2011 NHL All-Star Game – Pregame report

The NHL All-Star Game gets under way at 4 p.m. and with so many potential story lines that will go down in this afternoon’s game, there’s a few things to at least keep an eye on during the game.

Goalies

We know Marc-Andre Fleury will start for Team Lidstrom but it hasn’t been announced yet who will start for Team Staal. The speculation says that hometown guy Cam Ward will get the nod to play the first period. If it’s not Ward, it’ll be either Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist getting the nod.

If you’re not familiar with how the All-Star Game goes, each goalie will play for a period. It’s an easy way to either keep your team in the game or end up being part of a highlight reel of insane goals.

Teammate vs. Teammate

Seven different teams will have teammates squaring off against each other in this one. Having these sorts of showdowns is part of what helps make this format to the game a lot more interesting and the most intriguing face off comes with twin brothers Henrik and Daniel Sedin being on opposing teams for the first time. Henrik suits up for Team Lidstrom while Daniel is on Team Staal. Ryan Kesler joins Daniel on Team Staal as part of the Vancouver showdown.

Other teams with a taste of civil war to them have players getting a chance to score on their goalie teammates. Anaheim has Corey Perry (Staal) getting to fire pucks on Jonas Hiller (Lidstrom), Boston has Zdeno Chara (Staal) going against Tim Thomas (Lidstrom), and Pittsburgh has Kris Letang (Staal) going against Marc-Andre Fleury (Lidstrom).

Chicago will see Patrick Sharp be a one-man gang for Team Staal against his teammates Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Jonathan Toews for Team Lidstrom. Colorado has young gun Matt Duchene (Lidstrom) up against Paul Stastny (Staal) while the Flyers will have Daniel Briere (Lidstrom) go up against Claude Giroux (Staal).

Not-so secret key to the game: Chemistry

It’s not a real secret that keeping guys that play together on the same team together on the ice and both Team Staal and Team Lidstrom have plenty of representation that bring a little bit of chemistry together on the ice. Team Staal brings the thunder with hometown favorites Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal. Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin and Washington’s Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin will look to bring the offense.

Team Lidstrom has the Blackhawks trio of Kane, Toews, and Keith to run out there when they need to. A pair of dynamic duos to watch will be Dallas’ Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson and Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. Mixing in any other forward with those pairs should work out rather nice. Minnesota’s Martin Havlat and Brent Burns will also get a chance to work things out as well.

Most important thing to remember

It’s all for fun and to show off everyone’s elite skill. If you find yourself getting agitated about the lack of hitting or defensive presence at all, you might need to take a breather and go for a walk to let that clear out of your system. These guys do want to win, but they’re not about to lay out and block shots to do it. Sit back and enjoy the show.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.