Flyers-Capitals: Postgame Perspective

Flyers prove their toughness on all levels in defeating Capitals

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It was Fan Appreciation Night at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. Nothing says thank you more than the most important win of the season.

Granted, that's a tired statement anymore. They are all important to the Philadelphia Flyers.

But on this night, facing the President's Trophy winners in the Washington Capitals, facing a team they could very well meet again in the first round of the playoffs, dealing with a grinding, gritty, playoff-like atmosphere, the Flyers really did deliver the most important win of the season, a 2-1 win.

And it happened to come in the most unlikely fashion, via the shootout.

"Every game is great intensity," head coach Dave Hakstol said. "Great intensity out there tonight, obviously we needed those points we probably had a little more on the line then they did tonight. It was a good hockey game, great energy in the building and for us it was a result that we needed."

"It was a physical game and they’re a good team on the other side," Claude Giroux said. "We battled hard to get that only one goal.  They’re one of the best teams we’ve played here in a while so it was fun to compete with them."

The unlikelihood of the win was not so much the effort as much as it was conquering an ongoing nightmare scenario for the Flyers. The shootout is already daunting enough for this team. Now let's put T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov on one side and Braden Holtby in the net and see how astronomical the task becomes.

Two saves at one end by Steve Mason on both Oshie and Kuznetsov, two goals at the other on Holtby by Nick Cousins and Sam Gagner.

If this is what's to come in a first-round playoff series, then it will certainly be a classic. After a methodical five minutes to open the game, this was as intense a game as the Flyers have played all season.

High tension, big hits, frenetic, edge-of-your-seat pace: there's nothing like it.

"That was a lot of fun," Brayden Schenn said. "You see star players going out [Nicklas] Backstrom and Giroux and it was a pretty physical game. It was pretty nice to squeeze out two points on a good hockey team."

For the Flyers, this was a game that tested the physical part of the mentality they have had for several weeks.

This is a team in full-on playoff mode. Every game is worth something valuable. Every game matters. But playing against teams with nothing to play for can sometimes bring out the work on the physical end of a team that knows they need to be on top of their game.

So it didn't seem to matter that the Flyers were playing their seventh game in the last 12 days. They looked at energized as ever.

"That’s the situation that we are in," Hakstol said. "We’ve been putting everything into it here night after night and we did that again tonight. Obviously it took everything plus the shootout in order to get the two points. We’re in an awfully critical situation right now."

"This is the time of year you want to be playing hockey that means something," Schenn said. "We’ve been scratching and crawling for a while now it seems like almost since the All-Star break we’ve been playing playoff hockey and as a team right we are gelling and hopefully we keep going."

What was very impressive was how the Flyers took what was given. There were no forced plays and defensively, they went with the ebbs and flows of the game. Washington didn't push the tempo for long spurts in this game, more so short bursts that the Flyers had to survive before taking back control. They did it as well as they have in any game this season. 

"It’s a process for us. We are learning a lot. The identity of this team, we are slowly realizing what it is by winning games, by being successful," Giroux said. "We know what we have to do to win. Sometimes during games we start doing different stuff and we see it doesn’t work so we go back to what works and we’re being successful right now.

If this was a preview, if this was the test of things to come, well then the Flyers showed just how physically tough they are to go along with how mentally tough they have already proven to be. With six games to go, it's not over yet, especially now that the Flyers have put some distance on the Red Wings.

"There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done," Mason said. "We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves but it is nice after kind of going back and forth with them for the last little while. To finally see a little bit of progress is nice. We just have to make sure we contain this and move forward."

"Nothing changes for us. We’re battling with several teams," Hakstol said. "Tonight is a nice step forward and that’s what it is. We’re excited with the way our group is playing. You can’t just sit back and be excited about standings or points or anything like that. This group is playing hard, they’re playing together and executing pretty well."

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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