James O'Brien

New York Islanders v Washington Capitals - Game Five

Nothing but Kuznetsov: Caps best Isles in Game 7

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During the offseason, the Washington Capitals spent big bucks on their defense after hiring head coach Barry Trotz. Those two factors seemed to come in quite handy in a Game 7 win against the New York Islanders.

Now, of course, the highlight reels will favor Evgeny Kuznetsov’s slick game-winner, and it’s easy to see why:

Still, the Capitals played a nearly perfect defensive game, however people feel about officiating and other issues. In fact, most would probably agree that even Braden Holtby’s goal allowed was more about the strong netminder having a rare (and almost critical) lapse.

Incredibly, Washington held the Islanders to just 11 shots on goal in the entire game. The most suffocating span probably came during the first period:

Wow.

Jaroslav Halak had his adventurous moments with wild bounces off the boards, yet he was often outstanding, nearly befuddling the Capitals in yet another elimination situation. It’s unlikely the Islanders are looking on the bright side right now, but at least they should feel confident about locking down a goalie who remains excellent with everything on the line (even with this loss, he’s 6-2 in elimination games during his postseason career).

With this, the Capitals move on to face the New York Rangers in a rivalry that’s becoming familiar to fans of this Ovechkin-era Washington team. One could argue that, when you consider the strengths of both teams, this might just be the best the two squads have been collectively.

It’s a crushing feeling for the Islanders, who move from Long Island to Brooklyn with a heavy heart (though they at least closed Nassau Coliseum with a win).

Harsh or not, some will single out Islanders captain John Tavares:

(To be fair, Tavares had a nice series overall.)

Many will wonder why Isles bench boss Jack Capuano didn’t pull Jaroslav Halak during an honestly surprising late power-play opportunity, but ultimately, it was a team letdown for New York. They’ll have an uncomfortable amount of time to think about that … and possibly make some changes to continue their strides toward contender status in the East.

That said, considering serious injuries to their defense corps, the Islanders may at least find some sweetness to go along with all the bitter feelings of seeing their season end on Monday. It just might take some time.

Not done yet: Lightning earn Game 7 against Red Wings

Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat
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Jon Cooper’s comments about interference didn’t make a difference, but luckily for the Tampa Bay Lightning, some of their big names did.

Steven Stamkos didn’t score a goal, yet he had a nice assist, and one of the best lines in hockey (Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Nikita Kucherov) did the rest. The Lightning beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-2 on Monday, forcing a Game 7 on Wednesday.

Johnson scored two of the goals while Kucherov piled up three helpers. Alex Killorn’s splendid 4-2 goal really sealed the deal, as things were tense when Tomas Tatar sawed the Lightning’s third-period lead to one goal early in the frame.

Ben Bishop looked shaky at times, something that has to be considered as the Lightning approach Game 7. Tampa Bay also may have shown some discipline issues, as they gave Detroit six power-play opportunities (versus just two for the Bolts).

The league must also sort out the matter of Niklas Kronwall’s enormous hit on Nikita Kucherov before that decisive contest comes around:

Whatever happens with the Red Wings’ key defenseman, it should be quite the contest in Tampa Bay. It will be hard to top Game 6, too, with all the highlight reel goals and Petr Mrazek saves.

Milbury throws out rules, much like the NHL

Mike Milbury
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Officials are letting a lot go in Game 7 between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals, maybe even more than usual for a game of such high stakes.

(Or maybe there are simply more people complaining about it on social media.)

One of the most glaring examples may have been an Alex Ovechkin hit that many believed should have earned a boarding call in the second period:

Again, this isn’t saying that it didn’t go both ways, as Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski notes.

It’s not all bad, though. If nothing else, the Internet will forever savor this GIF of Mike Milbury taking “throw out the rules” quite literally:

Weirdly mesmerizing, huh? The third period began with Washington up 1-0.

Kronwalled: Red Wings D levels Lightning’s Kucherov

kronkuch
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Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall delivers such brutal hits that fans make his last name into a verb. Even the Red Wings got in on the act following his devastating check on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov:

As Yahoo’s Nick Cotsonika notes, the 34-year-old hasn’t been suspended despite quite the run of jaw-dropping hits. Judge that check – which didn’t draw a penalty – for yourself in the video below:

More than a few people believe that the Department of Player Safety should make a ruling on this, possibly for a Game 7 suspension:

Want it in GIF form too? Here it is:

Video: Mrazek makes astounding save, Stamkos brawls again

Petr Mrazek
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As of this writing, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s lead remains at 2-0. The Detroit Red Wings have goalie Petr Mrazek to thank for that.

Mrazek’s stick save against Brian Boyle might just be the best of the playoffs, and would probably be in the running for save of 2014-15, in general:

Here’s the Mrazek save in GIF form:

The second period was pretty wild early on, really, as Mrazek made another big save and Steven Stamkos became involved in another penalty-filled fracas:

Lightning – Red Wings is a Game 6, but they’re bringing some Game 7 intensity (or at least mutual dislike) to this one.