2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4: Which team is feeling the pressure?

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Judging by some of the questions the players are being asked,
combined with the overall atmosphere that exists today around the
Wachovia Center, and you would think the Flyers were the ones with the
lead in this series. The Flyers have been able to keep winning on the
strength of their resiliency and ability to overcome adversity, yet
after a big win in Game 3 it seems as though we may be getting a bit
obsessed with just how resilient this team may be.

True, the
Flyers certainly seem to keep finding any and every way to win against
supposedly better teams, but the Blackhawks are still in complete
control of this series. So who is the pressure on? Is it the Flyers, as
they look to even up the series tonight at home or is it on the
Blackhawks, who have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead before
heading back to Chicago.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette says his team has been in this position
all season long, and one win won’t change that.

“The pressure, I think, is more for teams that are expected to win,
as the Blackhawks are, and everybody picked them before the Series,”
Laviolette said after this morning’s skate. “We don’t concede anything.
We feel like we’ve got a confident group that’s capable of winning
hockey games. But I don’t know if we feel the pressure as much. We’re
trying to keep it light. We’re trying to have a whole bunch of fun.”

As much as it’s possible to get a read on a locker room, you’d
certainly have to agree with Laviolette. The Flyers are just a supremely
confident team right now, saying all the right things and embracing the
role they’ve developed this postseason. They know the pressure is on to
win tonight, but they are still focused on just playing the game that
got them to this point. Kimmo Timonen says the Flyers have to embrace
the chance they have tonight.

“This will be the most important
game in our team and for most of these
players’ lives,” he said. “We got to go out there and do our job.
Obviously, it’s a big game but we have to be able to relax and not panic
and play our game and make sure we do our jobs. We know this is the key
game for us to hopefully tie up the series.”

The difference
between 2-2 and 3-1 is tremendous. A loss tonight, and the Flyers will
be right back to playing with their backs against the wall. Ian
Laperriere said today that this team was the most resilient he’s ever
been a part of in his career and that the Flyers are at their best when
they absolutely must win.

The Blackhawks might have something to
say about that, however. When asked about Laviolette’s comments, Patrick
Kane responded “..well, that’s just mind games” and shrugged off
questions about the pressure being on the Blackhawks.

“We don’t
feel any pressure. We feel we’re in the driver’s seat, up 2-1. We’re in a
great position, we win this one we can go back home and hopefully do
some special things in front of that crowd. I think we’re in a great
position.”

Despite the 2-1 series lead, there’s no doubting that
the Flyers have been the better team on the ice since the third period
of Game 2. They’ve controlled the flow of the play, and have even been
able to step up to the speed of the game that Chicago enjoys and beat
them at doing so. Patrick Sharp agrees that the Hawks certainly need to
get better.

“At times we’re playing the game we want, we’re having good
stretches but there’s certainly room for improvement. We have yet to
play our best game, but sometimes you have to give the other team
credit.”

A lot of the focus has been on “pressure” and which team
is feeling it more. Let’s just settle and say that both teams are in the
Stanley Cup finals, in a tightly contested series; there’s tremendous
pressure on both of these teams.

Yet talking to the players, and
the way the media is approaching tonight’s game, there’s no doubting the
feeling that the Flyers have the momentum in the series at the moment.
Does that mean that the pressure is squarely on the Hawks and that the
Flyers are just playing with house money at this point? Possibly, and it
certainly shows in each team’s demeanor.

No matter what is said,
however, the true measure will come tonight.

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Flyers survive early Mason mistake to upset Wild

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Insert the ‘It’s not how you start but how you finish’ cliche right here.

The Philadelphia Flyers fell behind the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, as Zach Parise was the beneficiary of a Steve Mason mistake just 2:07 into the first period.

Mason couldn’t control the deflection into the zone, coughing up a rebound in front. Eric Staal forced a loose puck to Parise and he buried it to open the scoring.

Yeah, not ideal for the Flyers, who are still clinging to the slimmest of playoff hopes.

But they responded with three unanswered goals, including this beauty from Sean Couturier.

Philadelphia took over for a 3-1 victory, with Mason making 24 saves on 25 shots, as Minnesota’s struggles continue. The Wild still sit second in the Central Division but have only two wins in their last 10 games and were unable to secure a playoff spot Thursday.