Flyers, Capitals renew growing rivalry

ovechkin04232016
Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals.

The Flyers and the Capitals, two of the NHL's hottest teams, will meet Wednesday for the first time since Washington won last season's hard-fought playoff series in six games.

"There's a little rivalry there and the teams don't like one another," Flyers center Brayden Schenn said.

"We've had a lot of intense games against Washington over the last three or four years, so I'm sure it won't be any different, especially after they beat us in the playoffs," high-scoring right winger Wayne Simmonds added after a team meeting Tuesday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. "We owe them. We owe them something. They're coming into our building, so we need to play a good game."

Simmonds, who was in the trainer's room for an hour after the Flyers' 2-1 shootout loss to Nashville on Monday, said he was fine to play in the matchup at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Washington (19-8-3) is allowing just 2.13 goals per game, the league's third-lowest figure. The Capitals are in the middle of the pack in goal scoring (2.67 per game).

Defense has been the Caps' calling card.

"Sometimes when you play more of a team game or focus more on the team, you have more success as a team," said Flyers right winger Jake Voracek, who entered Tuesday tied for third in the league with 34 points. ". . . They're one of the best in the NHL."

"They're a tough team to play against," coach Dave Hakstol said. "Time and space is at a premium."

Wednesday marks a stretch in which the Flyers (19-11-4) will play 25 of their remaining 48 games against teams from the suddenly powerful Metropolitan Division.

"They're four-point games," Simmonds said.

"It's going to be intense games, and you just have to be ready for them," captain Claude Giroux said.

How dominating has the Metro been?

Well, at one point last week, the Flyers, Washington, Columbus, and Pittsburgh had won a combined 29 straight.

"When everybody in your division is winning, you have to make sure you bear down and find a way," said Giroux, whose team is on a 10-1-1 run. ". . . We're focusing more on how we want to play. It doesn't matter who we play, we just want to get better."

The Flyers are in fourth place in the Metro. They are a point ahead of Washington but have played four more games than the Caps.

Most of the Flyers say Pittsburgh is still their top rivalry, but the playoff matchup with Washington last season has intensified the series with the Capitals.

"We have to be ready; they have a complete team," Giroux said.

Washington's Alex Ovechkin has 14 goals, but his 23 points would place him fourth on the Flyers.

"Ovi, when he starts playing, can be the best player in the world," Giroux said. "Maybe he's not having the season he's looking for right now, but they're finding ways to win. And at the end of the day, that's what it is" that matters.

Speedy rookie left winger Travis Konecny, who has played well despite a scoring funk, will try to snap a 19-game goalless streak against the Caps.

"There's some good players over there that I've had the opportunity to grow up and watch, and it'll be pretty cool playing them," he said.

The fact the Flyers went on a recent 10-game winning streak and he has been getting scoring chances, Konecny said, has made his slump easier to accept.

"I'm not upset about my game," said Konecny, who dressed in an orange Santa outfit and, along with many teammates, visited patients at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon. "I'm getting chances. If I wasn't getting opportunities, maybe I'd question myself."

scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull www.philly.com/flyersblog