Islanders embarrassing off the ice too: Team pulls journalist Chris Botta’s press credentials

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By now you’ve read about it or heard about it on the radio, but the paranoia over having bad things said about the team on Long Island has reached a new high, leading to team pulling the media credentials of one time team PR man Chris Botta. Botta, who worked for the Islanders for 20 years, runs the fantastic Isles site Islanders Point Blank. Of late, Botta’s had his hands full in dealing with the woeful, terrible Islanders, losers of 11 straight games and recent firers of coach Scott Gordon.

Recently, Botta has been critical of the direction the team has taken in firing Gordon and raising questions about what’s going on with goaltender Rick DiPietro, who’s become invisible in favor of 40 year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson. For what Botta’s done on Long Island to provide fans with a consistent and level-headed approach to covering a team he knows intimately you’d think that the Islanders would be happy that anyone giving them that amount of attention would be a good thing given how bad the team has been for the last few years.

Instead, the team treats those who dare question anything that goes on in Long Island like traitors to the throne and cast them aside. Just think of what happened to former color commentator Billy Jaffe who was not brought back to TV this year in favor of Islanders legend Butch Goring. Sounds like the Islanders front office is doing their damnedest to control the message coming out of the home office, doesn’t it? It sure comes off looking that way.

What’s most stunning about this development is that the Islanders come off as looking so thin skinned they can’t take constructive criticism. Questioning Botta’s work ethic here is foolish and wondering if he cares about the Islanders would be even dumber. The guy has been with this team through some of the thinnest years in its existence, you’d have to think he cares about the team more than most people. Silencing him because he dares question the direction the team is going in is insanity.

After all, if the Islanders do this, what’s to keep other teams from denying anyone they don’t like hearing from and turning the press box into a pack full of “yes” men and women who won’t dare question anything at all? Keeping the message clear for what you want to be heard is up to team public relations, it’s not up to the media to “play nice” with the organization.

Instead, the Islanders have instantly put the spotlight on themselves as the bad guys and it’s hard to not think they’re just really paranoid when it comes to doing just about anything. Sure the team is sensitive to having their moves questioned, but that will happen when you’ve been as bad of a team as the Isles have been since Charles Wang bought the team. Now they’re casting aside a guy who used to be one of their own, a guy that used to handle meltdowns like this himself and they’ve got the Professional Hockey Writers Association challenging their actions as well. If the Islanders are going to answer to anyone over this it’ll be the NHL but it doesn’t seem likely that they’d step on the Isles toes to tell them how to do things.

It’s tough to say anything nice here about the Islanders because, let’s face it, they’re cutting off a guy who does the same sort of thing we do here and if it was us in Botta’s shoes I doubt we’d be handling things as graceful and gentlemanly as he has. We’d be shouting from the top of the mountain about injustice and shouting it to anyone who would listen. There’s only one right move the Islanders can make here, but cutting off their nose to spite their face has been so in vogue with the Islanders lately, it’s tough to see them making a good decision to keep Botta in the fold after it’s all said and done.

PHT Morning Skate: David Letterman shows off awesome playoff beard at Caps-Pens game

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–We’ll start with highlights from Game 1 of the highly anticipated matchup between Washington and Pittsburgh, which the Penguins won 3-2. Sidney Crosby scored twice, while Alex Ovechkin found the back of the net once.

–It appears as though hockey fans in Montreal still aren’t thrilled about P.K. Subban being shipped to Nashville last summer. But what if they had kept Subban? Would they still be alive this postseason? Sportsnet’s Andrew Berkshire says we can’t know for sure, but there’s at least a chance the Canadiens would still be playing in they had Subban instead of Weber. (Sportsnet)

–Speaking of trades that happened last off-season, The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell writes that we shouldn’t be quick to appoint winners and losers of last year’s major trades (Subban to Nashville for Weber, Adam Larsson to Edmonton for Taylor Hall). Campbell writes: “We rush to judge. That’s what we do. Guilty, by the way. So when Adam Larsson has the night of his life in the Oilers Game 1 win over the Anaheim Ducks, the low-hanging fruit gets picked and Larsson becomes everything to the Oilers that Taylor Hall was not. It’s not terribly fair to the guys who were on the other side of the trade, but you pretty much sign up for that kind of scrutiny when you become a part of the NHL Millionaires Club.” (The Hockey News)

–Goalies like Jake Allen, Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist all turned in spectacular performances in the first round of this year’s playoffs. So Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog takes a deeper look at eight goalies that have stolen a playoff series. Vintage J.S. Giguere was fun to watch! (Yahoo)

–Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik is one of the few players that has been on both sides of the Caps-Pens rivalry, but how did it start? “It was Penguins-Flyers when I started. Then when Sid and Ovi came, that’s two of the marquee names. I think that rivalry was manufactured a little bit, especially when we weren’t even in the same division and didn’t play each other in the playoffs until ‘09. A lot of that, I think, was hyped up for TV ratings. But at the same time those guys always seemed to kick it up a notch when they played each other, so it was fun to be a part of. (Sports Illustrated)

–Political speechwriter Stephen Krupin wrote and agreed with many of Barack Obama’s speeches, but there was one he wrote that he just couldn’t get on board with. You see, Krupin is a big Washington Capitals fan, so when the Penguins came to the White House after their Stanley Cup triumph, he had to write a nice speech about his team’s biggest rival. “As with any good speech, the process began with research. I clenched my jaw and read recaps of the Penguins’ remarkable turnaround season. I grew nauseous as I dug through fawning profiles about enemies of the state such as Matt Murray and accomplices such as Phil Kessel.” (Washington Post)

–David Letterman was at last night’s game between the Capitals and Penguins, and he was sporting a pretty impressive playoff beard. See for yourself:

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).