It was a scary scene Wednesday night when Flyers forward Scott Laughton crashed into the end boards and had to be taken out of the game on a stretcher. Fortunately, the news about him has been encouraging since that event.
After being released from the hospital on Thursday, Laughton is planning on skating Monday, per the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi.
What’s more, Laughton might even play in Game 7, provided that the Flyers make such a contest necessary by beating the Washington Capitals Sunday afternoon. Philadelphia has already battled back from a 3-0 series deficit thanks in no small part to the efforts of goaltender Michal Neuvirth.
This is the 21-year-old Laughton’s first postseason series after scoring seven goals and 21 points in 71 contests with the Flyers during the 2015-16 campaign.
With their season hanging in the balance, the New York Rangers have shaken up their defensive pairings for Game 5 this afternoon thanks to the return of Dan Girardi from an undisclosed injury.
Girardi hasn’t played since Game 1 due to the injury, but he’s projected to skate alongside Brady Skjei. To make room on the roster, 39-year-old blueliner Dan Boyle has been scratched. Boyle has averaged 19:35 minutes per game so far in the series.
New York’s other two defensive pairings are projected to be Keith Yandle and Kevin Klein as well as Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh. Raphael Diaz is also on the roster as a seventh defenseman and might play a significant role with the man advantage.
The Rangers need to bounce back after being outscored 8-1 in their past two games. Solving Penguins goalie Matt Murray will obviously be a top priority, but the Rangers will also need to contain the Pittsburgh’s potent offense in a way that they haven’t been able to for much of this series.
After talking about the Washington Capitals’ desire to not dwell on their past, it seems appropriate to shine a light on their polar opposite: the Chicago Blackhawks.
Unlike Washington, which is preparing for its third attempt to close out its first round series against Philadelphia, Chicago is battling for its playoff lives. If not for a double-overtime goal by Patrick Kane on Thursday, the St. Louis Blues might have won Game 5 of that series and advanced to the second round.
As it is, the Blackhawks still have an uphill battle ahead of them going into Game 6, but they can look to their past as a source of strength. Beyond the obvious three Stanley Cup championships in the past six years, Chicago is also 8-1 in elimination games over the last four years and 14-1 in Game 6s since 2009.
“Our experience comes in huge in those situations,” Jonathan Toews said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You want to go out there and throw everything you’ve got at ‘em, but sometimes you’ve just got to relax and stay calm and do your job.”
Experience alone doesn’t buy playoff victories, as the Los Angeles Kings can attest, but it’s certainly one of the weapons in the Blackhawks’ arsenal. The Blues are a formidable team though. They were hard to beat on Thursday. It will be even more challenging to defeat them another two times in a row to advance.
Is it happening again?
There’s the hope that the Washington Capitals are different now. That it would be unfair to judge this year’s team based on their lackluster postseason showings earlier in the Alex Ovechkin era. But ultimately the only way to get people to stop pointing to a trend is to break it and the Capitals haven’t done that yet.
After winning the Presidents’ Trophy they took a 3-0 series lead against the Flyers, but then Michal Neuvirth entered this series and won Philadelphia back-to-back contests, including Friday’s 44-save shutout. Now his name is starting to be used in the same breath as Jaroslav Halak, who helped the Montreal Canadiens overcome a 3-1 series deficit versus Washington in 2010.
This hasn’t put Washington on an inevitable path. The power of a 3-0 series lead is that you can concede games like that and still eventually deliver the final blow as the Capitals might do on Sunday. Still, you have to wonder if at some point the burden of past failures turns setbacks into dread and a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner doesn’t buy into that, as he asserted that this particular team has no playoff history. Coach Barry Trotz seems to share that sentiment.
“Everybody talks about the past, the past, the past,” Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “The only pressure we’ll have is on ourselves. We’ll go into Philadelphia and play really well and get a win there. If we don’t accomplish that, we go to Game 7. I thought tonight we played excellent. What are you going to say? You just keep playing that way and it’ll turn.”
Washington needs to believe that if it keeps playing like it did on Friday then eventually it will work out. Unless of course, Neuvirth has more games like that one. In which case, Trotz will once against be listening to questions about the past.
Getting NHL players to the 2018 Olympics might be more complicated now.
That’s because the International Olympic Committee has decided not to cover the transportation or insurance costs for NHL players to participate in the upcoming Winter Games, according to IIHF President Rene Fasel.
“We had a meeting with the NHL last week and the prognosis is not really good,” Fasel told insidethegames. “Our wish is to have the best players. [But the IOC] not covering the cost as they did at the last five Olympic Games puts us in a difficult financial situation. We still have challenges – it is even more difficult than before.”
With the games set to be played in PyeongChang, South Korea, getting NHL players is naturally a logistical issue. While the popularity of hockey at the Olympics creates the potential for the league to grow the game, it also means temporarily suspending the regular season in February and putting the league’s top players at risk of injury. As we saw in 2014, that threat of injury is very real as Islanders captain John Tavares suffered a torn MCL and meniscus in his left knee while he was with Team Canada.
That injury angered Islanders GM Garth Snow, who said back in 2014, “Are the IIHF or IOC going to reimburse our season ticket holders now? It’s a joke. They want all the benefits from NHL players in Olympics and don’t want to pay when our best player gets hurt.”
At the time, the New York Daily News reported that Tavares’ salary would be paid for by the insurance policy covered by the IOC. It now seems like that would not be the case if the same scenario were to play out during the 2018 Olympics.
(H/T Puck Daddy and TSN)
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