Flyers’ smart hockey key for 2-1 win over Caps

Rasmus Ristolainen
      No matter how well a hockey team starts the season, there’s always room for improvement and the Flyers demonstrated that in Saturday night’s game at Washington.
      The Flyers cut down on the unnecessary penalties, committed fewer turnovers and limited the number of odd-man rushes.
      It all added up to a hard earned 2-1 victory at Capital One Arena.
      The Flyers finished their two-game road trip through Pittsburgh and Washington with a 1-0-1 mark and took three of a possible four points. Philadelphia is now 6-2-2 on the season.
      Martin Jones started in goal for the Flyers and raised his record to 3-0. His goals-against average dropped to 1.67.
      So just how intelligent was the Flyers’ approach to this game? Coach Alain Vigneault says it’s part of the Flyers’ search for the team’s “identity.’’
      “I think it’s (being a) smart team without the puck,’’ he said. “Smart team with the puck, competes real hard and is hard to play against.’’
      The Flyers had to withstand a charge from the Capitals in the third period. Washington entered the game without a regulation time home loss (3-0-3) and put up a fight. But the Flyers were real prudent down the stretch.
      “I believe it’s how we need to play to have success,’’ Vigneault said. “Throughout the game we were playing tight the way we needed to. We had good sticks, we made the plays we needed to make, we battled for every inch on the ice and I really liked our team effort.’’
      Another part of the recipe for success was keeping superstar Alex Ovechkin off the scoreboard. Ovechkin scored at least one goal in every game he played against the Flyers last season.
      Philadelphia struck first for the seventh time in their first 10 games when Derick Brassard finished off a Cam Atkinson feed at 11:18 of the second period. Brassard fired a shot from the left circle and beat goalie Vitek Vanecek high to the far side.
      The Flyers are now 6-0-1 when getting on the scoreboard first.
      Sean Couturier made it 2-0 at 15:44. Rasmus Ristolainen fired a shot off Vanecek and Couturier cleaned up the rebound. It was Ristolainen’s first point as a Flyer and career assist number 200.
      “Whenever we got the puck deep our forecheck was really good,’’ Ristolainen said. “We were able to keep the pressure on them. I think our defensive zone was very solid, too.’’
      Washington broke through in the third period with a goal by Brett Leason at 6:02. His short shot looped over Jones’ left shoulder.
      A scoreless first period was dominated by the Flyers, who outshot the Caps by a 12-6 margin and had the majority of the scoring chances.
      During the first intermission, Scott Laughton said the Flyers were trying to push the action. “It’s been pretty good so far,’’ he said. “But we have to keep the pressure up, keeping it simple and make the plays when they are there.’’ Laughton came into the game with goals in his last two games, giving his line some confidence. “We’re just talking a ton off the ice and trying to mesh. It’s translating. We’ve got a good forecheck going.’’
      Included on Laughton’s line is Oskar Lindblom, who has failed to score a goal in the Flyers’ first 10 games.
      “I know one is going to fall for Oskar soon,’’ Laughton predicted.
      After the game, Couturier echoed his coach’s comments.
      “I think we have a little more experience throughout our lineup, we’re a little more mature in our game,’’ he said. “We’re just sticking to what we need to do. Even if we let in a bad goal, we just respond and go back to playing our game. We played fast, we played simple, we executed well.’’
      Jones has only played three games with the Flyers but he already looks like he feels at home.
      “The team is playing well, it’s defending really well,’’ he said. “The penalty kill has been good. It’s a recipe for success.’’
      >No guff off Wilson
      One of the Capitals’ chief weapons is the semi-dirty play of Tom Wilson, who issued a couple questionable hits in this game, including one on Ristolainen as time ran out in the second period. But Ristolainen went right back at him, with some help from fellow enforcer Zach MacEwen.
      Ristolainen seems to do his best work when it gets nasty out there.
      “I enjoy playing against these guys, it’s always going to be physical,’’ he said. “It’s a big part of my game so I really enjoyed it tonight. If I take the hit or give the hit, it gets my mind going. That’s my type of game.’’
      >Short shots

Justin Braun had an assist on the Couturier goal. He has seven points in 10 games after just six in 53 last season. . .Brassard picked up a rather rare penalty at 4:51 of the second period when, while sitting on the Flyer bench, he popped the Caps’ Garnet Hathaway who happened to be skating by. Washington did not score on the power play. . .The Flyers are off until Wednesday when they play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

About Wayne Fish 1501 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.