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.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

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.