Five Thoughts: Flyers goaltending not all to blame for bad goals

Yesterday’s games in Philadelphia and Vancouver certainly gave us enough of a rainbow of both how to and how not to handle a playoff game. In Philadelphia old demons that never really went away resurfaced all in one bad afternoon. Meanwhile in Vancouver, teams traded blows in a defensive showdown that needed two overtimes to settle things out. With such a smorgasbord of action there’s plenty to discuss this morning.

1. Everyone’s busy talking about how the Flyers goaltending problems are once again in vogue and that’s understandable. After all, a team loses 7-3 and sees them make a goaltending change again in the playoffs mid-game, there’s clearly an issue there. In Philly, Brian Boucher just did not get things done  and Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t fare much better in relief. Those guys are worth of criticism and that’s fine.

What’s not getting scrutinized enough from yesterday’s game are the failings of the Flyers defense. For the entire game their defensemen were busy trying to keep up with the constant motion of Boston’s forwards and they seem shocked by how often Bruins defensemen jumped into the play to mix things up offensively. Flyers defensemen were chasing players all over and getting confused or lost on their assignments leaving Bruins forwards all the room around the net to make plays or pounce on rebounds untouched. If the defensemen had problems keeping up, the Flyers lines had a hard time matching up with the Bruins top line as Nathan Horton and David Krejci dominated whoever lined up across from them.

From Peter Laviolette on down to the players, they had no answers for Boston. They’ll need to fix things defensively fast or else things are going to head south quickly. They need to straighten up their assignments and play things a lot tougher and a lot tighter on top of it all.

2. The scary part of what Boston did was that they saw a breakout game from David Krejci. Krejci ascended to the role of #1 center after Marc Savard was knocked out for the season. Since then Krejci has had some injuries and he’s been very inconsistent. In the playoffs, however, he’s turned back into the playmaking type center they knew he could be. Getting two goals and two assists in yesterday’s rout could be a sign of great things for the Bruins as a healthy and motivated Krejci on the top line to help get Horton free and perhaps even wake up Milan Lucic would be huge in helping them go even deeper in the playoffs. Asking Krejci to be the new Savard is asking too much of him, but having him be the best he can be is all the Bruins really need now.

3. What’s all the more amazing about the Bruins doing as well as they are is that their power play continues to stink out loud. They’re now 0-26 in the playoffs with the man advantage and by all appearances not getting any better at all. Even in a game where they gave up seven goals, none of them came on the power play. That’s wretched. The Bruins are rolling on borrowed time as far as this stat is concerned. They’ll run into someone capable of edging them out consistently and those opportunities where they’re not scoring with the extra man will haunt them. Claude Julien says they’re working things out but the most immediate change they can make for the better is to put a shock collar on Tomas Kaberle and whenever he doesn’t shoot he gets a jolt.

4. If you needed an exercise in how to play goalie in the NHL look no further than Game 2 between Vancouver and Nashville. Pekka Rinne got the win stopping just 32 shots through nearly five full periods, but it was his stops in the two overtimes that made his night look spectacular in leading the Predators to a 2-1 double OT victory. Roberto Luongo too was fantastic in defeat stopping more than 40 shots on goal. With both guys being Vezina Trophy finalists it’s thrilling to see both of them living up to the designation against each other.

5. One area of major concern for the Canucks, however, has to be their offense. With just two goals against Nashville in two games and the biggest of the big names not showing up yet, there’s reason for the Canucks to be nervous. If Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Ryan Kesler don’t start finding their way to the score sheet more often, things are going to get ugly in Vancouver. With Nashville not making life any easier on those players, it’s up to them, the Sedins in particular, to play like MVPs and lead the charge. Easier said than done we know, but if they really want to impress us, lighting it up in the playoffs would do the trick.

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).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.