Capitals vs. Canadiens Game 7: Keys to the game

HabsFan.jpgIn case you didn’t know, last night was the first of back-to-back
Game 7’s. While the Detroit Red Wings taking on the Phoenix Coyotes
isn’t exactly as momentous a game as the Habs having a chance to knock
off the Capitals, there are some similarities between the two games.

Despite
the Coyotes heading into the game with the better record and home ice
advantage, there were many who considered the Red Wings to be the better
team. After all, the Wings had finished the regular season as the
hottest team in the NHL and had fought back to the 5th seed after a
first half of the season riddled with injuries. Add to that the overall
talent level and experience of the Red Wings, and it’s easy to see why
the Coyotes were considered the underdogs.

Yet the Coyotes were
able to take the Red Wings to the brink with a Game 7, as they at times
surprised Detroit with their tenacity and overall team approach to the
game. The Coyotes won as a team, yet the Red Wings were only going to do
as good as their superstars would perform. In the end, Detroit
dominated a guarded and ginger Coyotes team that seemed deathly afraid
of making any mistakes in the biggest game of the season. The Red Wings’
stars took over on their way to a 6-1 rout.

After the jump, some
lessons for both teams headed into tonight’s game that can be learned
from Detroit’s victory:

Don’t stray from what’s been
successful

Save for one game, the Canadiens have been able
to surprise the Capitals by jumping out to early leads and then
stifling the Capitals from there on out. In their first two wins, and
for the first 40 minutes of Game 2, it was the defense of the Habs that
did the trick, frustrating Alex Ovechkin and company to no end on their
way to surprising victories. In Game 6, it was the superb play of
Jaroslav Halak that did the trick, as he was calm and collected in net
and never out of control. Still, Ovechkin was held in check once again
by the defensive play of the Habs. This is what they’ll need to do once
more. It’s when they’ve strayed from this philosophy that they’ve gotten
themselves in trouble.

Weather the early storm

With
the Capitals facing a do-or-die game, on home ice, expect each and
every player on that team to hit the ice like they were shot out of a
cannon. The Capitals will be hungry and pissed off and fueled by what is
sure to be an insane home crowd. The key is not lose control when the
pressure is on and take bad penalties.  The Coyotes were able to
somewhat stay in the game early on, but found themselves down two quick
goals thanks to putting a talented team on the power play. Don’t play
with fire.

Don’t wait to “turn it on”

The
Capitals have been waiting to play a full 60 minute game for the entire
first round. Despite what their Game 3 and 4 wins may say, even the
Capitals will admit they weren’t their best overall effort. The Capitals
have had this issue since returning from the Olympic break, really, as
they’ve literally had nothing to play for the past month of the season.
Now they’re being asked to play their best hockey when it counts the
most. Against this team, a Canadiens team with nothing to lose and
everything to gain, the Capitals must finally put together a complete
game. The Red Wings were able to put the accelerator to the floor when
it mattered most, jumping all over a Coyotes team that was doubting
itself at times. This is what the Capitals will need to do.

The
superstars will have to shine

The Capitals will not win
this game unless Alex Ovechkin is their best player. Sure, you could say
the same thing about Semyon Varlamov, but this is why Ovechkin was
named captain of the team. The rest of the players feed off of his
energy and production; if he’s frustrated and not driving the play
forward, then it’s going to tough for the rest of the team to follow
suit. The Capitals are starting two young defenseman on the blueline
tonight, so the uber-talented forwards the Captials employ will need to
be better than they ever have been before. While Backstrom, Semin and
Green all need to rise to the occasion, it’s Ovechkin who will be the
difference. If he truly is as great as we all think he is, this is his
time to shine.

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    Goalie nods: With Talbot sick, Oilers give Laurent Brossoit second career start

    San Jose Sharks Bryan Lerg (42) scores a goal on Edmonton Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit (1) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 9, 2015, in Edmonton, Alberta. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson)
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    Laurent Brossoit will make his second career start in Saturday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.

    Brossoit will be between the pipes because starter Cam Talbot is ill and missed the morning skate.

    The Oilers are hoping Brossoit isn’t as busy this time as he was in his first career start last year when he turned aside 49 shots in a 3-1 loss to San Jose.

    “I’m a big believer in Brossoit,” said teammate Brandon Davidson, per the team’s website. “He’s done a great job. I played with him in the minors and he competes like no other. He’s tremendously athletic and he did a great job last year when he got the game too. He’s ready and I think he’ll show that tonight.”

    The Jets will go with Ondrej Pavelec, who hasn’t played since Nov. 21 because of a knee injury.

    Elsewhere…

    –The Leafs have yet to announce their start. The Canucks haven’t named one either, but expect them to go with Ryan Miller.

    Craig Anderson will be between the pipes for Ottawa. The Blue Jackets will counter with Joonas Korpisalo.

    –Like the Leafs and Canucks, the Islanders and Hurricanes have yet to announce their starting goaltenders. It could be Jaroslav Halak against Eddie Lack.

    –Expect Pekka Rinne to get the start against the Panthers. Roberto Luongo, who was pulled on Friday, will be between the pipes for Florida.

    Braden Holtby will put his five-game winning streak on the line when Washington takes on Dallas. Kari Lehtonen will look to extend his winning streak to three games.

    –The Ducks have yet to announce their start. The ‘Hawks will turn to Vezina Trophy candidate Corey Crawford.

    Louis Domingue will look to win his second straight game. Martin Jones will get the start for San Jose.

    Gostisbehere sets new rookie record in OT loss to Devils

    Philadelphia Flyers' Shayne Gostisbehere reacts after scoring the first goal of his career during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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    Shayne Gostisbehere is the proud owner of a new rookie record.

    With his goal in the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 OT loss to the Devils, the 22-year-old extended his point streak to 11 games, which is a record for rookie defensemen in the NHL.

    Gostisbehere has an incredible 10 goals and 30 points in 35 games this season.

    Gostisbehere’s goal tied the game at one after Devils forward Joseph Blandisi scored this beauty in the first period:

    Adam Henrique added the game-winning goal in overtime.

    It’s the second straight 2-1 victory for the Devils, who also beat the Oilers by the same score on Tuesday night.

    The Flyers have just one win in their last five contests.

    To add insult to injury, Philadelphia lost Michael Del Zotto to an upper-body injury, per GM Ron Hextall.

    Here’s an updated look at the Metropolitan division standings and Wild Card race:

    standings

    After missing two games because of an illness, Panarin will return to ‘Hawks lineup

    Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72) celebrates after scoring an empty-net goal on an assist from Patrick Kane against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, in Chicago. The Blackhawks won 3-1. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
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    CHICAGO (AP) Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin is expected to play Saturday night against Anaheim after missing two games with an illness.

    Panarin participated in Chicago’s optional morning skate, and coach Joel Quenneville says the rookie will be in the lineup against the Ducks.

    The 24-year-old Panarin, who has played on Chicago’s second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane for most of the season, is second on the team with 34 assists and 52 points. The Blackhawks dropped both games while he was out.

    Rangers get good news on McDonagh, bad news on Nash

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    Some good news/bad news for the Rangers.

    Exactly one week after suffering a concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Ryan McDonagh returned to the ice with his teammates this morning.

    The Rangers captain was wearing a non-contract jersey, but “looked good” according to coach Alain Vigneault.

    McDonagh was hurt after taking a punch to the head from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds (above).

    The 26-year-old has missed each of his team’s last three games since suffering the injury.

    McDonagh hasn’t been cleared for contact, but that could happen in the next few days according to Vigneault.

    The news wasn’t as good for forward Rick Nash, who’s been dealing with a bone bruise in his leg.

    Nash has missed each of New York last eight game’s and Vigneault admitted that he’s no longer considered day-to-day.

    He’ll miss at least another week.