Luongo, O'Brien losing touch with reality

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Luongo2.jpgInstead of taking responsibility for his own play in net, Roberto
Luongo is looking instead to change his luck. The playoff beard is gone,
obviously the cause for his troubles in the second round against the
Chicago Blackhawks. The goaltender says he’s “trying to change things up
a bit” as the Canucks hope to stave off elimination in Game 5 against
Chicago.

Shaving off the beard is all well and good, signifying a
fresh start and all that, perhaps the complete disconnect between the
players’ mindsets about their own play and the reality their coach is
seeing that should truly be worrisome.

Shane O’Brien, once praised
for keeping his cool and settling in defensively against the Kings, has
now been at the forefront of his team losing their collective minds at
the wrong time. With their season on the line,
O’Brien makes perhaps the most boneheaded comment of them all:

“We are in a situation where probably nobody thinks we can come back;
the odds are we probably can’t. We are going to give it our best go.”

Now, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here. I don’t
know what his tone was when he said it, and I certainly don’t know the
exact context of the comment itself. But saying that the odds are that
his team can’t come back isn’t exactly the best statement to make after
his team decided to stop playing hockey and swing and punch like a bunch
of spoiled kids who were pushed down on the playground for the first
time. The Blackhawks have found out exactly what to do to beat
Vancouver, and they’re exploiting that weakness all the way to a series
win

While the rest of his team agrees that they just need to stay out of
the penalty box, O’Brien decided that perhaps the officiating was to
blame, saying that perhaps “that’s our fault for yelling at the refs
during the season.”

His coach knows the reality of the situation however, and I’m sure
that if the Canucks had a better defensive situation available O’Brien
would find his value on this team diminish in a hurry. Alain Vigneault
knows that his team was outplayed in the three losses, and that his team
needs to learn to keep itself out of the box:

“All the penalties we took are penalties we deserved,” he said.
“Officiating has got nothing to do with it.”

After the first round, the Canucks became my favorite to win the
Stanley Cup. I felt that with the offense they possessed, all they
needed was for Roberto Luongo to just manage to be good. Not great, just
good. Instead, he’s looked like someone who’s more interested in
yelling at the officials than stopping the puck and even then it’s a bit
half-hearted. The rest of the team hasn’t shown much more of a heart
themselves, and therein lies the reason that the Cancucks are facing a
3-1 series deficit and what’s likely to be eventual elimination.

If the captain has no heart, why would the rest of the team?

Into the fire: Halak, recalled yesterday, starts for Isles in Pittsburgh

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A little scene setting for you.

New York heads into tonight’s massive game in Pittsburgh sitting two points back of Boston for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have two games in hand on the B’s — who are idle tonight — so a win could move them into a playoff spot.

As such, the Isles will start a goalie that hasn’t played in the NHL in 85 days.

Against the league’s highest-scoring offense.

The goalie in question is Jaroslav Halak, who’s spent the last three months playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Recalled yesterday, Halak will now face big league competition for the first time since Dec. 29, when he allowed four goals on 24 shots in a loss to Minnesota.

(Afterward, then-head coach Jack Capuano ripped Halak, saying he gave up “some soft goals to start” and “wasn’t sharp at all.”)

But Halak’s been really good in Bridgeport.

He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, the Isles really had no other choice than to recall Halak.

The club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles are in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Bruins on Saturday — another massive game — then host the Preds on Monday. It’s a compact part of the schedule, and Berube’s struggles have rendered him virtually unplayable, given how meaningful the games are (and, to borrow a timeless cliche, how vital points are at this time of the year.)

So it’s Halak tonight, and possibly more down the stretch.

For Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, a ‘bad goal’ at the worst possible time

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The growing ranks of Tuukka Rask detractors gained some serious ammunition during last night’s loss to Tampa Bay.

The deciding goal in the 6-3 defeat was a “bad one,” according to Rask and most anyone else who was watching.

It may have been a hard shot by Jonathan Drouin, unleashed at the top of the circle, but it still should’ve been stopped.

After the game, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Rask “needed to be better tonight.”

In fact, Rask hasn’t been very good the past few months. Since Jan. 1, his save percentage is just .888. But with nobody trustworthy behind him, he’s had to just play through his struggles.

It’s impossible to say if Rask’s numbers would be better if the Bruins had a more capable backup. He’d be more rested, though. And when he was struggling, the coach would at least have another option to consider. With an .897 save percentage on the season, Anton Khudobin simply hasn’t been reliable enough to garner that consideration.

Don’t expect Rask to get the next game off. Saturday in Brooklyn, the Bruins — losers of four straight in regulation, and suddenly on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture — face the Islanders in arguably the biggest game of both teams’ seasons.

Bolts recall Koekkoek, putting Garrison’s status into doubt

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The Tampa Bay Lightning, after earning a big win last night in Boston, may not have defenseman Jason Garrison tonight in Detroit.

The Bolts recalled d-man Slater Koekkoek from AHL Syracuse this morning — a move that would seem to put Garrison’s status into doubt against the Red Wings.

Garrison was forced to leave the Bruins game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

Koekkoek has played 29 games for the Lightning this season, recording no goals and four assists.

Melnyk blasts ‘whiner’ Crosby, who won’t face hearing for Methot slash

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Sidney Crosby won’t face a disciplinary hearing for his slash on Ottawa d-man Marc Methot, an NHL spokesman confirmed — news that won’t be welcomed by Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

The incident occurred during Ottawa’s 2-1 win on Thursday night, and forced Methot from the game with a bloodied, lacerated finger. The club later announced that Methot would be “out for weeks” with the injury.

Crosby’s slash came two nights after he speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt. It should be noted that neither the O’Reilly spear or Methot slash resulted in penalty calls, and neither was subjected to supplementary discipline.

One individual that’s guaranteed to be upset with today’s news is Melynk. He appeared on TSN 1200 radio this morning and seemed to suggest the league was looking into the Crosby-Methot incident.

He also had a few choice words for No. 87: