Thursday, October 20, 2011

Flyers-Capitals preview

Once upon a time more than 25 years ago, the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals battled for supremacy in the old Patrick Division.

The Caps were supposed to be the heir apparents to the fading Islanders (4 Cups/5 straight Finals berths) dynasty, but Mike Keenan had other ideas.

Washington featured established stars like Mike Gartner, Larry Murphy, Dave Christian, Bob Carpenter and Rod Langway, while Philly was stocked with a new crop of young kids sprinkled with some veteran presence and a European goaltender.

But Keenan was the engine that made it all perform at mega speed. He simply outclassed and outcoached counterpart Bryan Murray, and the Flyers took three straight division titles from 1985-87 with the Caps finishing second all three years.

During that era, the Flyers went 5-1-1, 5-2-0, and 5-1-1, respectively against the Capitals, winning virtually all significant regular-season meetings at the Spectrum and the Capital Centre.

Now, the script seems to be repeating itself, as Bruce Boudreau's 5-0 Capitals -- once again provisional Stanley Cup favorites with such luminaries as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Mike Knuble -- take on the 4-0-1 Flyers, a young and uncertain roster flecked with veteran flair and led by Peter Laviolette.

Washington, for years a notoriously sluggish-starting club, has never before opened up with five straight wins in any season. Its previous record was 4-0-0 in both 1991-92 and 1997-98.

Philadelphia, on the other side, has gone unbeaten in a year's first five games since a 3-0-2 beginning in 2002-03. A win or loss beyond regulation will tie the 1995-96 squad, which started that campaign with five victories and a tie.

Last season, the Orange and Black went 2-0-2 against the Red menace, and all four matchups were decided beyond regulation. However, the Capitals are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games on South Broad Street.

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