Halak, Canadiens stumble in 3-0 loss to Flyers

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Hahalak.jpgFinal – Philadelphia Flyers 3, Montreal Canadiens 0

Flyers
lead series 2-0

I know that a lot of attention now is going
to turn on Jaroslav Halak, and how his struggles are costing the
Canadiens after his heroics got them to this point. While Halak has
certainly looked far from the goaltender we saw in the first two rounds
(and actually, sometimes we did see this side of him) the rest of the
team hasn’t looked much better.

After cashing in on their underdog
roles against the Capitals and Penguins, the Canadiens entered this
series as not exactly the favorites but far from a team that many
thought didn’t have a chance. For the first time in the playoffs they
were a team with the pressure on their shoulders, with a crazed fan base
that was sniffing the Stanley Cup finals and demanding success.

After
two games, they have come nowhere near living up to expectations.

The
Flyers continue to play like a confident team with no pressure and
after surviving an early push by the Habs used a boring, but solid, 3-0
win to go up on the Canadiens 2-0 in the series.

Michael Leighton
became the first Flyers goaltender since Bernie Parent in 1975 to have
back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs, as he easily outplayed Halak for
the second straight game. He’s looking confident and fresh (as he should
be) and the goaltending questions the Flyers faced after Brian Boucher
was lost to injury have been answered.

On the other end, Halak
continued his trend of looking a bit worn down after a big series and he
was far from the confident and challenging goaltender we saw against
the Capitals and Penguins. Of course, this happened at the start of the
series against the Penguins yet it didn’t carry over to the second game.
Now, the Habs are faced with the question of just what to do with their
miracle goaltender, who looked even shakier in net as the game
progressed.

With the Habs trailing 2-0 in the third, and his doing
at least trying to come back in the game, Halak allowed a very weak far
side goal to Ville Leino, barely reacting to the shot. Whether he
didn’t see it, or just misplayed the shot, it was a troubling trend to
see as the game progressed and Halak constantly failed to show the
energetic and positionally sound goaltending that was so successful
before.

The series now heads back to Montreal, where a rabid Bell
Center is sure to do all they can to give their home team the support
they need to crawl back into the series.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.