capitals didn't face a team higher than them in the standings after Dec. 30. 

Having said that, if the Capitals want to be considered one of the best teams in the league, they need to start playing a 60-minute, all-around better game.

The Capitals must start taking a "win the period" philosophy, especially the first five minutes of the opening period.

Tonight would be a good time to start against the Eastern Conference’s best team on their home ice.