Around the rink – Friday, October 29th

It’s Halloween weekend and it’s time to dole out the tricks and treats on a Friday night in the NHL. Thankfully, hockey is the one sport where wearing a goalie mask isn’t indicative of being a camp-roaming serial killer. As always, all times are Eastern thanks to our raging Eastern bias.

7:00 pm

Montreal @ NY Islanders

The Habs go rolling into Long Island on a three-game win streak and will get to have backup Alex Auld try to lead the way for them in goal. The Habs have been playing tough defensively of late and with timely goal scoring thanks to the likes of Andrei Kostitsyn and Jeff Halpern, they’ve done well. The Isles, meanwhile, have James Wisniewski leading the way for them, he of his 11 points this year. Of course, Wisniewski could be on the hunt for payback against Travis Moen who laid a questionable hit on him when these two met up the other night.

Carolina @ NY Rangers

With Derek Boogaard being questionable for the game, young Russian forward Evgeny Grachev will get his first shot of the season on the ice for the Rangers. Of course, Grachev is a scorer and not a face-pounder so don’t expect the same kind of action there. The Rangers will have to be a lot more consistent if they’re going to contain the Hurricanes. After losing in disappointing fashion to Atlanta, another Southeastern team looking to be a playoff contender comes to New York looking to show up the Blueshirts. The Canes aren’t scoring a lot, but they’re keeping teams off the board well. Hello, recipe for Rangers disaster.

Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh

Suffice to say, the Mike Comrie experiment isn’t going well for Pittsburgh. After already ending up as a healthy scratch once this year, Comrie is set to be on the fourth line tonight. That’s not good for Pittsburgh’s offense, but lately it’s the goaltending that’s gone under the microscope for the Pens. As for Philly, they’ll be looking to get Nikolay Zherdev going as he was counted on being a top six performer for them and as of now, he’s got just two goals. Instead, he too will be mired on the fourth line in the doghouse. Ouch.

7:30 pm

Buffalo @ Atlanta

These two teams just met up in Atlanta last week with the Sabres coming out on top. Atlanta will look to change things up a bit as they come into the game coming off a nice win over the Rangers on Wednesday. The Thrashers will get defenseman Zach Bogosian back into the lineup tonight so that should help. Buffalo, meanwhile, would like to put their loss to Philly on Wednesday behind them. The Sabres will need to stiffen up the defense if they’re going to win as they’ve been rather miserable there sitting 24th in the league in goals allowed. After Ryan Miller carried them last year while the offense sputtered, the script has been flipped so far this season. Hockey is funny that way.

8:30 pm

Edmonton @ Chicago

The Blackhawks start their stint without Marian Hossa having to deal with the Oilers who are coming off a bummer of a defeat in the shootout against Columbus last night. Taylor Hall will hope that breaking out of his goal funk last night will lead to breaking things open for him, but against Chicago that might be asking a lot as Marty Turco has been solid this season. The guy the Oilers will really need to be worried about is Patrick Sharp. Sharp so far has been an offensive revelation for Chicago and unafraid to both dish it off or shoot the puck.

10:00 pm

New Jersey @ Anaheim

The Devils struggles this year have been discussed ad nauseum as have the Ducks’ defensive woes. Something has to break here, right? The Ducks have been a tough home team this year and the Devils have been banged up for most of the season with little flexibility to make changes. This almost reads like a depressing novel. Getting Ilya Kovalchuk going would be a huge help for the Devils and against the Ducks porous defense, all things are possible. Speaking of porous defense, the Devils are 28th in the NHL in goals against. Rolling with that while the offense is dead last in the league shows how badly the Devils are hurting.

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

4 Comments

Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

21 Comments

The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

3 Comments

The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

Getty
5 Comments

Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.