Five Thoughts: More on Torres-Seabrook, Mike Fisher’s emergence, and Chicago frustration

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While the action was light yesterday with just three games, we certainly weren’t lacking on storylines. Here’s our five thoughts on what shook loose yesterday.

1. I know that everyone is worked up into a lather about Raffi Torres’ hit on Brent Seabrook and that’s fine. It looks like a textbook violation of Rule 48 but as TSN’s Bob McKenzie made note of on Twitter last night, the area behind the net is given some leeway over areas on the open ice because it’s such tight quarters and action there gets hectic quickly. If Torres doesn’t get suspended for that hit, don’t be too surprised. I realize it may seem like a “loophole” in the rules, but it’s not. That’s not to say I agree with Torres’ hit, I don’t, just that that’s the way it is.

2. The more concerning part of that series of events for me was how Brent Seabrook was able to return to the ice so quickly and without anyone so much as raising an eyebrow. Blows to the head and concussions are being taken seriously, but that makes three pretty serious shots to the head Seabrook has taken In just the last week. He took an elbow from Justin Abdelkader in the final game of the regular season that saw him dazed and then a pair of hits last night. Perhaps Seabrook is a lot more hard-headed than other players out there and that’s just how it goes or the new concussion protocol that’s been put into place isn’t being taken very seriously.

3. For as easy as the Capitals made Game 2 look, they’re still going to be caught in battles like they did in Game 3. Some might think that the Capitals have things to worry about now, but if they stick to their game plan and stay out of the penalty box they’ll do just fine. Sometimes the bounces just don’t go your way in hockey. It happens. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau during a mid-game interview with NBC’s Darren Pang referring to some of the penalties they were being called for as “ticky tack calls” might’ve been correct, but they can’t put themselves in the position to make the officials be a factor in the game.

4. Ever since the Predators acquired Mike Fisher they’ve been waiting and hoping for him to look like their #1 center. Pretty sure the fans in Music City, U.S.A. are going to be OK with Fisher showing up huge in the playoffs. It’s not surprising that the Predators are winning the games in which he’s a big factor offensively (like Game 1 and Game 3), they play tough enough defensively and getting Fisher to lead the way offensively makes a world of difference for them. Without Fisher’s leadership there, Nashville is lacking some direction. Fisher fixes that. Now if they could just stop giving the Ducks power plays to score on they’d be dominating the series.

5. Safe to say the John Scott experiment to deploy him as a distraction for Roberto Luongo didn’t work for Chicago. The move to put him into Game 3 reeked of desperation for a team that found themselves frustrated with not being able to break through and beat Vancouver and some of the quotes from captain Jonathan Toews following their 3-2 loss in Game 3 to go down 3-0 in the series prove that. With all the talent the Hawks have up front, they shouldn’t need a side show like Scott out there to run interference. They gave it a shot and it failed and now they could be swept on home ice. At least they’ve got last year’s Cup run to reflect on and learn lessons from.

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.